All posts by The Attached Family

Why You Should Talk to Your Kids About Death

By Sarina Behar Natkin, LICSW, www.growparenting.com, reprinted with permission

As a parent educator, I rarely use the word “should.” As a matter of fact, I cringe at the idea of giving parents one more SHOULD, almost as much as many parents cringe at the idea of talking to their kids about death.sarina natkin

But after a spate of violence and random death in Seattle, I realized how few parents discuss the topic of death with their children before they are forced to. This is where the SHOULD comes in. We should talk to them because it will help our children and us move through the pain of loss just a little bit easier. For those of us who have lost loved ones, even the tiniest bit easier is worth it.

Many parents say they don’t talk to their kids about the concept of death because they don’t know what to say. While that may be true, I suspect that belief is coming from the idea that we don’t want to scare our children or worry them. But we do our children a disservice if we let those hard emotions stop us from sharing something that is as much a part of life as life itself.

Imagine your child’s first day of school. What if, because you didn’t want them to feel scared or worried, you avoided the word “school” for years? What happens when the first day of school arrives? How might that first drop-off feel for them? For you? My guess is with no framework or understanding of where they are and what they are doing there, our kids might feel pretty scared, alone, and quite anxious.

Of course we don’t do this! Many parents spend a great deal of time carefully preparing their child for school. It’s not usually a sit-down formal conversation about the history and theory of elementary education. It’s many small moments throughout early childhood that help them build a mental model for this concept of school. Those mental models are what help decrease fear and anxiety, and more importantly, normalize a part of life for most Americans. Continue reading Why You Should Talk to Your Kids About Death

Looking for Love at Toys”R”Us

By Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, www.ahaparenting.com

“Television advertisements for toys and games often exploit children’s underlying needs and desires.  Many commercials show a child playing with a game or toy with her parents.  The message is clear to young children: Ask for this product and your mother and father will pay attention to you. It is an offer they cannot resist.”  –Lawrence Kutner

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Worried that your child seems to get a bit greedy at the holidays? Consider that maybe something deeper is being triggered—a longing for that happy, perfect life when he’ll feel completely enveloped by your love.  We adults have the same fantasy, of course.  It’s part of the wonder of the holidays— that promise of transformative love.

The human mind has a tendency to crave more, more, more.  Kids (like many adults) haven’t yet learned how to manage those yearnings and direct them toward what will really fulfill them, which is connection, creativity and spirituality (whether your definition of that is God, Nature or Love).

And it is possible to fill our children’s deep longings.  Not with excessive presents—which always leave kids feeling unfulfilled—but with deep meaning and the magic of love. How?

1. Explain to your child that your December holiday is about “presence” or time together, not about “presents” – and then keep your promise! When he asks you to do something with him, why not leave the dishes in the sink or your email unanswered for now? Sure, you were going to make that homemade wreath or menorah, but if you can’t do it with your child, who cares about it? (If you do it with your child, it won’t look perfect, but you’ll treasure it forever. As will she.)

2. Manage Expectations. Ask your child to carefully consider his desires and tell you four gift ideas:

  • A store-bought gift that is within your means (this may take some back and forth discussion)
  • A book he wants to read.
  • A “together” present that you will do with him, like going to the zoo.
  • A “giving” present that he can gift to someone else, like making cookies for the senior citizen home or stuffing stockings for kids in a shelter.

3. Model your values by prioritizing family activities that savor the deliciousness of your holiday. Every day, do one thing to bring your family together, whether baking, gift wrapping or simply enjoying the twinkling holiday lights together in the dark. Read and discuss books on holiday themes.  Minimize the focus on shopping and store-bought presents.

4. Give your child the experience of abundance in simple ways. You can let your kids revel in that feeling of abundance while still sticking with your values and your budget. If you’re gifting him with a trip to the zoo, print out a photo of his favorite zoo animal and a simple certificate, and wrap it, complete with ribbon. If she loves lip balm, buy four flavors and wrap each one separately.  If you baked and decorated cookies together to take to all the older folks when you visited Aunt Sue, be sure to take photos. Then print out a certificate of Commendation for Generosity with his name on it, along with a photo of a happy cookie-eater and your child, and wrap it with a ribbon and a cookie in a plastic bag. That will probably bring as big a smile to his face as a toy, especially when you regale everyone present with a story about how happy he made the senior citizens.

