All posts by The Attached Family

Join Us For API Reads: Nurturing the Soul of Your Family

Our July/August online book discussion will be based on Renée Peterson Trudeau’s book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. Nurturing the Soul image

To join the discussion, please click here to join us on GoodReads.

The book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family touches on API’s Eighth Principle of Parenting – Personal and Family Balance. We’ll be discussing things such as:

  • The Transformative Power of Self-Care
  • People First, Things Second: The Digital Divide
  • Spending Time Together (Like You Mean It!)
  • Do Less, Experience More
  • Breaking Free: Making Hard Choices
  • Building Your Support Network

Those are just a few topics that we’ll be covering. So don’t wait! Join the discussion today at GoodReads.

Start preparing now…our Sep/Oct book will be Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. This is a fantastic book for couples.

Tomorrow is the Last Day He is Four

By Emily Cherkin, originally published on StartEmpathy.org, reprinted with permission from Ashoka.

This morning, it snowed in Seattle.  And it reminded me of the night Max was born, almost exactly five years ago, when it was sunny and rainy and windy and then, in the middle of the night, when we were upside down about time and date, we looked out the window and saw snow swirling around.  I don’t remember much about those early days and hours, but I do remember the snow.525200_73544751 balloon

Five years ago, newly pregnant, my husband and I were full of expectation and wonder at how much our lives were about to change.  Like many mothers-to-be, I was fixated on the labor and delivery part of this journey.  I felt somewhat confident the newborn challenges would be manageable, but I knew the labor and birth were all on me.  I diligently took the birth classes, read the books, talked to our midwife and hired a doula.

The one piece of information from our birth class I recalled in the middle of a long and arduous labor was the phrase: “Transition is usually the shortest and most intense phase of labor, lasting about 30 minutes on average.”  When I arrived at the hospital birthing center, 24 hours into labor with Max and nearly fully dilated, I heard the nurses’ whispers: “Transition; she’s in transition.”  Five hours later, I was still “in transition” and nothing I had learned in class seemed applicable anymore.  It would be another seven hours before Max would make his appearance in the world. Continue reading

Date Night: Why and How To Make It Happen

By Judy Arnall, author of Discipline Without Distress and co-founder of Attachment Parenting Canada, www.attachmentparenting.ca.  Her date night blog is at www.datenightyyc.wordpress.com/about/.

In the movie Date Night, the characters played by Steve Carell and Tina Fey are in a long-term relationship that they try to spice up by1414109_13630179 candle going out to dinner once a week on a date night. The trouble is that their date night is monotonously predictable—they go to the same restaurant and order the same food on the same night every week. They start to notice the sameness when they become a little too clichéd even for their own taste by talking about the variation of the chicken quality instead of their feelings, week after week. One night they do something different—they dress up, pick a new restaurant and go to dinner in the city for a change. What happens next is hilarious, and they end up with an incredible evening tale, though probably one that no couple would wish for. The end result is that they had a renewed sense of each other as the people they loved, not just their roles such as parents, children, siblings, etc. (although those roles were strengthened, as well).

Why Have Date Nights?

No matter how long they have been together, couples need sparks, creativity and fun in their relationships. As the years pass, they need it even more. For centuries, organized religion has discovered that people need continuous affirmation of their faith in the form of weekly rituals such as church attendance. Relationships need the same kind of tending and care. Regular meetings are required in order to talk, have fun and spend time together.

We know that friendships survive on shared interests, yet as soon as we partner up with our very best friend, we tend to settle into domestic boredom and let the shared interests slide. Every relationship has peaks and valleys—moments where love is overwhelming and moments when you seriously wonder why you are still with your partner. Couples need to remind themselves of the qualities that they saw in each other at the beginning of the relationship and what they still love about each other. This is even more critical when mortgages, pets, children, jobs, laundry, broken appliances, normal conflicts and elderly caretaking occur alongside the couple relationship. These are normal stresses, but they can be overwhelming in a relationship without some nurturing buffers, such as date night and time together.

The “Date Night” Rules

  • Together, choose an evening of the week for date night, but make it the same day of the week so it’s not left by the wayside.

