Category Archives: 2. The Infant

From newborn to 17 months.

The Best Gift You Could Ever Give Your Child

By Bill Corbett, author of the award-winning book series Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids in English and in Spanish and member of the API Resource Advisory Committee, www.CooperativeKids.com.

Photo: Phaitoon
Photo: Phaitoon

It’s nearly Christmas, and I’m shopping at a department store. A woman in the aisle just ahead of me is pushing her shopping cart and begging her daughter to cooperate with her. The little girl appears to be about four or five years of age and is dragging her feet and whining that she’s too tired to walk. Her mom looks very tired and continues to plead with the child to keep moving. Suddenly the little girl collapses on the floor, and mom seems to be on the verge of “losing it.”

The woman picks up her daughter swiftly and sets her in the carriage. Once placed in the carriage, the little girl begins kicking her feet, and the crying begins. Soon she’s demanding to get out of the carriage, and her mom is doing everything in her power to hold back her anger. In that moment, I feel so bad for both of them and wish there was something I could do to help. Both mom and daughter are probably feeling the stress of shopping, the holidays and who knows what else.

I was a parent three times over and know exactly what that situation feels like. In situations when my children were small, I remember feeling stress from three things: the complexity of the family schedule that the holidays brought on, the fear that I might not have enough money (or credit) to pay for all the gifts I wanted to buy, and the conflict brought on when the magic I was trying to create for my children from my own childhood didn’t manifest itself to my satisfaction.

My children are all grown now and living productive lives. One of them gave me my two grandchildren, and I love seeing them get very excited about Christmas. Their mom has done a great job of making it happen. But if I could go back in time and do anything different, it would be to put more emphasis on being the person that I wanted them to become rather than trying to make everything so perfect.

Believe it or not, the story that I started this article with actually ended well. You see, the mother did a wonderful thing in that heated moment. She did not yell, she did not scold the little girl, and she did not “lose it.”  The woman reached into the carriage and picked up her sobbing daughter without saying a word. She held her close to her chest and sat down on a sturdy display shelf.  For a few moments, they just remained there, ignoring any of the people milling past them. The little girl cried on her mom’s shoulders, and the woman remained silent as she gently rocked back and forth.

If you ever find yourself ready to “lose it” with your child because you’re feeling tired or stressed, or because things just aren’t turning out as you had envisioned, stop and take a deep breath before you act or speak. See your child as just a child and forgive him or her, then forgive yourself. Acknowledge the stress you may be feeling from the season or other factors, and hold your child a little closer. Give your child the powerful gift of seeing what unconditional love looks and feels like.

Ask A Leader: Housework Stress and Car Seat Woes

By Leyani Redditi and Cason Zarro, API Leaders of API of Greater Atlanta, Georgia

Q: I am feeling overwhelmed with household chores and parenting. I want to be present for my children, but the pressure of everything I need to get done is so stressful. How can I get everything done and have time for my kids?

1208354_91362232A: I have struggled with this balance myself. It is fine to say to a brand new parent not to worry about the dirty dishes, but eventually they do need to get done. I find that when my home is relatively clean and we have food in the fridge and clean clothes, my family and I are less stressed.

So how does it all get done? Well, first of all, it doesn’t ALL get done. Some things will go by the wayside. Maybe it is the folding or ironing part of laundry. A basket of clean clothes still counts as doing laundry. By all means cut corners where you feel you can while still feeling good in your space. But even then there are repetitive and time-consuming tasks that somehow need to get done.

Here is what I have found to be the most helpful for getting things done while taking care of my children: Figure out a system, do things in short increments and do something each day.

Find your system: Everyone has a different way of organizing themselves (or not), but when you sit down and list the things that need to happen in a day, you see why you are so busy (and tired) and why sometimes it feels so overwhelming. So make the list, give yourself credit for how hard you work and then get strategic.

Figure out what things need to be done each day, each week and each month. How can other family members help with these tasks? You all live in the house and can all help in some way. My 3-year-old helps set the table and picks up toys during our family 10-minute toy pick-ups. My 7-year-old puts away her own clean laundry and feeds our pets. My husband helps with dishes and home maintenance. I have found it very helpful to have a Morning List and an Evening List. And, no, we don’t get everything done each day, but we are all involved, and we know what needs to be done (most days).