5. Give your child the gift of playful responses to things that you’d normally get irritated about.  When she resists your instructions, be mock horrified. Scoop her up and throw her around, making a rambunctious game of it. Interpret every “misbehavior” as a request for fun, loving connection.  (If you need to “teach” appropriate behavior, do it later.) This is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.  You’ll be so pleased by how much more cooperative she is that you might adopt this approach permanently.

6. Minimize stress and fill your own cup so you’re in a good mood, living the spirit of the season and spreading love and good cheer. Your kids don’t want a magazine-spread holiday.  They want your love and appreciation and joy. Prioritize getting sleep and taking care of yourself so you can give your child your best—not just what’s left.

No matter what they think, kids don’t need the latest toy from Toys“R”Us or the latest electronic gadget.  Those are just strategies to feel good inside themselves. And the only way that feeling lasts is when it comes from love.

Consider the memories your kids are shaping this December. When they look back, will they describe a parent who communicated the spirit of the season with laughter, warm embraces, gracious patience?  You ARE that parent, inside.  Do you need to let go of anything so you can express all that love and joy? What could you do to make it easier for you to be that parent

Ten Tips for Raising a More Peaceful Child

By Bill Corbett, author of Love, Limits & Lessons, www.cooperativekids.com

The General Assembly of the United Nations declared September 21st as the International Day of Peace. Since the first year of celebration, many schools around the country have used that commemoration to influence children on the importance of world peace. So this past September 21st, I took a film crew with me to an amazing Montessori school deep in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, to see what they were doing.

Meagan Ledendecker, the school’s director of education, asked each of the classes to create a project that would represent their own celebration of world peace. I thought this was an awesome day at the school and featured Meagan and some of the school projects on my television show. You can watch the clip on my website.

Everything I teach in my parenting program and all that I feature on my television show are dedicated to increasing the peacefulness in families and classrooms. If we hope to have less war and conflict in the future, and more love and compassion for one another, then it’s up to us to cultivate that in our children, who will be responsible for carrying out the plan. Here are ten things any parent or guardian can begin doing immediately to raise more peaceful children.

Continue reading Ten Tips for Raising a More Peaceful Child

API of Orange County, California (USA)

By Angela Adams, API Leader & Support Group Co-Leader

When did your group form?

August 2008

When a parent comes to your group, what can he/she expect? What meeting format do you have?

When parents come to our group, they can expect open arms and smiles. There are parents with newborns, toddlers, preschoolers, and older children. Even parents who are pregnant with their first will come for support and information. The group is very casual and relaxed.

The meetings are usually started with an introduction by one of the leaders, an explanation about Attachment Parenting, a brief round-robin introduction by the parents (i.e. name, ages of children, what city do you live in, etc.), and then discussion of that month’s topic. There is always time left for open discussion, so families can talk about any questions or concerns they may have.

Of course, no one is obliged to speak. If you’re the silent type who prefers to absorb the information and just be in the environment, please feel free to enjoy the meetings that way. We want everyone to feel comfortable, supported, and at ease. We also have a lending library with books and DVDs available for check-out.

What kind of discussions does your group have? What are some common questions that parents answer?

Some examples of our discussion topics include:

  • Staying Attached at Mealtime
  • A Fresh Look at Discipline
  • Maintaining Balance in Family Life
  • I Love You Rituals
  • Self-Care and Nurturing Yourself
  • Nighttime Parenting
  • AP Beyond Babyhood.

Our open forum is also a popular time. Parents are welcome to discuss any concerns or issues they’re experiencing at that moment in their parenting journey. For example, families want to know how others handle toddler biting and how they make bedtime a smooth transition. If it’s a concern for you, odds are that others are going through or have gone through the same thing!

Are kids welcome?

Children are always welcome to our meetings. There are some toys available for play, and the parents all try to help each other watch and entertain the kids.

There is a stigma associated to support groups as well as support in general. What would you say to a parent who said that they didn’t need a support group because those were for “people with problems”?

