The framework in which discussions take place at La Maison buissonnière foster the strengthening of bonds that will allow for the separation process experienced by children to take place more easily.
Newborn children do not psychologically differentiate themselves from their mothers. In other words, from a child’s internal perspective, there is only one person, mother and child are one. The emotional states of the mother, her scent, her arms, and her voice, are part of the child. At birth children are therefore faced with a double task: differentiating themselves from their environment as a distinctive psychosomatic entity; and differentiating themselves from their mothers, their fathers and other loved ones, who they learn to see as trustworthy persons, distinct from themselves. This process takes a great deal of time, must be very progressive and follow the emerging abilities of the infant. If for any reason, a child’s environment is lacking and does not provide the kind of support that he or she needs in the right way at the right time (e.g., giving a an infant enough food when he or she is hungry, but not too much), serious psychological distress may follow.
Winnicott explained that in order for a young child to be able to enter into contact with the world as a person, the foundations of self had to be grounded in a very singular experience: that of being able to be left alone in proximity to a maternal presence that is there for support. If this experience is unsatisfactory, the infant’s development is affected. If the experience is sufficient, it allows the child to progressively acquire the ability to face the world and its complexities. This is one of the aspects of individuation that we are particularly interested in addressing in our work. This transition stage presupposes that the mother, father or caregiver who represents them is present when the child needs them, but that they allow the child to take personal risks in encountering the outside world.
Françoise Dolto has taught us that, according to their age and for variable periods of time, children can cope with separations from the people who care for them (“tutélaires” or caregivers). In so far as daycare is not an emotional break with self, it can be an enriching experience for very young children, as it affords them the possibility of contact with other little ones. Children who cry during the first days at daycare are suffering, and this suffering is often trivialized or regarded as being inevitable. When children are very well behaved at daycare but turn into real mischiefs at home (and vice-versa), it may indicate that the first steps towards relating to group situations were unsuccessful and there has been a fracturing of self-image (which may be constituted in what Winnicott called a “what if” personality).
La Maison buissonnière provides a complementary space to daycare centres. The children who come to our centre are equipping themselves to meet other children and may thereby get more out of what a daycare has to offer them. Likewise, the daycare centres that receive them have observed that these children experience fewer problems of maladjustment when acting independently within a group. In keeping with the objectives of the Ministère de la famille to offer integrated programs, we believe that all of the registered children on daycare waiting lists should have access to services that allow them to meet other children in the presence of the adults they feel close to.
Too often, daycare centres are viewed as a babysitting solution rather than as a place where children may be socialized.
In one of his talks, Winnicott once explained the meaning of “social sense”: independent individuals being able to identify with adults and with a social group, or with society, without too great a loss of personal impulse and originality, and without too much loss of the destructive and aggressive impulses, that have, presumably, found satisfactory expression in displaced forms of behaviour.
It may happen that parents become more psychologically available to their children at all stages of child development by visiting La Maison buissonière (because parents become less anxious, having found people to talk to and discuss their concerns or problems). Nonetheless, our work is primarily focussed on children and the stage of child development in which they are preparing to face the world and to leave the effective presence of the adults they feel close to.