Category Archives: 1. Pregnancy & Birth

Fertility and conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and the early postpartum period.

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.

 

Tomorrow is the Last Day He is Four

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

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

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

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

A Breech Birth Story

By Sarah Occident

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Parenting for a Sustainable World: Cultivating a Reverence for Life

By Lysa Parker, MS, CFLE, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International, coauthor of Attached at the Heart, www.parentslifeline.com

**Reprinted with permission from Pathways to Family Wellness Magazine, www.pathwaystofamilywellness.org

It wasn’t until I became a parent that I truly understood the deep connection between early childhood experiences and how they affect our relationship to the earth and all living things. In my work with children, I found that many kids seem to have a natural affinity to nature, but this affinity must be nurtured, or it gets buried like so many other gifts.

When my oldest son was an infant, he was always calmest when we were outside. He could be in a full wail, but as soon as we went outside his crying stopped. To this day he loves to be outdoors, and when he feels the need to get centered and calm, he will go to his favorite place in a nature preserve or a park. There is a spiritual, unknowable, meditative energy in nature that evokes awe and reverence if we will be still, listen, and observe.

Check Out This Issue of Pathways Magazine to Get a New Perspective on TIME’s AP Coverage

Pathways to Family Wellness Magazine highlights Attachment Parenting in its newest edition featuring TIME cover mom Jamie Lynn Grumet in a real-life family portrait. This issue includes features by Jamie Lynn, API cofounders Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson, and other experts providing a historical perspective of the AP Movement, a biocultural anthropological overview of child-led weaning, and a discussion of the TIME cover and its cultural backlash in the context of a consciousness shift toward global wellness.

The Man Behind a Movement

While doing research years ago for another project, I learned about the work of Dr. Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965) and his contributions to humanity. He was a theologian, medical doctor, philosopher, scholar, speaker, writer, musician, and humanitarian. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for building a hospital in West Africa and devoting his life to treating the people there, who suffered from disease, famine, and the ravages of war.

As I was doing research for this article, about the relationship between Attachment Parenting and the environmental movement, I kept coming back to Dr. Schweitzer’s work. He is best known for creating an ethical philosophy in 1915 called “Reverence for Life,” a philosophy that he considered the basis for morality, which he referred to as a universal principle of ethics. In his 1923 treatise, Civilization and Ethics, Schweitzer wrote: “Ethics is nothing other than Reverence for Life. Rever­ence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting, and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm, or to hinder life is evil.”

According to The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship website, Dr. Schweitzer stressed “the interdependence and unity of all life,” and is considered by many to be the forerunner of the Environmental and Animal Welfare movements. In 1962, author Rachel Carson dedicated her revolutionary book, Silent Spring, which ignited the environmental movement, to Dr. Schweitzer.

The Reverence for Life ethic may seem obvious to those who have highly developed capacities of empathy and compassion for all living things; for others, it takes an awakening of conscience, with some re-educating about how our actions impact living systems. The family system is one that has been neglected for too long and is our only hope for future generations, so we have to view all living systems as integral parts of the whole. What we do, how we interact with each other, and what we teach our children will determine how they treat others and engage in the world. Being the quintessential observer and philosopher that he was, Dr. Schweitzer understood this well and addressed the importance of teaching children, stating: “Adults teach children in three important ways: The first is by example, the second is by example, and the third is by example.”

“As the middle child of five born to a hard-working father and a stay-at-home mom, the main tenets to maintain sanity and stability were practicality and resourcefulness. There was always a purpose behind our collection of four-legged friends. We raised sheep, rabbits, ducks, and a goose. Each of the children had husbandry chores in addition to house­hold responsibilities. Mother always had a large garden. I have very fond memories of the apple cider assembly line production in the front yard. Mom and Dad still have the apple press in their kitchen, albeit as an ode to the past. A lot more time was spent harvesting food at home than time spent grocery shopping, or any type of shopping; mom sewed, and the clothes moved from one child to the next. With four girls, this was a cost-effective approach. When I recently decided to start our gentleman’s farm (three Nigerian dwarf goats, six free-range chickens, two dogs, and a cat), it was to recreate that synergy for my son, which had developed in me a strong work ethic and a great appreciation and respect for nature’s generosity.” ~ Cathleen K.

Attachment Parenting

Someone said, “When you change the way you view the world, the way you view the world will change.” That’s what happened to me 30-odd years ago when I became pregnant and read Suzanne Arms’s book, Immaculate Deception: My world view changed and the activist in me was born. I was later introduced to the breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting world through La Leche League meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, where I discovered my passion and mission in life, to advocate for children and their families.