A social support system is important for every person. Not all people who attend the meetings have “problems.” Some simply enjoy the fellowship, sharing of experiences, and talking about their parenting journey. When people do have concerns or questions, an API group is a supportive place to work through some of the issues your family might be dealing with. Learning new things, seeing what might work for your family, and talking with others sometimes requires more strength than staying stuck. We support families who reach out and encourage that connection with others. On a simpler side, most everyone enjoys having this time to meet new friends, chat with old ones, and just connect.

Anything else you’d like to share about the importance of parents attending API Support Groups?

All of us benefit from connection. An API Support Group is a place for people to give and receive emotional and practical support. It is a source of information, understanding, and comfort. You are welcome to vent your frustrations and voice your concerns without fear of being criticized. The support group is a respectful and warm environment full of people who are all on this parenting journey. It’s a valuable resource and one we encourage all families to be a part of.

API of Downriver, Michigan (USA)

By Kate Scheller, API Leader & Support Group Co-Leader

When did your group form?

We are excited to say that API of Downriver was formed last October, making this our one-year anniversary!

When a parent comes to your group, what can she/he expect? What meeting format do you have?

When a parent comes to a meeting, he/she can expect a very friendly and laid-back atmosphere. We have an excellent meeting space that holds books, toys, games, puzzles, puppets, etc. for the kids to play with. There is a room helper, and the children are always in view and can choose to play or sit near their parent.

We start with introductions and an icebreaker question, then move into the meeting topic. Our meeting style varies depending on the subject or the group; it’s really go with the flow. If it’s a very small group of just a couple of us, we try to make it more personalized within that given topic. No parent ever has to talk if they are not ready to do so. We really want all parents and child to feel comfortable and relaxed.

What kind of discussions does your group have? What are some common questions that parents answer?

We have all types of discussions. We really try to follow the group’s cues and steer our meeting to their needs and questions. I think the most common questions are about sleeping better, eating better, and behaving better…the 3 Bs! I have heard some really excellent responses from our parents. We seem pretty lucky to have such a great group of parents!

Are kids welcome?

Yes! Kids are encouraged to come, as well as dads! My oldest loves meeting days, because he gets to come play. We really have a great meeting location.

There is a stigma associated to support groups as well as support in general. What would you say to a parent who said that they didn’t need a support group because those were for “people with problems”?

I’d say, you really are missing out! If you asked any one of our members, not one would associate the group as a bunch of parents with problems. I think we all see it as a place to let your hair down, be in company with  who understands you, a place where you can speak freely, ask honest questions, and not be judged. It’s a place to bounce ideas off of other parents, share your knowledge, and gain some of theirs.

Anything else you’d like to share about the importance of parents attending API Support Groups?

If you haven’t yet attended an API meeting, now is the time. Even as a Leader, I still gain so much from our meetings. I think, sometimes, people have a fear of attending a meeting because they feel they aren’t “AP enough,” so if you are sitting out because that’s how you feel, that couldn’t be farther from the truth! There is no API standard. We all practice the principles in our own way; therefore, all of us can offer a unique perspective. At each meeting, we always remind parents to take what can fit and work into their family and leave the rest. I really can’t stress that enough. So what are you waiting for? Get to a meeting!

API of Port Angeles, Washington (USA)

By Naomi Davidson, API Leader & Support Group Leader, API’s Technology Coordinator

Congratulations on your accreditation as an API Leader! How does it feel?

I am very excited! It feels a lot like earning a degree. I went through a long process that required a lot of juggling, time management, and focus–and I finished it! Now I am eager to walk through the doors that this accomplishment has opened up for me.

What API Leader training was like?

There were many books to read: three required and four of my choice. Leader Applicant Liaison Lisa Feiertag sent many questions for me to answer, which came in stages. These questions caused me to do a lot of self-reflection, and the deeper I got in the process, the more I knew I wanted to become a leader. When I came to the role-playing exercise, I felt a bit intimidated, but with the great support of Lisa and a friend who recently became an API Leader, I was able to work through my challenges and successfully accomplish this task. The training overall was enriching and empowered me to feel like I will be a successful leader.

It took me a year and half from when I began the process to the end. However, I took about a nine-month break during this period, toward the end of my pregnancy and during our move to Port Angeles.

What prerequisites are there to becoming a leader?

A leader must agree with API’s Eight Principles of Parenting and the Leader Guidelines, submit an application, provide two recommendations, as well as become an API member and pay an application fee.

