“When families are comfortable enough to talk and share with you, they value and understand the relationship that has been built between you and them”, stated Kim Swanson, program director and lead teacher for Migiziinsag (Little Eagles) after the Brazelton Touchpoints Training at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College (KBOCC). Brazelton Touchpoints is a practical approach for building strong-family-child relationships from before birth through the early years. Through the KBOCC Restorative Teaching Early Childhood Initiative, Joelfre’ Grant and Marlies Sammuto provided a practical, preventative approach that supported local early childhood advocates to form strength-based partnerships with parents. Home-visitors, social workers, parents, mental health and early childhood development specialist, program directors, caregivers and teachers within our community gathered together for three days of interactive and learner-centered training.
Each day, Christine Awonohopay, KBOCC’s Early Literacy Coordinator opened with a smudging ceremony to support Bimaadiaiwin (A Healthy Way of Life) which is the premise of our Abinoojiinh Waakaa’igan project through the Restorative Teaching Early Childhood Initiative. The use of the sage during the smudging helped to cleanse and purify any negative energy, disorganization, or trouble feeling prior to the start of each day. Following, Joelfre’ and Marlies offered opportunities to support parents in understanding their child’s behavior and strengths leading to a stronger emotion bond which is critical to a child’s development.
According to Brazelton, author of Touchpoint, The Essential Reference, each close relationship-----with fathers as well as mothers, with grandparents, friends, other caregivers, and the child’s doctor---contributes to the child’s emotional and behavioral growth. As individual community early childhood advocates, relationships were built among each other throughout the training. As we shared our roles within the realm of early childhood, we valued our passion for children and were able to discuss matters that go beyond our traditional roles (Touchpoint Guiding Principles). Children have an undertaking, a life journey toward individuality and independence. The more we can cultivate these relationships, the more advocates a child will have on the journey toward success in life.
Eva Hatfield, program director of MTU Little Huskies said it best, “I think that during the period of disorganization and vulnerability of the family, an opportunity arises to support parents through their previous strengths. We can reflect on those strengths….and parents can say, “I am a strong parent” and take those strengths and apply them to a new situation.
Brazelton, T. Berry, Touchpoints The Essential Reference: Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development. Perseus Books: 1992.