Initially, my journey into Attachment Parenting was one of trepidation, because I didn’t know anyone who had older children that had actually parented this way. With the support and experience of other mothers at the meetings, and watching them interact with their children so lovingly and respectfully, I couldn’t resist my awakening intuition that told me it was right.

“In general, my daughter has less stuff because we followed some attachment principles. We didn’t buy things like a baby monitor, a play gym, a baby bathtub, pacifiers, mobiles, or most things meant to soothe or occupy a baby. We kept her close, and her entertainment was whatever we were doing.” ~ Carrie N.

At one meeting, I met Barbara Nicholson, and we became lifelong friends and sisters in this journey ever since.

In the early 1990s, we learned that many Attachment Parenting groups were popping up across the country, but there was no distinct or cohesive movement or clarity about what this new phenomenon actually was. Everyone seemed to have their own interpretation. The term “attachment parenting” (AP) was coined by Dr. William and Martha Sears, and was defined by the principles they called the “Baby Bs” as a way of helping parents learn to empathize and become more attuned to their infants. (These included “birth bonding,” “breastfeeding,” and “belief in a baby’s cry.”) Their books were our lifeline, because no other pediatricians, let alone mainstream society, were supporting our choices.

As educators, we saw the disconnection of our students due to dysfunction in their homes, and we felt strongly that it was due in large part to parents not having ac­curate parenting information or support. In 1994, Barbara and I formed our grassroots, non­profit organization, Attach­ment Parenting International (API), to provide parents with the evidence-based information they need to debunk the bad advice of many popular parenting books (some still popular today), and created parent support groups around the country and internationally.

At that time, many AP families were also involved in the Environmental Movement, but we knew that we had to keep our message simple and focused strictly on principles related to the parent-child attachment relationship, just as La Leche League International later decided it had to focus on breastfeeding rather than par­enting. It didn’t mean that we didn’t value or appreciate natural living lifestyles, just that we knew we had all we could handle in terms of promoting the attachment message. We also understood that if we could help par­ents raise empathic children, then that empathy would carry over in all aspects of life.

Some felt that the Searses had created a parenting formula, but what they really taught us was to trust our intuition and the reasons why this empathic style of parenting was so critical to children, the family, and society. Their overarching message helped us learn to respect and trust our baby’s cues and our own instincts; the baby will tell the parent what she needs through her body language and cries, and the parent’s sensitive response to her cues will teach her the first lessons of trust. And that was just the beginning.

“I was already very involved in the environmental movement before I had children and had learned not to ac­cept things at face value and consider what is truly best for families and the earth. So when I had children, attachment parenting was a natural fit. It is more about connection and less about material things. Now our eight-year-old son is helping our family with recycling, gardening and composting. I also homeschool using Waldorf methods and philosophy, which is all about inculcating reverence for life, and I think that really helps, too.” ~ Kara C.

Creating a Conscience

The Searses have long taught that when we see the world through our children’s eyes, our worldview changes. We begin to feel more respect and empathy for our children’s feelings, and act accordingly. The way we are treated as children and the example our parents set for us are the primary determining factors in develop­ing a conscience.

Every child’s brain has the capacity to develop empathy, compassion and remorse, all of which comprise the inner workings of the conscience. The brain is a “use it or lose it” organ, so the window of opportunity to develop these capacities is in the early years of a child’s life. These early experiences don’t rest solely on our interpersonal relationship, but also in what we are taught about our relationship with the ex­ternal environment—teaching the value of and express­ing appreciation for the natural world.

“Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.” ~ Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Parenting for a Sustainable World

With the Searses’ permission, API expanded on the Baby Bs to create The Eight Principles of Parenting. These are intended to provide guidance for the optimal development of children that we can strive for, but they are not intended to be standards of perfection. They can be used as core principles, regardless of what name is used for the parenting style: Attachment Parenting, natural parenting, conscious parenting, or original parenting. API recognizes that there are many configu­rations to what constitutes a family and, depending on their life circumstances, parents are encouraged to use what works in their family and leave the rest.

With the Reverence of Life ethic in mind, these Eight Principles are designed to be respectful of the needs of the newborn child who comes into this world with a set of expectations: to be held, fed, protected, and loved in a multi-sensory bath of smells, touch, and loving words. There is an intimate connection, also known as attunement, that arises out of the day-to-day care to the point where the mother or primary caregiver can begin to intuit what the child is feeling and what his needs are before the child has words to express himself.

The principles themselves are based on respecting the natural systems–the less interference, the better. For example, “Feed with Love and Respect” encourages breastfeeding as the ideal attachment model: It’s natural, it’s designed for the human infant, there’s no waste, and there is respect for the hunger cues of the infant, rather than adhering to rigid schedules. In environmental terms, it is a natural, closed-loop system that has a natural flow or rhythm.