Why did you decide to become a leader?

I am extremely passionate about parenting, and I love all children. I want to do whatever I can to help children get their best start in the world. I believe all parents want this, and I believe API has the tools to accomplish it. I feel like my passion for Attachment Parenting and my experiences will help other parents either feel like they are not alone in their “different” form of parenting, or inspire them to listen to their inner voice and become more securely attached parents. I am looking for this support myself, and I believe starting a local group and being the leader will help me find the support I need and help me provide support for others.

What was your inspiration?

My happy children–all six of them–and my childhood. Peggy O’Mara has been my hero ever since I found Mothering Magazine many years ago. If I can help others raise secure, joyful, and empathetic children, I will feel like I have contributed to the positive changes in this world. This is my goal.

What do you look forward to most with leading an API Support Group?

I am new to my community and know very few people. I am very much looking forward to meeting other like-minded parents and being able to provide a positive environment where we can all connect, educate, and support each other.

What kind of format are you planning?

My first meetings will be the conversation style: leading a discussion with a prepared topic and encouraging other parents to share their thoughts. My meeting time is in the evening, so I plan to end the evening with a storytime for the kids. We’ll see how it grows from there.

How do you hope that your group can most benefit local families?

I want them to feel like they are not alone in their parenting journey, that they have a group they can turn to on those days when they run out of rope and need to find more, that they look forward to our times together, and that this time fills their parenting cup, so they can go home and be the best parents they can be. I also want my group to grow to have other events and traditions that will help provide the support needed to maintain happy families, such as a Welcome Baby program, regularly scheduled play dates, and gatherings.

API of Suffolk County, Long Island, New York (USA)

By Jamie Birdsong Nieroda, API Leader & Support Group Co-Leader

When did your group form?

I decided to go through the leadership training shortly after my son (and second-born) came along. We had a challenging adjustment, even following the ideas in Adele Faber’s helpful book Siblings Without Rivalry, and something about having a support group resonated for me. I had attended one support group meeting in New York City (API-NYC) years before and found being able to post questions to their Yahoo! group (like how to handle exclusion in four-year-old girls or naptime with two young children in the home) so helpful. That community was such a conscientious and wise group of women, and I longed for that on Long Island!  Thus began my journey. I completed my training and held my first meeting in March 2008 when my son was just over a half-year old. My first meeting had about six attendees and my last one (September 2012) had 18 attendees. The group has grown in strength each year, and while it has ebbs and flows, it’s always a positive experience for me witnessing parents providing each other support and community!

When a parent comes to your group, what can she/he expect? What meeting format do you have?

Parents can expect a warm welcome as soon as they walk in the door! As we all arrive, we visit with one another and help our children acclimate to the meeting space, which is a library room typically (although we do meet outdoors in the summer at Port Jefferson’s harbor). We always start with an icebreaker question (“What is the most challenging thing going on for you as a parent right now?”  “Share an example of how knowing ‘where your child is’ developmentally helps you respond more compassionately or appropriately to them and their behaviors.”  “What was bedtime like for you as a child, as in what routine did you have (if any), which parent handled bedtime, were you welcomed into a family bed or did you sleep by yourself or with a sibling, etc?”  “What is one way you attempt to feed with love and respect?”).

Beyond that initial icebreaker that gets everyone comfortable, I like to switch things up. Sometimes, we just have an open meeting where people can bring their own meeting topic based on the Eight Principles of API. I’ve been doing that more since our meetings have been drawing so many new mommas (and the occasional father, which is always wonderful)! Sometimes, we divide into breakout groups, particularly when we are over 12 or 14 attendees (or have a high ratio of older children), and I provide a point of discussion or give a behavioral scenario for parents to discuss different gentle discipline approaches. Often, we have a round robin where everyone gets to expound on the principle we are covering or offer feedback to others. I want everyone to have time to share, to ask questions, and to feel like they’ve gotten some answers or at least discovered that others are experiencing the same questions. I want parents to leave with new like-minded friends. No one ever has to speak; responding is not required. A lot can be gained by listening as well! Everyone tends to want to share though, because there is such power in coming to a meeting where you feel heard and understood. While a meeting can feel therapeutic or healing, we are really parents (and other caregivers) sharing with a community. It could just as easily happen around someone’s kitchen table, though we wouldn’t all fit! At the end of the meeting, we often have a Circle Time for the children where I or another mother leads seasonally appropriate songs and fingerplays. It’s a nice way to re-connect with the children and to bring the energy level back down as we break up and disperse. We stay in touch between meetings through a Yahoo! and Facebook group to continue the conversations: Much that happens in our parenting lives can’t wait a month to get feedback!