Work in short increments: Having a newborn taught me to use the very short amounts of time I had with both hands free to get a lot done. Talk about learning to prioritize! I love the idea of only spending 10 or maximum 15 minutes on a task. I don’t wait until I have an hour to do chores. I do 10 minutes here, 10 there, and slowly things get done. Really it’s finding the rhythm of your day and your family. I think about fitting in little bursts of activity so that I can have the luxury of long chore-free stretches with my children.

Do something each day: Household chores are ongoing and repetitive; the plates get dirty over and over again. For me, learning to think of these activities as “life maintenance” was very helpful. Just like brushing my teeth, there are some things that need to get done every day (or at least most days). I had to give up the idea that at some point I’d find a bunch of free time to get it all done. So I do something each day. Sometimes getting the dirty dishes into the dishwasher is it. Other days, we pick up the house as a family. We put on great music and set the timer for 10 minutes. Then it is a mad dash around the house full of laughter as we pick up and put away what we can.

Most importantly, give yourself credit for whatever you get done. Feel good you are doing something rather than bad that you are not doing everything.

~ Leyani Redditi

*Scroll down to read more suggestions from our readers.

Q: My 6-week-old baby cries and cries every time he is in the car. How can I help him like the car?

A: Although many babies are put to sleep by the sound and vibration of the car, there are quite a few babes who cry and want to get out. Time will certainly make this better, but there are some things you can try in the meantime.

Some babies are simply not comfortable in their infant car seats. If you think that is the case, you may wish to try a different model car seat. Sometimes switching to a convertible seat may result in a happier baby because the seat may be more comfortable. A convertible seat is one that can be placed rear-facing for infants, and then turned around when your little one has reached the rear-facing limits for the seat. You should consult the car seat manual to determine if your infant meets the minimum weight and size requirement for a convertible seat.

Nurse or feed your baby right before you leave. Make sure his diaper is dry and that he has burped. You want him to be as comfortable as possible before strapping him in his seat.

If there are any music or radio shows that you listened to while pregnant, try listening to them in the car. The familiar noises can be very comforting for babies. Try singing some lullabies or upbeat songs, depending on what your baby prefers. Some babies are soothed by white noise. In a pinch, radio static can act as white noise.

You could also try placing a T-shirt you’ve recently worn close to your dear son. The familiar smell of Mama may help him feel less lonely. Some families have found it helpful to tape a picture of mom’s face where the baby can see it. If you are the passenger, reach back and rub his head or sit in the seat next to him.

Sometimes you may need to pull over to a safe place and nurse or otherwise comfort your baby. I have found it helpful to pull over, sit in the seat next to my baby and lean over to nurse her. She will even fall asleep occasionally, and I can sneak around and drive while she sleeps peacefully. If your son will be comforted this way, it can be helpful to keep him buckled so that he doesn’t wake up when you are trying to get him back in his seat. You can also try nursing him like this before even leaving the house.

Allow extra time, especially if you need to be somewhere at a certain time. This can reduce your stress when you do need to stop. Reduce unnecessary trips, and encourage friends to come visit you.

If all else fails, talk to your pediatrician to rule out a medical reason such as acid reflux.

~ Cason Zarro

We asked readers on Facebook to tell us how they find balance with household chores and parenting. Click here to read the full conversation on Facebook.

Sunshine: Lower your expectations. Best piece of advice that was given to me!

Erin: We gave up cable and hired a housekeeper to come once every 2 weeks. Best money ever spent in our home of 2 full-time workers. It allows us to spend time with our kids after work and still get lunches packed, etc.

Ina: Prioritize–listening to your child’s idea is a “now,” folding laundry is a “later,” and cleaning the garage is a “maybe.” Downsize–don’t have too many clothes, toys and knick-knacks around. The more you own, the more you clean. Change the bottlenecks–if there is a time of crazy stress during the day, try to change it (e.g., if bathing in the evening is stressful, bathe them after lunch).

Leah: Sometimes you just have to let go of the phrases “I need to” or “I should.”

Elizabeth: I find a lot of comfort from a weekly chart. I do just two or three main house cleaning things per day, and then I’m not spending an entire day cleaning everything. I also remind myself that my chart is a guide, not a “to do” list. I keep my kitchen tasks for after school time since my son is in there already doing his homework. He sits up to the counter, and I help him with his homework as needed while I do the dishes and get dinner on.

Sandra: The bottom stair and a shelf at the top of the stairs are the gathering area for things that need to be put away. No wasted trips up or down the stairs. Going up anyway–take the packs of tissue to the hall closet. Coming down–bring the glasses to put in the dishwasher.