  • If you have children, hire a standing sitter to come each week at the same time. Try to get a sitter who drives, and pay the sitter well. If finances are a concern, consider finding or starting a babysitting co-op or have date nights at home after the children are asleep.

  • If you don’t wish to leave your children or if separation anxiety is a concern, plan date nights at home when the children are asleep.

  • Each partner takes a turn planning the date, executing, driving and paying. The other partner is the guest. Switch roles the next week. It’s more fun to keep plans a secret until you are both in the car or it’s the time of the date. Surprise is part of the fun!

  • The planner should hire the sitter and feed the kids before you go out.

  • Look your best, even for home dates. The only information the guest needs to know is what to wear and if he or she should eat before going out.

  • Try to plan an evening without friends so that intimate subjects can be addressed if need be. Some subjects are difficult to bring up, but with time and space, it’s better to broach the subjects and give them air time than to bury them. Couples who bury critical conversations end up with nothing to talk about in the later years and drift apart.

  • Be tolerant and enjoy the evening as much as possible, knowing that your partner put a lot of effort into making it special for you, even if he or she didn’t quite nail it that week.

When the Going Gets Tough – Babies, Toddlers & Teens

Research shows that the first five years of a relationship are the most difficult because of career-building demands, money woes and especially the parenting of babies and toddlers. The lack of sleep, child tantrums, worry and differing parenting styles can tear down the closeness and caring of even the most loving couples, as we tend to take our parenting frustrations out on each other. This can be toxic to relationships. We need frequent reminders to be kind and caring to each other in the good times and especially in the challenging times. Continue reading

Spotlight On: Spark of Amber

API: Tell us about how your business began. What was the inspiration? What are your goals?

Julie Zorgo: Spark of Amber was founded in early 2013, after I was introduced to Baltic amber jewelry through a friend. I did some teethingankletsonline research and found out how Baltic amber has been used for years in children as a natural teething aid and pain reliever. The succinic acid in Baltic amber is scientifically studied and is an active ingredient for pain relief, calming properties and anti-inflammation. I discovered that adults also use Baltic amber for calming, pain relief and as a natural immune builder.

My inspiration to do this came from my husband and three children. My family is my biggest fan club.

My goals are many. First, I hope Spark of Amber grows to the point where it can be a full-time job from home for me. I believe in being there for my children, even as they get older. My other goals are to be able to donate to different charities and raise awareness for worthwhile causes through my business, and to make Baltic amber accessible and affordable to other families.

API: How does your business contribute to society?

Julie: My business currently spotlights a different charity or cause each month. For May, I picked End It, which seeks to raise awareness of and end the current blight of modern-day slavery and human trafficking. As my business grows, I would like to pick a day each month to donate a portion of sales to the cause of the month. Other charities and causes that I would love to contribute towards are breast cancer, child abuse awareness, positive parenting, breastfeeding support, and adoption awareness and help.

Another way Spark of Amber helps contribute to society is that, whenever possible, we work with different women in Lithuania to help craft our jewelry rather than buying from large factories. I feel it is important to help these women to feed and support their families by creating beautiful amber jewelry.

API: How does this business benefit families?

Julie: Spark of Amber benefits families by making beautiful amber jewelry available at affordable prices. I love promoting natural (rather than chemical) remedies for families. Several mothers have already written me about how much the jewelry has helped their headaches and pain or made them feel less stressed during the day, so they can be better mothers. We offer something beautiful and beneficial for the whole family, from children to teens to adults!

API: What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing? How can we work together with your project?

Julie: I think API is doing a very valuable service. Every day millions of children are living in abusive or very harsh environments, and this can scar them for their entire lives. We need to do so much better. I think there is such value in educating the public on natural and loving parenting practices. I am completely supportive of API and hope more families become aware of the value of attached parenting. There is a lot of misinformation out there, so API does a great job in spreading the positive message of Attachment Parenting.

My husband and I were totally unaware of Attachment Parenting when we had our first son, but we just sort of fell into it. My son hated the bassinet (I think it lasted one night), so we started cosleeping and continued for years. In fact, we have co-slept with all our children, and are now cosleeping with our 2-year-old daughter, while the boys share a bed together. I breastfed both boys until they self-weaned. I am doing the same with my daughter. Slings never worked out for us. I did try! Instead my babies preferred to be held. Both my husband and I sacrificed so one of us could be at home raising our children.