Besides our regular meetings, we love to have supplementary meetings every few months to discuss Attachment Parenting-related books.

What kind of discussions does your group have? What are some common questions that parents answer?

We discuss variations of API’s Eight Principles. A hot button topic for many of us is specific discipline concerns and questions; a lot of great feedback is received by parents on this topic. Sometimes, hearing specific words and examples gives parents the words they need the next time the situation arises. A parent recently told me of a situation with her five year old protesting bedtime (possibly having an adjustment to a new sibling coming along). We discussed specific phrases and approaches she might use; the suggestion the parent liked was similar to what she already was saying to her child but different enough that she felt it might be more of a soothing balm for her daughter to hear.

Sleep and bedtime rituals come up a lot, as well as first foods fed, breastfeeding in public, dealing with criticism from family or friends, how to support a firstborn when adding a new baby/sibling to the family, preparing for childbirth, and finding balance with personal and family life. I always leave refreshed and with renewed inspiration. Our meetings are like a large Sharing Circle with a bit of a playdate feel as well and also with a “we’re family” feel: It is so nice to see some of the same women each month over the course of years and to feel that camaraderie and community.

Are kids welcome?

Yes, children are always welcome to API meetings, and at API of Suffolk County’s meetings, it’s more the anomaly that they are not with their parents, but it does happen on occasion. I set out crayons and paper and some wiki sticks that a parent donated. The kids use those to form “sunglasses” or other 3D objects and they also place them on the library walls since they don’t harm the space in any way. We also set up chairs to serve as a “train” or “airplane” and the children make tickets for anyone to ride the train. On occasion, we bring a parachute for parachute play. The meetings have their limitations in that we always need to be aware of what the children are doing and step away if needed. That, too, is part of parenting and a part of attending a support group with children.

There is a stigma associated to support groups as well as support in general. What would you say to a parent who said that they didn’t need a support group because those were for “people with problems”?

I have my Master’s in Social Work and have worked as a Social Worker counseling both foster children and their families, whether biological, foster, or adoptive. I’ve worked in other therapeutic milieus as well, so I understand this concern people might have and the stigma associated with attending a support group. However, it’s almost hard for me to wrap my mind around that perception, because I view these meetings more as simply community, a parenting community, like a large potluck or Women’s Circle but with a group of mothers, fathers, caregivers, aunts, whomever shows up! It’s like meeting with a bunch of your friends one morning a month to share about your life and to leave inspired! Really, who doesn’t need to discuss parenting with people who understand, who aspire to the same principles (though how it unfolds may look very different, which is part of the beauty of it!)?  To someone uncertain about attending, I would try to listen to their fears and empathize with their concerns while also providing some perspective about how relaxed and normal these meetings are!

I’d like to share here something I noticed recently at our September meeting: I looked over to see one mother wearing another momma’s child in an Ergo carrier, as the child slept contentedly. This image speaks to the community we’ve built and the relationships that have grown between API of Suffolk County’s members. So I’d say get yourself to an API meeting, wherever you are! The connections you will make are a gift that you (and the receiver) need as a mother or father doing the work of parenting. And the eighth principle of parenting, Finding Balance in Personal and Family Life, speaks to that!

Anything else you’d like to share about the importance of parents attending API Support Groups?

We have a lot of fun! It’s community at its best, because you are with people who understand you and do not judge. I’ve noticed that, on occasion, a meeting attendee will preface their comments to the group with, “I’m not as AP as you all are, but…” One attendee pointed out how she has uttered those same words in the past and how, when she hears others say it, she finds it so amusing because it is evident, as each woman speaks, that all of API of Suffolk County’s attendees are coming from a respectful and nonjudgmental place, and conscientiously trying to find the answer that “fits” for their family and their unique child that presents him or herself.

