By Carolus van Nijnatten
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Extra resources for Children's Agency, Children's Welfare: A Dialogical Approach to Child Development, Policy and Practice
What will happen if more should fall out? The ritual of flushing the stool down the toilet is not just a parental habit, but also an essential act of support for the child to help her master this change. The same happens if a parent disappears for a while. The child then also feels her existence threatened because the one who gives meaning to her life seems to have vanished. The child’s task is to grasp with words that life will continue after loss. Freud showed in his famous Fort-Da observation how a child literally 23 Children’s agency, children’s welfare manipulates presence and absence by using a play object.
That does not mean that anything that enters a parent’s mind should be expressed, but rather that there should be a feeling of sincerity and openness about what matters to the child. If parents are unable sincerely to position their child and to disguise their own uncertainties and anxieties, this can engender an insecure relationship between the child’s body image and body schedule. Keeping secrets therefore, for instance, about past neglect, intended divorce or the child’s biological parentage, will ultimately harm the child rather than protect her.
External dialogues are internalised in a continuing dynamic in which interpersonal and intrapersonal processes are linked (Hermans, 2001), and which may result in positional shifts in relation to other people and the environment (Harré and van Langenhove, 1991). The stories we tell about ourselves in some sense construct who we are (Redman, 2005). What are the contextual conditions in which children are raised and how do these contribute to an interactive agency? The dialogical character of developmental context From the very outset, parents communicate with their infants and speak to them as communicative partners (Bertau, 2004).