As far as how you can work together with me through Spark of Amber, I just appreciate the opportunity to share my business and a bit about my family with you. Any support I get helps me work from home so I can spend more time with my children, while still helping to contribute to our family income.

API: Anything else you’d like to share?

Julie: I’d like to encourage other moms who have a dream for a business or venture to go for it! I am really glad I started Spark of Amber. I would also encourage everyone to do what they can to make a difference in the world. Even if we can’t contribute money, we can be kind to a child, show love, and use gentle words and actions with our own children. It all helps!

API: Thank you so much! Where can people get more information?

www.sparkofamber.com

A limited selection of items is available in the API Store

 

New Sibling, New Behavior! How To Respond When Children Act Out

By Kelly Bartlett, author of Encouraging Words For Kids, certified positive discipline educator and Attachment Parenting International Leader (API of Portland, Oregon, USA), www.kellybartlett.net

Having a new baby is an exciting time. Even the older siblings will feel this excitement and will be delighted to hold their new baby brother or sister for the first time. They finally get to see who has been inside of mom’s growing belly all these months!Kelly Bartlett

That excitement may fade, though, as the weeks go on and the reality of a baby’s needs sets in. Many parents see changes in behavior in their older children sometime during the first year after a new sibling is born. Children may act out, become defiant or begin to show behavior struggles at school. This is normal, since a child’s natural growth compounded with the stress of adjusting to a new family member can be overwhelming. It can cause a child to think differently about himself and to behave differently as he tries to find his place in the family.

Parents frequently turn to books, friends, articles or classes to learn how to handle a child’s difficult behavior and to discipline appropriately. The first question a parent asks is, “What should I do?” They seek tools, techniques and strategies—a concrete approach to solving behavior problems. But what parents need to understand is that the tools are secondary to the relationship.

The relationship of the child to the parent is the foundation for all “good” behavior. Children inherently want to behave well for those to whom they are emotionally connected. Without a strong attachment relationship, there is no desire to be like, please, take direction from or otherwise follow a parent’s lead.

What this means for parents, in regard to getting through our kids’ difficult phases of behavior, is that we must focus on connecting to them—checking in on our relationship and doing any work to build a closer, stronger relationship—before we focus on what tools to use. It needs to be ongoing, and it needs to be the first thing considered when responding to a behavioral situation. Before asking, “What should I do?” we need to ask, “How is our relationship? Am I emotionally available? Does my child feel connected to me?” When we address the relationship first, those answers to “What should I do?” fall into place much easier.

Though it can be difficult with a new baby in the house, it is critical to focus on maintaining a supportive and responsive relationship with older siblings. This is the key to helping them adjust to big changes. With their burgeoning autonomy, older children’s needs are less about physical connection, such as holding, nursing, or co-sleeping, and more about emotional bonding and understanding. Children need to know that they still matter, that they will always belong and that they have an important place in their parents’ hearts. Here are 11 ways to build connection and communicate to kids that they are valued in the family, after the birth of a new sibling or anytime.

1. Listen. This might be the most effective way to strengthen connection with a child. Listening leads to understanding, which strengthens attachment. Whatever kids communicate, make sure you hear them out without interrupting, making assumptions or giving them answers. Even when there are angry actions or loud tears present, prove that you understand their message by repeating it and reflecting their feelings about it. “You are mad! You are feeling very angry that you can’t do what you want right now.” Children will listen after they feel listened to. Don’t try to fix the problem or provide solutions. Just listen, validate and accept. Empathy communicates understanding, and children who feel understood feel safe and loved.

2. Do “special time.” Dedicate uninterrupted time with your older children every day. This will go a long way toward supporting their secure attachment with you. You get to know them, and they get to feel known.

3. Show faith. Have confidence in kids to make their own decisions, fix their own mistakes and accomplish their own goals. Your faith in your children generates confidence in them and a trust in your relationship.

4. Allow mistakes. By allowing and accepting mistakes, instead of yelling or criticizing, you are facilitating trust. There are fantastic opportunities for bonding and learning together, when you let your child know it’s OK to make mistakes and you are going to help her succeed.