When Relatives Criticize

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.naomialdort.com

Q:  My relatives criticize Attachment Parenting. They question my ability to parent and tell me that I am jeopardizing the children’s development and keeping them dependent and attached for too long. How can I best fend for my views and protect my children from my relatives’ intervention about breastfeeding, bedsharing, and wanting to be with me?

 

A: One of the main reasons we find it so hard to inspire respect from relatives and friends is because we seek their agreement. When my children were young, my father used to interrupt every one of my attempts to explain our parenting philosophy; he would say, “That’s rubbish” followed by, “Let me tell you how it works.” He never heard what I had to say. Continue reading When Relatives Criticize

Don’t Believe Everything in the News: What Pro-Spanking Research Misses

By Ralph S. Welsh, PhD, ABPP, the “father of Belt Theory,” www.nospank.net/welsh.htm

I was horrified to discover the [2010] media attention given to the findings of Prof. Marjorie Gunnoe’s small, twice-rejected-by-peer-reviewed-journals, study on the positive value of spanking children. It gives an extremely bad message to many desperate parents of troubled kids who are stumbling around trying to find the best methods of discipline in dealing with them. Moreover, there is a mountain of data flatly refuting her claims that can be found in thousands of carefully planned and executed studies on the relationship between spanking and later aggressive behavior. Why the media would spotlight this shabby piece of research is beyond me.

Parents of angry, troubled kids are already confused and frustrated with these youngsters. They don’t need this kind of “scientific” support in justifying their strong desire to throttle a kid who is giving them grief. Just this week, I evaluated an angry 15-year-old youth in detention who was being constantly suspended from school for fights and insubordination, and was heavily into marijuana. He admitted he was full of anger, but did not know why, but indicated that his mother frequently use to beat him with a large wooden spoon. During an interview with the mother, she admitted it, laughingly commenting, “I even broke a number of spoons on him, but it just didn’t do any good.” His father was in full support of the discipline, explaining, “We were never as rough on our son as my parents. I was hit with belts, extension cords, and shoes, and whatever my parents could pick up.” They both attributed their son’s delinquency to his ADHD and bad friends, and were looking for a military school in which to place him, as if he hadn’t been exposed to enough authoritarian rule already. Continue reading Don’t Believe Everything in the News: What Pro-Spanking Research Misses

Transitioning Home: An interview with Catherine Myers, director of the Family & Home Network

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and API leader

Many new parents or parents-to-be would like to stay at home with their children but find the transition from a professional career to a stay-at-home lifestyle to be a bit bumpy. I certainly did. I was used to fast-paced days as an investigative news journalist and often nights and weekends as an assistant managing editor. I wanted to stay home after my first baby was born, but I had quite the learning curve as my life slowed to the pace of caring for a baby. I wouldn’t have traded any of those amazing moments of watching my children grow, but it would’ve made for a smoother first few years if I had been more prepared for how life changes with a new baby, especially if you’re a newly minted stay-at-home parent.

Recently, I had the chance to interview Catherine Myers, director of the Family and Home Network (FAHN) about their new Transitioning Home online program, offered to parents wishing to explore this option to practice the Attachment Parenting International sixth parenting principle of Providing Consistent and Loving Care.

RITA: Catherine, it is so good to talk with you. Can you tell us about FAHN’s mission and what you offer parents?

CATHERINE: Family and Home Network, founded in 1984 and originally named Mothers at Home, is a nonprofit organization offering affirmation, information, and advocacy to parents. Our mission is to advocate for parents and children concerning their need for generous amounts of time together and to support parents by affirming the choice to be home or to cut back on paid employment. For almost three decades, we’ve been listening to parents and learning from them. We are nonpartisan and recognize that there are many perspectives on almost any question faced by parents. We aim to serve as a clearinghouse of information and to offer parents lots of opportunities to learn from each other. Advocacy is an important aspect of our work; it includes speaking out to the media and to policymakers, promoting inclusive family policies and encouraging parents to speak up for themselves.

For 22 years, FAHN published the award-winning monthly journal Welcome Home; we also created four books, other special publications for parents, and information papers for policy makers. Today, FAHN continues to reach parents throughout the world with its publications, website, social media outreach, and online workshops. Our Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies calls on policymakers to respect parents’ choices about the ways in which they meet their income-earning and caregiving responsibilities.