With slight adaptations, the principles can easily be adapted for older children as well.

  1. Prepare for Parenting: Become knowledgeable about your child’s emotional, developmental and cognitive levels.
  2. Respond with Sensitivity: Stay emotionally responsive.
  3. Feed with Love and Respect: Strive for optimum physical health.
  4. Use Nurturing Touch: Maintain a high-touch relationship with your child.
  5. Engage in Nighttime Parenting: Develop and maintain positive sleep routines.
  6. Provide Consistent, Loving Care: Be physically present and emotionally available for your children.
  7. Practice Positive Discipline: Preserve the connection with your child.
  8. Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life: Navigate the challenges of modern society.

“Becoming pregnant was akin to opening the flood­gates: My intuition increased tenfold, my artistic juices overflowed. I was genuinely fascinated with the evolution of pregnancy, and invited a commu­nity of friends and family into the delivery room to welcome Jackson into each daily adventure. The tenets of Attachment Parenting make complete sense to me. Even though I was introduced to the work after Jackson was born, I had already embod­ied much of the ideology. I consider parenthood a privilege and a responsibility. I think of mother­hood as the invitation to create, contain, and let go. I cherish every cuddle, knowing a self-possessed nine-year-old is around the corner, and then I will have to be satisfied with hurried pats on the back. Why rush it? I have surrendered my ideas of how I thought it would/should be and accepted the messes and the madness. I do pick my battles—holding strong on ritual (family dinners and reading books before bedtime) and respect for the adult and the child. It’s amazing what we hear when we really listen. If I’m consistent, he will be too. I may be raising an only child, but I am clear that how I treat him will affect how he treats others through­out his life, including his own family.” ~ Cathleen K.

Parenting and Permaculture

There are a multitude of similarities between Attachment Parenting and the Green Movement, particularly the Permaculture Movement. Sometimes parents are attracted to Attachment Parenting, because it already fits their lifestyle and philosophy. More often, parents find Attachment Parenting, because they are looking for a better way of raising children, and as a result find their own consciousness awakened, realizing that their children present a greater purpose for society, and as such, feel more obligated to teach them to be good and compassionate stewards of the earth.

The concept of permaculture can be difficult to define. Some describe it as “a connecting system between disciplines,” or “observing nature and the natural flow of systems.” Permaculture ideally is “a closed-loop system, taking responsibility and producing no waste.” Many AP parents consciously choose to take responsibility to minimize material things that create waste.

David Holmgren, one of the originators of the permaculture movement, helped to create 3 Permaculture Ethics and 12 Principles as the framework that can be applied in ecosystems, businesses, communities, and the nation. I would add families to that list.

The 3 Ethics are:

  1. Care of the Earth
  2. Care of People
  3. Fair Share (for everyone)

The 12 Principles are:

  1. Observe and interact
  2. Catch and store energy
  3. Obtain a yield
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns and details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

To learn more about the 12 principles, go to www.permacultureprinciples.com/freedownloads.php.

In Australian, filmmaker Peter Downey’s film Anima Mundi, collective voices speak of the urgent need to help the earth achieve balance—that we must “evolve or perish, grow up or die,” because, like it or not, the world is changing. As we witness various groups and politicians point fingers of blame, our reality remains the same: Our populations continue to increase, while our resources dwindle away and the climate continues to change. We can and must raise new generations of children who will become adults who are conscious, concerned and committed to helping heal the earth. Attachment parenting families are doing just that.

As humanity slowly comes to the realization of the damage we have done to this living organism we call earth, we have learned some hard lessons along the way. We must take personal responsibility, and teach our children well.

“I think it’s because we are very mindful of our choices. Just as we care for our children by making decisions to do everything in their best interests (whether that’s babywearing, cloth diapers/wipes, organic foods, etc.), we extend that same mindfulness and respect to others in our families, neighborhoods, and environment. I think because Attachment Parenting has such a core value of respect, we don’t only respect our children, but also everyone around us. We want the earth to be a good, clean, and healthy place for our children to grow up, and for everyone else’s children, too.” ~ Jennifer Y.

How Independence and Maturity Develops

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

A father of an 18-year-old boy recently consulted with me because, among other things, his son had totaled the family’s car. As any parent would be, this father was very worried about his son’s poor judgment, impulsiveness, and lack of consciousness. How could he give him responsibility if his son could not handle it?

