Category Archives: 2. The Infant

From newborn to 17 months.

Peace at Home: Military Families Embrace Attachment Parenting

By Kit Jenkins, babywearing educator for Babywearing International, communications coordinator for API and a co-founder of The Carrying On Project, www.carryingonproject.org

One of the best things about Attachment Parenting is the consistency in all of its principles. Everything is done from a perspective of mutual comfort and respect for the whole family. It creates an ongoing safe and comfortable environment, even when the outside world gets crazy. For military families, often “crazy” is part of the daily programming. Parents are in and out of the home for days, weeks or months at a time; there is often lots of moving, new people to meet and places to go; and there is so much chaos. For a grown adult, it is an adjustment. For children, it can be terrifying. To help combat that, more and more military families are turning to Attachment Parenting, either pieces of it or sometimes “the whole enchilada.”KJenkinsBabywearing2

Like many military families I have spoken with, we stumbled into Attachment Parenting almost by accident. My husband and I had a courthouse marriage a few months before our ceremony. We knew that we would also be in the middle of moving to our next duty station on the other side of the country and wanted things to be as seamless as possible. The day we signed on our first house, bought in Colorado from New York City, we also found out we were pregnant.

Once we arrived in Colorado, I started looking at prenatal classes. We were pointed by family to the Bradley Method because I wanted a natural birth. I am allergic to several kinds of medication, and decided that the less I had to potentially die from, the better! Through our class we learned a little bit about various parts of “crunchy parenting,” as my husband called it, and we knew that we wanted to do some of it but weren’t sure about all of it. We knew we wanted to breastfeed and cloth diaper, and were mildly interested in babywearing, but we didn’t want to co-sleep, had made no real decisions about disciplinary approaches, and so on. Continue reading

Cultivating Attachment: Making It Easy For Your Kids to Talk to You

By Shoshana Hayman, director of Life Center, The Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, www.lifecenter.org.il

“Children should be seen and not heard” was a common attitude in generations past. Today we are more aware of the importance of making room for children’s ideas, thoughts and feelings, but children and adolescents are not always inclined to share these things with us. Even the simplest question such as “how was your day” evokes an answer such as “Okay” or “It doesn’t matter,” thus bringing the conversation to a close before it even begins1397790_83069154 flower 2

What makes some children talk openly with their parents, while others seem closed, shy or hesitant to talk? Understanding the polarity of attachment energy gives us an answer. Just as any power in the universe has an opposing force, so, too, does attachment. Just as a magnet has a north and south pole, so, too, does attachment have two opposing poles. Attachment energy is not neutral, meaning that a child will either be drawn to someone he is attached to or repelled by someone he is not attached to.

This polarity is first seen in children usually by the middle of their first year of life, when they begin to shy away from certain people. Any adult such as a grandparent, aunt or caregiver can care for the baby, but by the age of approximately 6 months, the baby may protest when those same people approach him. The attachment brain is now preparing the child to develop deeper attachment, a greater capacity for relationship, and so closes the door to people who interfere with the attachment that is already taking root. This demonstration of protest develops into shyness, which is a positive sign to see in children. It will take the child’s brain about five more years to make sure he has a deep enough relationship with his parents so that he can optimally function in a world that is quite alarming and wounding. Continue reading

The Emotions of Pregnancy and New Motherhood

By Joy Davy, MS, LCPC, NCC, licensed professional counselor specializing in perinatal mood disorders, www.joydavy.com.

The joy of motherhood is the subject of much art and idealistic images. Our expectation that the arrival of a baby is a time of peace and pure bliss is enforced by the culture. Certainly for many mothers, the months of carrying a precious new life and bringing a brand new person into the world are experiences unparalleled in satisfaction and happiness. Of course, even the most exhilarated mother has her moments of feeling overwhelmed, intimidated by the formidable job ahead, and just plain physically exhausted. Overall, though, new motherhood is expected to be a wonderful time, and it often is. However, a significant number of mothers experience mood disorders, ranging from the relatively mild “baby blues” to far more serious and persistent conditions that require treatment.
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The Baby Blues

The baby blues is a very common transitory experience of tearfulness, irritability, overwhelmed feelings and mood swings. More than half of all mothers pass through this phase during the first two weeks after childbirth. For the baby blues, no treatment is needed unless the depression appears to be extreme. If the new mother is breastfeeding on demand, using no bottles or pacifiers, with the baby having continuous access to the breast, her hormones are likely to be at a euphoric level that seems to offer some measure of protection against the the baby blues and the clinical illness postpartum depression, although there is no sure guarantee. The baby blues will pass untreated. Postpartum depression, however, is another matter entirely and requires professional attention. Continue reading