RITA: Why did you decide to found FAHN? What was your inspiration?

CATHERINE: The organization was founded by three at-home mothers whose goals were:

  1. To help mothers at-home realize they have made a great choice;
  2. To help mothers excel at a job for which no one feels fully prepared; and
  3. To correct society’s many misconceptions about mothering.

Over the years, the organization’s goals have evolved and expanded to include at-home fathers, as well as families in which parents share and/or divide the income-earning and caregiving responsibilities. Family and Home Network has become both more inclusive and more focused on the critical importance of nurturing relationships between children and parents.

As for my involvement in the organization, it began in the mid-1980s, when my children were young and I was a reader of the monthly journal Welcome Home. Soon after I moved to the Washington, D.C. area, I answered a call for volunteers and began my decades-long involvement with the organization. I learned so much from my colleagues, and was inspired to return to college to finish my degree. Weaving my work and my studies together, I graduated recently with a Bachelor of Individualized Studies in Human Development, Parenting, and Policy.

RITA: Why did you create the Transitioning Home program?

CATHERINE: In listening to parents, FAHN realized that although support is important to all parents, those who have just decided to leave the workforce to be at-home parents are especially in need of information and affirmation. To meet the needs of these parents, we first created a book, Discovering Motherhood, and then a workshop series, Transitioning Home. Meeting once a week for six weeks, the Transitioning Home workshops offer parents opportunities for reading, reflecting, and discussing. The workshop materials include informative articles, essays written by parents that explore thoughts and feelings, and both individual and group exercises designed to help parents clarify values, tasks, and goals. First piloted in 2004, the Transitioning Home workshops were re-introduced last spring using new technology—Google+ hangouts. Participants can join in right from their homes. Those interested in future Transitioning Home workshops can sign up at www.familyandhome.org/content/transitioning-home-discussion-groups.

API Auction Item!

For the API Auction running from October 18-31 during the 2012 AP Month, FAHN is offering a custom Transitioning Home workshop, to begin between January and April 2013. The winning bidder invites up to eight people to participate–we meet online right from our homes. Catherine Myers will be facilitating this workshop, and she looks forward to thought-provoking discussions and once again witnessing the power of parent-to-parent support!

RITA: Why do you believe that it’s important that parents are able to choose to stay home with their children?

CATHERINE: As API knows, there is an abundance of scientific research showing the importance of providing consistent and loving care to children. Parent-child relationships require time–and each family must weigh many factors in making decisions about time. Other factors include health and special needs, job requirements of one parent (such as travel or long hours), commuting distance, and career preferences. Current public policies offer a panacea: support for parents who use paid child care. Meanwhile, parents who choose (or want to chose) to care for their children themselves are ignored. Highly-respected scholars have proposed inclusive policies such as a early childhood benefit. This benefit would give low- and moderate-income families a choice: spend the funds on child care services or use the funds to replace some of the lost income of a stay-at-home parent. Our current public policies offer only one option: child care—and this is often not the best choice for children or the choice parents want to make. We must remember that families do not make one choice and stick with it—many parents’ decisions about employment change. Flexible, inclusive public policies would support families as they change and adapt over time and with the changing needs of their children.

RITA: Thank you so much for your time and insights, Catherine. Is there anything else you’d like to offer?

CATHERINE: It’s important for parents to speak up to their elected officials. Corporations contribute millions of dollars to advocacy for “working families” (among these contributors are child care corporations). Lobbyists for working families focus on policies designed to help parents stay in the paid workforce. Families with an at-home parent have no such lobbying presence. FAHN has just added an advocacy tool to our Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies. We hope to see lots of API parents speaking up for inclusive family policies!

Caring for Our Children

Explore the API parenting principle of Providing Consistent and Loving Care by reading the “Caring for Our Children” issue of the Attached Family magazine. Inside, you’ll read:

  • Barbara Nicholson & Lysa Parker, API’s cofounders, on why this principle is just as fitting for stay-at-home parents as working parents
  • Richard Bowlby–that’s right, son of the “father of Attachment Theory,” of which Attachment Parenting is based–on how a baby chooses an attachment figure
  • On whether preschool is necessary for child development by Naomi Aldort
  • And much more.

Join API to access your free electronic copy!