Making the Connection Program
Make the Connection™ (MTC), a Psychology Foundation of Canada (PFC) program developed in Toronto by Claire Watson and Barbara MacKay Ward, is based on current attachment research and designed to strengthen the parent-child relationship. In the program, parents practice the skills necessary to establish loving relationships, foster two-way communication and nurture the curiosity of their infant/child. The program’s approach is designed to be gentle, respectful and sensitive to diverse cultures, and is well suited for use with families in which the parent-child relationship is at risk. The program comes in two parts: MTC 0-1 focuses on strengthening the parent-infant relationship; MTC 1-2 focuses on Toddlers, building on the foundational messages of the first section.
MTC was designed to be used either “universally” with any parent or “targeted” to at-risk populations. The majority of sessions focus on relationship and communication themes and make use of songs, rhymes and social games that do not involve toys. Key concepts are expressed in plain language; key behaviours such as mutual eye gaze, gentle touch, responding to cues, mirroring affect verbally and nonverbally, responding quickly to cries, talking in an expressive tone, respecting baby’s ‘negative’ feelings, and accepting baby for who he/she is, are reinforced through activities.
Current research indicates that our issues and relationship struggles as adults tend to stem from our primary attachment relationships as infants and young children. Unresolved issues from our earliest attachments become part of our ‘organizing principles’ as adults and can trigger repetitive counter-productive behaviours in our adult lives. Learning that helps parents build new skills for attachment and interaction with their infants and children can help to break this cycle.
MTC does not focus on cognitive skill-building, apart from encouraging parents to follow their baby’s lead to encourage exploration. The findings from the Human Resources Development Canada review Zero to Six: The Basis for School Readiness (2001). Identified secure attachment and positive interaction with adults and peers as the primary factor is school readiness. MTC centers on this element as its primary focus. The program’s language development principles are: to let your baby know you understand how he/she feels; use language to help your baby understand; and help your baby vocalize interactively. The four cognitive development principles of the program are: follow your baby’s lead; give your baby safe things to taste and touch; keep your baby’s world interesting; and stop when your baby has had enough.
MTC uses a four-element approach to adult learning involving reflection, information, practice and feedback. The program works from the principle that “Relationships, not things, make brighter babies.” (Dr William Sears)
More information on Make the Connection™ is available at www.psychologyfoundation.org
Also available on the same site are information on other programs such as the Preschool version of Kids Have Stress Too™ and downloadable materials including a Toolbox of worksheets covering such topics as:
- Things that upset or stress a child
- Creative ways to communicate with pre-schoolers
- Quick ways to relax
- The “What If?” game
- A 5-step problem-solving model
- “My Child’s Life” checklist
- Taking care of me
- Talking nicely to myself – my two voices
- Fun and easy ways to get moving