5. Hug. Not just hugs, but any kind of positive physical touch helps connect parents and kids. Every touch, pat, massage, hair stroke, squeeze, handhold or full-body bear hug is a physical reminder to a child that says, “I love you and I’m here—right here—for you.” Do this often.

6. Use encouragement, not praise. Focus on acknowledging your child’s efforts rather than judging the outcome of his actions. It shows him that you value who he is internally, rather than simply what he can do or give you. There’s a very different message communicated in, “I noticed you got all our things ready to go! You really remembered a lot,” than in saying, “You’re such a good boy.”

7. Connect eye-to-eye. Get down to a child’s level to speak to her. It is respectful of her development and shows that you value even this most basic level of connection.

8. Empower. Sharing control with kids—as opposed to trying to have control over them—helps them develop their own skills and confidence. It lets them know that you trust their judgment and allows them to exercise their autonomy. One way to empower children is by giving them new responsibilities and opportunities to contribute to the family. You can also empower them by asking, “What ideas do you have for solving this problem? What do you think we should do?” and telling them, “I’m confident you’ll find a solution that works.” Depending on the situation and the child’s age, the parent may need to help generate solutions.

9. Appreciate. Letting kids know what we appreciate about them or their actions helps bring us closer together. “I appreciate you letting your sister play with that toy this morning. I know it’s yours, but she really enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing it!” Children feel a sense of significance and belonging when we recognize their helpful gestures and good deeds.

10. Recover. Recovering from our own mistakes is important for letting kids know that we do want to be the best parents we can for them. What better way to tell your kids how important their feelings are to you than with a heartfelt apology for a mistake and an offer to work on a cooperative, respectful solution? This can be one of the most effective ways to connect with your kids.

11. Foster. You can model and teach listening, empathy and respect to the eldest child to strengthen his connection to the infant, which will help with the transition of adding a new person to the family. As the children grow older, engage in shared activities and dialogue that foster a respectful and warm relationship with each other.

Keeping all of these ideas in mind, remember that every child will respond differently to the presence of a new sibling in the family. It is not always a fairy tale! Even the most securely attached children will feel a disruption in the family balance and may act out that disruption through their behavior. Consider your child’s individual temperament and unique needs to find a combination of connective parenting tools that work for your family. Instead of asking, “What should I do?” ask, “How can we connect?” It is this connection that will guide you through the transition of helping older children adjust to a new family dynamic. It is this connection that tells children, “You matter. You have an important place in this family, and you have an important place in my heart.”

 

Join Us for API Reads

Nurturing the Soul imageWe started reading Nurturing the Soul of Your Family for API’s online book club, API Reads, in July. We already started learning about shifting your perspective, about where disequilibrium comes from, challenging the beliefs of your family, how self-care supports us in being more present with our partner and children, self-care translates into owning your own personal power, that self-care is more than massages and pedicures, and that your family is your opportunity to heal and grow as a person.

 

What more can we expect from this book? With the remaining chapters we can expect to cover:

– Making time for spiritual renewal: return to the river within
– Loving the ones you’re with: spend time together (like you mean it!)
– Defining, celebrating, and honoring your family culture: what do you stand for?
– Slowing down: do less to experience more
– Exploring a new way of being: make hard choices, break free, and do it different
– Building your tribe: ask for and embrace help as you create your support network

Get your book today! Get your copy here to help API with a commission from the purchase.

Don’t forget! In September we’ll be reading a book for couples. It’s by Harville Hendrix and it’s titled Getting the Love You Want. Happy reading!

You Are a Good Parent

By Rita Brhel, managing editor of Attached Family, API’s Publications Coordinator, API Leader (Hastings API, Nebraska)

There are many ways of raising children. Of course.

Photo: (c) Helene Souza
Photo: (c) Helene Souza

Some parents breastfeed, some don’t, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. Some parents stay at home with their kids, some parents put their kids in daycare, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. Some parents enroll their children in public school, others homeschool, and for the most part, kids turn out fine. There certainly are parenting styles that are in need of improvement, to say it lightly, such as those that tend to be so strict that they could be labeled as abusive or those that are permissive enough to border on neglectful. But there is no one right way to parent, if your goal is to raise children who are functioning members of society.

