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Center for Health Literacy Promotion Blog

Mandy’s Story Part 3: Lessons

Recently in this space I told Mandy’s Story,  and then we saw how the story reflects the science on separation of mother and child due to the child’s hospitalization. There are many lessons in this story.
 
A young child’s healing power and reason to live reside in the mother.
 
Children need their mothers not only present, but interacting with them. When interaction with mother is absent, even for short periods under pleasant circumstances like Mandy’s mom’s vacation, children and mothers suffer. Although a surrogate mom like me in this story can ease the pain.
 
A child can become stuck in a state of anxiety
When the interaction is removed under unpleasant, unplanned, unexpected and extended circumstances, like a hospital stay, research shows development is arrested with lifelong consequences for the child, especially negativity and aggression. A hospitalized child is at risk of getting stuck in a state of anxiety.
 
Less interaction, more hospitalization
A recent study found that children of responsive, interactive mothers were half as likely to be hospitalized. That means children who are hospitalized are twice as likely to have mothers like Mandy. That’s the bad news.
 
Here’s the good news: Role models needed
I learned this lesson a little later from Mandy’s mother.  Seeing what mothering looks like, seeing ways to relate to her child, seeing how her child responds is all that Mandy’s mom needed to transform herself into a mother who actively promotes her child’s health and development.
 
Mandy’s mom did what we all do; she mothered as she was mothered. In this case, not at all. The fact that Mandy was failing to thrive and her mom clearly had not mothered her well was not evidence that the mother was incapable or unfit, or uncaring or lazy. Rather the facts indicated lack of a role model.
 
Mothers who were not well mothered themselves need a role model to see what is possible, to develop confidence in themselves and find the courage to engage in mothering and caregiving.  How can you use your position, skills, knowledge, and compassion to be that model for a mother who wants to be what her child needs but does not know how? 
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