Balancing Attachment Parenting and Intimate Relationships

By Kassandra Brown, parent coach, www.parentcoaching.org

Attachment Parenting International offers Eight Principles of Parenting. The eighth principle is about balance in personal and family life. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some ways to bring balance into your marriage or intimate partnership. I hope that everyone who values strong relationships can find a few insights in the ideas of finding balance offered below.SONY DSC

Attachment Parenting is wonderful for babies. It helps children feel secure and loved. These children then grow into adults who are able to form secure attachments and who do not resort to violence to resolve discrepancies.

But is Attachment Parenting good for the marriage or partnership?  When practicing Attachment Parenting, it can seem like babies and children always come first. When is the time for nurturing the relationship between parents? If the adult relationship is not nurtured, it will eventually deteriorate. The fear of this deterioration can lead parents to choose more authoritarian, distant or punitive parenting styles than they may otherwise prefer. Their motivation? To create space for the parents to still be intimate partners and individuals. If connection and attachment are correlated to loss of freedom and loss of self, it becomes much harder to embrace attachment principles.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Nurturing your children and nurturing your partnership are not mutually exclusive. Doing both at the same time does ask each parent to become more creative, loving and forgiving. It may ask each partner to grow and resolve old childhood wounds. In my opinion, this makes it more, not less, valuable as a parenting path. Let’s take a look at some ways to form and maintain strong connections with both children and adult partners. Continue reading

Kids and Sex: Getting Comfortable with “The Talk”

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 

It’s never too early to begin talking with your kids about sex. In fact, the earlier you start, the more comfortable you will feel when it’s time to talk about difficult issues. Here are some age-appropriate topics parents should bring up with their children now to pave the way for less stressful conversations about sexual health in the adolescent years.Kelly Bartlett

Ages 0-2: Positive Perception

There’s no better time to start practicing the language of body talk than when kids are infants. At this age, there’s no pressure to say the “right” thing, and your baby won’t laugh, get nervous or ask any questions. It’s important to get comfortable verbalizing words or bodily functions that may cause some discomfort for you.

According to Dr. Laura Berman, a sex educator, therapist and author of Talking to Your Kids About Sex, something crucial for parents to do while their kids are infants is to adopt a positive view of bodily functions. Shift from looking at a poopy diaper as, “Oh, isn’t that stinky!” to a perspective of, “Wow, you’ve been eating well!” Dr. Berman says many parents have likely learned from their own upbringing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about bowel movements. “When really,” she says, “it’s just a part of life!” Functions involving the genitals are healthy and normal, not something negative or problematic.

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Modern parenting may hinder brain development, research shows

By Susan Guibert, reprinted with permission, Notre Dame News, http://newsinfo.nd.edu/

Social practices and cultural beliefs of modern life are preventing healthy brain and emotional development in children, according to an interdisciplinary body of research presented recently at a symposium at the University of Notre Dame.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

“Life outcomes for American youth are worsening, especially in comparison to 50 years ago,” says Darcia Narvaez, Notre Dame professor of psychology who specializes in moral development in children and how early life experiences can influence brain development.

“Ill-advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace in our culture, such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will ‘spoil’ it,” Narvaez says. Continue reading

The “Tree Daddy”: A Parenting Metaphor

By Shoshana Hayman, director of Life Center, The Israel Center for Attachment Parenting, www.lifecenter.org.il

The rain poured down relentlessly, with winds blowing so hard that trees were being pulled from their roots and blown over. My husband watched from our window, paying close attention to the row of young fruit trees that we had planted the previous summer. As the wind whipped the mango tree, pulling its branches sideways, my husband put on his coat, found some heavy rope, and headed out into the rain to secure the trees by tying their trunks to the adjacent fence. When he came back into the house, wet and cold from the rain, I half-jokingly told him he was a good “tree daddy.”Shoshana

The idea of “tree daddy” popped into my mind as I thought about how he had protected those young, tender fruit trees.  He had planted them so lovingly in the summertime, and it remained in his consciousness to keep an eye on them to make sure they had the best chance possible to grow into big, strong trees that would bear sweet fruit one day in the future. He does not have to constantly push and pull at the branches of the trees to make them grow; he does not have to give them commands how to grow. He believes the fruit will some day come, and he simply has to make the sure that the trees have the right conditions for growth and protection from anything that could hurt them.