That said, there are certain parenting goals—and therefore, strategies—that can give a child an edge as a functioning member of society, and secure parent-child attachment is one of them. Secure attachment, the wholesome and strong bond between a parent and a child, offers an advantage to a person by helping him handle stress more easily, from everyday garden-variety stress to major adversity. Essentially, secure attachment lends itself to good self-esteem. Couple this with problem-solving skills and a general knowledge of healthy versus unhealthy coping skills, and you’ve got an excellent set of stress management skills. Good stress management is helpful not only for mental health but also for physical health and overall well-being. Continue reading

A Breech Birth Story

By Sarah Occident

Natural childbirth has always been fascinating to me. There is something so beautiful about bringing forth life the same way millions of women around the world have throughout the ages. So when we became pregnant, I had already begun the mental and physical preparation that would eventually lead to a perfect, natural birth at a birth center. I had read all of Ina May Gaskin’s books, watched The Business of Being Born, and had picked the brains of the other like-minded mamas that I knew. I was prepared! And childbirth ALWAYS goes exactly as we plan, right?DSC_0130 Sarah Occident

For most of my pregnancy, I was under the care of the midwives at a birth center. Our pregnancy was uncomplicated, and we were breezing past all of the milestones we needed to hit in order to birth at the center. We had completed a natural childbirth course, were  preparing with a doula, had meticulously written out our birth preferences in case of a hospital transfer, and had our bags packed and waiting by the door. But, as my mom regularly reminded me throughout those nine months, the first lesson of motherhood is that you can’t control everything related to your children, and our little one certainly had plans of her own.

Editor’s Note: Attachment Parenting International invites parents to share their birth stories, without endorsement of their decisions regarding their child’s birth. None of this information should be interpreted as medical advice. Click here for more information on our views regarding childbirth.

At about 36 weeks, we realized that this baby was frank breech and wasn’t turning. Initially I was disappointed, as a breech baby meant no birth center. So we tried everything—a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, and hours each day inverting myself while simultaneously attempting to bribe the baby with music, flashlights and frozen peas (really—Google it). I stayed hopeful until about 39 weeks, and then I decided I needed to let go. As my midwife beautifully put it, it wasn’t my baby who needed to turn, it was me who needed to turn. Continue reading

Moms and Dads – Share Your Birth Story

We are excited to invite mothers and fathers to share your childbirth experiences. Sharing birth stories can empower parents to educate others, to break down barriers and help others become more accepting of experiences very different from their own, to heal from the disappointments and emotional pain of their own childbirth, to learn about birth from an Attachment Parenting perspective, and to celebrate the profound experience of childbirth. 1402625_19862838 baby hand

Whether you had the perfect birth or one fraught with worry and complications, whether you chose pain relief or birthed naturally without medication, whether the birth was at home or at a hospital, every story is a valuable teaching tool for others and us.

Fathers – we extend a special invitation for you share what your baby’s birth was like from your perspective.

We are accepting birth stories on a continual basis starting in May 2013.

For inspiration, we invite you to read about API’s first Principle of Parenting, Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting. You can read about this Principle on API’s website or in Attached at the Heart by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker. Email your submissions to Lisa at editor@attachmentparenting.org.

You can read submitted birth stories in Your Birth Stories on TheAttachedFamily.com.

An Attached Education: Can Attachment Parenting Enhance Learning?

By Rebecca English, PhD, education lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, www.rebeccamenglish.com

I speak to many parents who want to continue through the school years with the loving, child-led, engaged parenting that they practiced when their children were younger. I also speak to many teachers and soon-to-be-qualified teachers who yearn to develop strong attachments with their students and encourage them to be effective learners. What these two groups have in common is that they are focused on child-led learning.1107036_97836458 education

In their book Teaching as a Subversive Activity, Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner advocate for what they call an inquiry approach to learning. The authors argue that, rather than what they call lineal/mechanistic approaches to teaching and learning, a more effective approach to education is child-led and allows children freedom to learn in their own time, at their own pace. This approach, unlike many current practices of education, is one that considers children’s needs and supports children in developing a love of learning, which is surely a great gift to give them. Continue reading