Jennifer: I take a nightly bath with my two youngest (4 months & 19 months). It’s probably the only way I can even fit in a bath at night for myself. It’s such a sweet moment and my favorite part of the day. I wash each, hand them one by one to dad to dress, then rinse off myself. Simple things make a difference!

Jane: Keep kids involved; it’s their house, too. All three of them love it when I allow them to wash the bathroom (not the toilet). We get $2 spray bottles, fill with water and either vinegar, bicarbonate or lemon, and let them go for it. Let go of your pre-kids standard.

Brittany: Just decide sometimes that it’s actually not the priority; sometimes playing with your kids, reading stories, or taking a relaxing bath while listening to jazz or opera is more important. Sometimes meditating and deciding to be grateful that it’s your life and those are your kids before you crank up the music and start working helps you keep focus.

Cathy: By just implying it should all be balanced and we should be managing it–without staff–is just unfair at times.

Savannah: Having a routine of cleaning during a certain part of the day has unintentionally given my daughter a routine for when to have “alone” play time, which she enjoys quite a bit.

Maria: If you have something you need to do without kids nagging, give them lots of attention first. Play a game, get exercise, feed them, snuggle. Then try to get your task done.

Lauren: Babywearing definitely helps!

Aimee: Honestly, I just let things go. I clean up food and big messes, but our house is not perfectly clean unless we have guests coming over, then I do a quick major overhaul! We work full time, and I’d rather spend the time I do have with my daughter. I’d love to always have healthy home-cooked meals, but we do a lot of ready-made meals from Trader Joes.

Louise: My hubby is superb and cleans the kitchen whilst balancing both kids in the mornings, so I can sleep a bit more (5-month-old feeds 2 hourly), and I do the rest of the house. Online grocery shopping is a godsend!

Elizabeth: A few tactical things we do to help keep me from being overwhelmed: hired a cleaning person, make two meals on Sunday so we have leftovers for the first half of the work week, and use a grocery list app.

Josie: While my husband is doing the bedtime routine, I take 10 minutes to pick up the toys and straighten up a bit. It’s easier to start from zero the next morning!

Melanie: I have baskets in several rooms, so when I see something that doesn’t belong in that room (comb, dog collar, Lego brick, calculator, etc.), I pop it in the basket. Then every week or so, I empty all the baskets into a pile on the lounge floor and shout, “Come and get your stuff; anything not collected goes in the charity bag.” Works every time, and we quite often have stuff there for charity, too.

Kristen: My husband shares in all chores and, in fact, probably does more than me since our daughter was born (9 months old and breastfeeding). I spent half my childhood pretending to keep house or work … just because our society tells us these things aren’t fun doesn’t have to make it true for us. For our family, housekeeping is part of the overall peace of our lives.

Judy: I am thinking about doing a home office share with another work-from-home mom so that we can trade off child care on 2 hour shifts for each other while the other gets stuff done.

Cherry: I remind myself that it isn’t my ever-so-clean carpets and clean kitchen that I will be remembering on my death bed … it will be my time spent with my DD.

 

 

 

Spotlight On: You Are My World

An interview with author Amy Hatkoff about her book You Are My World.

Tell us about your book. What was the inspiration?

Today, more than ever before, there is a burgeoning body of scientific research confirming that babies develop on every level through the give and take of relationships. And the science is telling us that babies with secure attachments have the best outcomes in life. Study after study shows that attuned, sensitive and responsive parenting leads to optimal development.Small_you_are_m-210

I have always felt that parents were the last to receive critical information about babies and often make decisions based on cultural myths and misconceptions. It seems that child development is one of the best kept secrets in America! I wanted to synthesize the research into a language that was easy for parents to understand and apply to everyday interactions with their babies. I wanted to “picture” what attachment parenting looks like and communicate what it feels like from a baby’s point of view.

You Are My World provides an opportunity for parents to visually, emotionally and intellectually experience the impact they have on their babies. I also wanted to give a voice to babies and celebrate all that they do, know and are–right from the start.

How will this book benefit families?

The book is meant to resonate with the wisdom of a parent’s heart. We know how important love is for a baby–it is everything. But so much can stand in the way of our accessing or expressing our love. In my years of working with parents, I realized it takes more than information to help people make a shift or to really integrate a concept. I had been looking for a way to bypass the defenses of our minds and untie the knots created by personal experiences, cultural beliefs and historic ideas. You Are My World uses the voices and beauty of babies themselves to speak directly to our hearts.

