Reflective Practice is at the heart of working with and caring for infants, young children and their families. This practice invites caregivers and professionals to look back, look out and look within to increase our understanding of our self and of others. It helps us improve our practices, and shift and deepen our perspectives, with moments of interaction and relationships inspiring and fostering our learning. Reflection involves the process of considering multiple perspectives including cognitive, relational, emotional, development, and cultural. It requires stepping away from the work to consider one’s own thoughts and feelings, as well as the experiences of the caregiver and infant.
"We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience." John Dewey
Reflection is a skill that develops over time and in the context of secure and nurturing relationships.
It invites us to be curious and aware of our own personal beliefs, thoughts, and feelings as well as knowledge of how these beliefs and practices affect others.
Being Reflective in a relationship also means being curious about the feelings and intentions that motivate others. What past or present experiences are affecting what both of you are doing or saying? Pausing and taking the time to investigate these motivations gives each person a chance to better understand each other rather than simply reacting emotionally
“The precursor of the mirror is the mother’s face...the mother’s role is of giving the baby back to the baby’s own self.” Winnicott, 1967
In the field of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, reflection is a core area of competency, including contemplation, self-awareness, curiosity, professional/personal development, parallel process, and emotional response (Competency Guidelines®, rev.2017). Research, empirical evidence, and clinical experience confirm that reflection foundational to our field, in large part because it is foundational to the healthy development and well-being of infants and young children. Reflective functioning or mentalizing, is an unconscious, automatic procedure solicited due to human interaction that is cognitive and affective, and is the capacity to ‘hold others’ minds in mind as well as one’s own. Evidence strongly suggests that reflective functioning develops in early childhood, in the context of caregiving relationships and has been linked to both maternal sensitivity, infant attachment security, and infant insecure and disorganized attachment.
In short, having a caregiver with healthy reflective functioning leads to healthy development for children.