As parents, this is what we provide for our children. We believe in their potential for growth. Deep inside them are the seeds for becoming truly mature. They will develop the flexibility and resilience needed to withstand the harshness of the world. They have the capacity for being considerate and caring towards others while feeling secure in their own values. Their own aspirations and goals in life will take shape over time, together with the courage and resourcefulness needed to realize these goals. They can become responsible and self-directed so that they can create a life of meaning and fulfillment for themselves.

When we believe this to be true, we have but to protect this development. Just as the “tree daddy” keeps it in his consciousness to watch over the trees so they will be safe and protected, so too, we need to protect and shield our children from too much vulnerability until they can hold on to themselves in the world. We don’t need to push and pull at our children’s growth. Each child will develop in his own time at his own rate, and little by little we will see the fruits of this growth—the fine human character traits that we long to see in them.

What must be protected and shielded in our children is their hearts. Children are the most sensitive and vulnerable of all creatures. In order to not only survive in the world but also to truly blossom and flourish, children need soft hearts. They need their emotions to move them towards caring, consideration, caution and carefulness. Without these emotions, children lose the feelings and perceptions needed for their development as human beings. They fail to become adaptive and able to overcome adversity. They lose their sense of self and purpose in life and along with this their capacity to feel fulfillment. Life is seen through their eyes as being black and white, as they cannot see the dissonance in life and the many dimensions that color and characterize the events in our lives. Continue reading

Talking Parent-to-Parent

By Jake Cunningham, parent

Sometimes no matter how hard I try, I just can’t find the emotional room to comfort my 2-year-old son, Jack. I try, as we all do, to be the best parent I can be based on the principles of Attachment Parenting (AP), but 1206728_21045799sometimes I just can’t cope when I know Jack needs me, but I can’t be there for him psychologically. I can try and comfort him, but he knows I’m not really “with him”. That can make him even more distressed, which makes me more resentful about the tantrum he’s having! I feel like sometimes we feed off each others’ deeper negative vibe. Even if I’m smiling, he knows I’m not happy—he just does. Little people are so attuned to our emotions.

It’s hard to be honest about this lack of connection I sometimes feel, but I wanted to try and acknowledge it for Jack’s sake, and I think that brings us both some relief. I have to accept that it’s part of our human condition to be emotional wrecks sometimes. Reading Kelly Bartlett’s article, “What Happens When We ‘Lose It’,” gave me the impetus I needed to do my homework on understanding this dynamic between me and my son and how to best deal with it. The article provides a good snapshot of what is happening mentally that is affecting the situation emotionally.

Even just admitting these feelings to myself has actually been a huge help. I felt a huge sense of relief when I said to myself, “Jack is right, you aren’t coping with this situation.” It just got rid off my defensiveness and defused the emotions. Continue reading

Grief in Children

By Margie Wagner & Callie Little, Child Development Media, www.childdevelopmentmedia.com, reprinted with permission

It goes without saying that the grieving process is a complicated and intensely personal one. It is difficult enough for adults to deal with the loss of a loved one, but it can be even more difficult for children, particularly if their adult caregivers are working through their own grief. Understanding how grief affects children at various developmental stages and knowing the best ways to assist children as they grieve can help children to process their grief in the most healthy way possible. Keep in mind that, while grief is usually associated with a death, there are many circumstances under which children grieve. Separation due to the dissolution of a relationship or due to a military deployment or job-related separation can also cause grief in children.

Reactions to Loss and How to Help

How old a child is at the time of loss certainly affects the child’s perception of the event.  Although babies are unable to express themselves verbally, they will certainly exhibit reactions to loss. They may seem more fussy, inconsolable, or have changes in their eating and sleeping patterns. Very young children, ages 2 to 4, are egocentric: they think the world revolves around them, and their concept of death is limited. They may think that death is reversible, and their main reactions to death may be that their daily routine and care are altered. The adult whom they have lost, or who is also grieving, will be either absent or unable to care for the child in the accustomed manner. At this age, reactions are often regressive, exhibiting themselves in eating, sleeping, or toileting disruptions. Children this age need reassurance and consistency. Try to maintain regular routines and to be comforting, giving hugs and kisses and lots of gentle touches. Keep the discussions of death short, but keep interactions with the child frequent. Even if you feel like the baby or young child cannot understand your words, they will understand your interest in their feelings and your wish to console them. Keep talking – it will help you to get used to the discussions that will become longer and more detailed as the child gets older, and it will help you to figure out what to say.

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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