I also believe that less is more. I think people can glaze over with too much information. I was trying to distill the information into its simplest and most readily accessible and absorbable form.

I hope the book will help parents feel more confident and empowered. You Are My World celebrates the power of a parent’s love and portrays the extraordinary impact of the ordinary acts of parenting. Every parent can hold, soothe and smile at their baby. The book shows that it is the seemingly insignificant moments with the significant people in a baby’s life that shape who that baby will become. I hope the book will encourage parents to listen to their hearts.

What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing? How does your book work within our mission statement?

I think API is essential and doing a fantastic job of encouraging Attachment Parenting, which is known to be so critical for healthy development.

The dedication in the book is: “To parents everywhere, whose love has the power to change the world.” While I believe this intuitively, I thought I might be going a little bit overboard in making this statement. But the more I read, the more research I find that makes a connection between Attachment Parenting and peaceful children–and ultimately, the hope for a peaceful world.  My hope is that we can all continue to find ways to free our hearts from the confines of culture, history and our personal pasts and become free to truly nurture our children.

Where can readers find out more about the book and your work?

People can go to my website: www.amyhatkoff.com. For  nonprofit discounts on bulk orders or to obtain a PowerPoint of the book, please contact me at amyhatkoff@yahoo.com or at 347-949-3919.

Be sure to check out the upcoming “Loving Uniquely” issue of Attached Family for a chance to win a copy of the book.

 

Spotlight On: Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

An interview with Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids author, Dr. Laura Markham.

Tell us about your book. What was the inspiration?PeacefulParentHappyKids_FINAL.indd

Most parenting books focus on changing the child’s behavior. But when you try to control another person’s behavior, they resist. Kids only accept our guidance to the degree that they feel connected to us. In other words, our influence with our children and our ability to guide them as they grow comes from their connection to us.

So Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids is designed to help parents stay connected as their babies grow into toddlers and then into children, and to give parents best practices to guide and coach kids, rather than control them.

Finally, this book is designed to foster emotional intelligence in both parents and children. When humans–both parents and children–are in the grip of strong emotions like anger and fear, we disconnect from each other. So one of my goals in writing this book was to help parents learn to regulate their own emotions. That enables them to stay connected even in the face of their child’s upsets and to support their child’s healthy emotional development.

What inspired you to write the book?

There are lots of good books about babies written from an attachment perspective. But once babies start to assert themselves as toddlers, parents are often challenged to stay connected and foster healthy emotional development as they set limits. The parents I work with kept asking me for a book that elaborated on what I was saying to them in coaching sessions–a blueprint for raising a happy, connected, emotionally healthy child!

How will this book benefit families?

Parents do the hardest job there is, often without the information and support they need. This book gives parents that information and support, with hands-on tools that are easy to put into practice. Parents learn to regulate their own emotions to stay calm, they learn how to stay connected even while stressed, and they learn how to help kids want to cooperate even as they grow into strong, self-directed people.

Because I’m a mom, this book is completely practical, focusing on how to transform your daily interactions with your child. Instead of tips to control or manipulate behavior with punishment and bribes, there are step-by-step recipes to coach your child’s development into a more confident, resilient, self- disciplined, emotionally intelligent person.

What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing? How does your book work within our mission statement?

My training is an attachment theorist, so I’m a big fan of API. I love that API makes attachment parenting accessible for all families. API’s Eight Principles are brilliant because they succinctly introduce parents to the needs of children for optimal development. And, of course, since parents can only offer children what they have inside themselves, the eighth principle–balance and taking care of yourself–is critical to our ability as parents to respond with sensitivity to our children’s needs.

Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson’s book, Attached at the Heart, explains the Eight Principles in depth. Some of these principles, like responding with sensitivity and using positive discipline, can be hard to put into practice as your child gets into the toddler years and beyond because we as parents are only human and we get emotionally triggered. So my book gives parents the tools to put the Eight Principles into practice by regulating their own emotions and by staying connected as their baby grows into a child.

In addition, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids extends the discussion on discipline. API advocates for loving guidance that strengthens the connection between parent and child, just as I do. Often positive discipline approaches don’t address emotion sufficiently to “work,” especially with more difficult kids. My book goes into detail on how to address the emotions that drive “bad behavior” so kids stop acting out. (“Acting out” just means acting out a feeling or need that can’t be articulated.)  I know that “discipline” comes from the same word as “disciple” and means “to guide,” but any dictionary will tell you that the word has come to mean punishment. The research shows that children do need guidance and limits, but that those limits need to be set with empathy if the child is to develop self-discipline. So Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids gives parents both the theory and the practice of how to set limits with empathy, so the child WANTS to cooperate and has the self-discipline and emotional regulation to do so. With this approach, discipline is never necessary.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

As parents, we raise the next generation. So parents deserve the support of the entire society. As Charles Raison says, “One generation full of deeply loving parents would change the brain of the next generation, and with that, the world.”  I wrote this book to help all parents who read it become the mothers or fathers they aspire to be for their children.

Where can people find more information?

People can visit my website, www.ahaparenting.com.

 A limited number of books can also be purchased from the API Store.

Spotlight On: Dr. Peter Ernest Haiman

API: Tell us about how you began working with children and families.peterhaiman-small

PH: Since the early 1960s, I’ve been helping parents who have come to me with their frustrations about rearing their young children and adolescents. Although my work over the decades has primarily been with parents of infants, toddlers and preschool-age children, I started out teaching English to high school students in an inner-city school.

Most of my classes there were regular students. However, one of my English classes was made up of kids who had severe behavior problems. They were delinquents. No other teacher wanted to teach these adolescents. I wanted to do so.

In my work with them, I found that “how” they were educated made all the difference. Rather than teaching the standard English curriculum, I first found out what topics held their interest as a group. In our first class meetings, it seemed my questions to them brought out a pronounced interest in gangs and cars. I found two related paperback books. I ordered a copy for each student. During the semester, we read and discussed the content of each book in class. Skits provoked by the dilemmas in each book were enacted by groups of students in the class.

My graduate study of how young children learn best revealed that they, too, are motivated when adults first take the time to find out the individual child’s intrinsic interests and then help that child develop and elaborate their experience with that interest.

API: What does your work center around now? What services do you offer?

PH: I try to pass on to others what the research has been teaching about children and how those around them can best nourish their growth and development. For example, in my articles and work with parents I describe how research shows that behavior is usually caused by the status of underlying need states; how often it is better to educate than to teach; and how parents should learn to look through the emotional eyes of their children, not just their own.

Although parents continue to ask me for child-rearing advice, over the past twenty years parents with young children from across the country have asked for my help in divorce, child custody and visitation disputes because of several publications on the topic. Therefore, I have been an expert witness in family courts on issues that address infant and toddler attachment, brain growth and related research. I write court reports that review the empirical and clinical research on the short- and long-term effects of the above dynamics on young children. And I also help mothers become better advocates for themselves and their children during the divorce process.

API: What have parents found most useful about your work and services?

PH: The best people to answer that question are the parents who have sought my help. A few letters from them can be found in “Testimonials from Parents” on my website. In addition, I have two or three folders full of notes and letters in my file drawer that have been collected since I have been in California.

API: What are your views of Attachment Parenting and the work that API is doing?

PH: Although I am pleased that API, like other similar organizations, has an educational and support focus, I wish it would take on more of a political agenda as well. Organizations like API, if they are to have an enduring impact on our society and improve the future well-being of our young children, must join with other similar organizations like the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the American Academy of Pediatrics, La Leche League, and other similar organizations. These organizations then, in unity, can work together to improve the way our nation treats its young children.

API: Where can people get more information about your services?

PH: People can find out more about me by reading my resume and other information on my website at www.peterhaiman.com.

How a Child’s Identity Schema is Related to Self-Regulation

By Denise Durkin, M.A., early childhood mental health consultant and self-regulation specialist, www.ourholistickids.com

We know that when we engage children personally over time through our warm, sincere, kind and playful interest in them and their activities, we deepen our positive attachment through this attunement to and presence with them, and they are more likely to comply with our directives even if we call to them from across the room to pick up their toys. But why is this so?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To deepen our insights into why children behave the way they do and increase our psychological literacy overall (it helps with all relationships), it’s worth looking at the underlying dynamics of attachment as they relate to the beginning stages of the most important concept a child will ever develop in her lifetime—her identity schema.

In psychology and other fields, the term schema is used to describe a mental concept or template used to organize knowledge. Schemas are dynamic, meaning they develop actively and are self-revising. We all have unlimited schemas that we have developed over time, such as our schema for a house, for budgeting, for an ideal companion, etc.

In this discussion, a child’s identity schema refers to her self-concept. A child’s earliest schemas are tightly-woven formative structures for her sense of self and the world at large—for her idea of who she is, how safe the world is, and how the world sees her. As I see it, this tight web of information and experiences the child begins to internalize in early life is the core origin of her identity schema.

I am talking about a child’s first impression about herself, about who she believes herself to be. This belief is directly related to her capacities for self-regulation as she grows up and into adulthood. For example, her ability to tolerate strong emotion, focus on and complete tasks, communicate well and engage rewardingly with others hinge on how safe and balanced she feels, which tie back to her self-concept.

The first kind of identity schema is made up of emotional imprints, not words, since emotions are preverbal. The thinking here is that we can start to trace the beginning of a child’s identity schema at eight months in utero, when his amygdala begins sensing his mother’s hormone levels. If the mother feels safe and contented, the baby likely will, too. If his mother is in danger or under stress and her cortisol levels are high for extended periods, the baby may experience continued stress, translating to an emotional imprint of being unsafe. Hence, the infant’s first concept of himself may be as feeling unsafe, ergo, “I am unsafe.” This is an awareness that the child won’t be able to recall consciously in later years, yet the emotions are real, and they leave impressions that affect the development of his formative sense of self.

In the early months and years of a young child, negative experiences such as poverty, lack of physical or emotional nourishment, and other hardships may validate and reinforce his negative identity schema. This may translate to impressions such as, “People don’t care what I have to say, what I like, what I want. I can’t have what I need. What’s wrong with me? I’m not good. I’m not enough.” He may feel both emotionally unsafe and internally imbalanced.

In contrast, when an infant’s needs are taken care of in loving, compassionate and timely ways,  he begins to internalize a positive identity schema. The positive emotions he feels by way of his caregivers knowing and meeting his needs relay these truths to him: “My needs are met. I am taken care of. I am valued. The world is safe. I am lovable. I am good.”  The implications for a child’s personality, expectations, happiness, social successes and more, based on this initial schema development, are staggering.

As he begins to understand words, he also begins to internalize the second kind of identity schema—the cognitive schema for who he is. As he toddles about, the child learns more about himself through labels and the meanings that other people intentionally teach him, such as, “I am a boy. I am a brother. I am a good buttoner. I like painting.” Let’s remember that he acquires both emotional and cognitive schemas by either assuming them or by being directly taught them. Therefore, it is our very important job to be mindful of what identity schemas we teach and children internalize.

The choice of attitudes, words, and statements his parents, caregivers, and teachers use with him directly or indirectly affect the messages he internalizes. In a best case scenario, he feels, “I am enough. Life loves me. I am free to be who I am, as I am. I am absolutely cherished.” Once a child feels both safe and balanced, he is capable of self-regulation. And when he is feeling both safe and balanced in his body and in the world—feeling seen, understood, respected, and taken care of—he is much, much more likely to take directives from his caregivers and to decrease behavioral challenges.

But nobody’s perfect, and we all do what we can based on the skills and awareness we have at any given time. Increasing our psychological literacy can help us make the most insightful and caring choices as we consider our children’s innermost needs and how to meet them.

Since our goal is to raise our children to be in “right relationship” with themselves as the prerequisite to being in right relationship with others and the world, focusing on their earliest schema development, particularly their identity schema, puts them on the right track for all kinds of successes over the course of their childhood and adult life.

 

Breastfeeding the Right-Brained Way

By Kathleen Kendall-Tackett (PhD, IBCLC) & Nancy Mohrbacher (IBCLC), authors, originally published on TheAttachedFamily.com on March 17, 2009

baby breastfeedingIn modern Western cultures, mothers have more information about breastfeeding than any time in human history. Unfortunately, most of this is information for the left side of the brain, which is fine for lots of tasks. But too much left-brained information can make you anxious about breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is a right-brained activity. What do we mean by that? Think of left-brained instructions as head knowledge. Right-brained learning yields heart or body knowledge. To illustrate the difference, think about riding a bike. Did you learn by reading about it? Talking a class? Talking to other people about it? Or did you learn by just getting on a bike and doing it?

The Right-Brained Dance of Breastfeeding

Mothers and babies have physiological responses that draw them to each other, that encourage them to look at each other, touch each other, and interact. Much of this behavior is guided by the right side of the brain. This is the side that has to do with affect or emotion. 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.”

 

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