As our children get older, we expect them to be able to handle more responsibility and become more independent. We intuitively know whether or not we can count on them to cooperate with us and be able to make commitments in order to achieve a goal. They should also be able to sense danger and exercise caution accordingly. In addition, they should experience the feelings of caring that are needed to temper their reactions and impulses. True independence also requires of them to be able to consider different sides of a situation, different points of view, and different contexts in order to make mature decisions. We also hope that they will be conscious of the values needed to guide them through life.

As children get older and develop these abilities, we naturally and spontaneously live together cooperatively.  It doesn’t even occur to us to ask questions about how much independence to give a child, because we can see that he is moved by consideration and a growing desire to take more responsibility. He is developing the character traits of a mature person. Continue reading

Why Early Attachment Matters for Childhood, and Beyond

By Peter Ernest Haiman, PhD, www.peterhaiman.com

The quality of love a mother gives during her child’s first years of life has a tremendous and long-term impact on that youngster. A life that could be described as emotionally healthy, happy, harmonious, constructive, and productive depends on the quality of maternal love received at an early age. This is a fact well known by psychologists.

Unfortunately, however, many parents remain unaware of the importance of maternal love for the very young child. Nor are they aware of the problems that can result during childhood and adolescence if an infant does not form a proper early attachment.

Here, we look at what Attachment Theory (Ainsworth 1978; Bowlby 1969) tells us about the importance of early relationships for the development of an individual’s basic sense of security in life. By “attachment,” we mean the relationship formed between the infant and the primary caregiver. The “primary caregiver” is the person, usually the mother, with whom the infant most frequently interacts. Through bonding with this caregiver, a child develops expectations about the extent to which he or she can acquire and maintain secure relationships, as well as beliefs about others’ trustworthiness in relationships.

The relationship between an infant and his mother can lead to two possible outcomes: secure attachment or insecure attachment. In other words, the experience can be positive or negative. Let’s look first at the positive outcome:

Secure Attachment

An infant develops a secure attachment when her mother sensitively and appropriately meets the child’s needs. From an infant’s perspective, sensitive and appropriate mean the mother observes and understands her needs. Sensitive and appropriate also mean the mother responds in ways that please and satisfy her child. A mother who fosters her child’s secure attachment meets all needs soon after the child begins to show distress or cries. The mother’s behavior is always tender and affectionate.

Secure attachment is also created when the mother holds or cuddles her infant and toddler in ways that are comforting. The mother reflects the infant’s behaviors and responds in ways the child enjoys. For example, when the baby smiles, the mother smiles at the infant. The infant shows pleasure and interest in the mother’s smile.

The mother who fosters secure attachment is in tune with her child. An ongoing, interactive harmony develops as the mother learns to understand, interpret, and then appropriately react to the child’s behavior. She successfully communicates to her youngster that the child’s behavior is respected, interesting, and significant to her. For example, when an infant babbles, makes sounds or syllables, or begins to talk, the mother notices these new verbal abilities and responds in ways that lets the toddler feel valued. The acquisition of speech is greatly facilitated when a mother holds, smiles at, and talks to her infant (Bus & van Ijzendoorn, 1988).

Infants and toddlers love to explore and play. Mothers who wish to foster security in a young child provide toys and activities in which the child expresses interest. Because infants, toddlers, and preschoolers enjoy making choices, parents who want their child to feel secure provide opportunities to make choices throughout the day. These mothers also allow the amount of playtime the youngster wants. Without interrupting, they allow the child to focus on an activity the child finds interesting and do not distract the child until he or she becomes bored with that activity.

Mothers desirous of having their child form a secure bond with them also evaluate their own childrearing behaviors. They do this by paying attention to the child’s reactions to them. If at any point the child becomes distressed or acts out or displays insecure behavior, the mother does not blame the child. Rather, the mother looks to her own behavior and adjusts it to provide greater security and unconditional love.

The childrearing behaviors described here allow an infant or toddler to feel secure. These behaviors also build a foundation of social harmony between child and mother. The child enjoys being with the mother, and the mother enjoys being with the child. The way an infant reacts to the mother reveals whether the child feels his or her needs have been met in ways that are pleasing. Contrary to popular belief, this kind of parenting will not spoil a child. In fact, spoiled, dependent, misbehaving, and demanding children are created when parents consistently violate these childrearing practices.

Insecure Attachment

When maternal love is not consistently forthcoming, an infant develops an insecure attachment. In this case, the bonding with his primary caregiver is incomplete and unsatisfactory. For example, when the infant cries or shows distress or expresses a need, the mother does not respond, or only responds after a significant delay. The mother may act in loud, abrupt, or exaggerated ways that scare the youngster and cause insecurity. The mother does not spend time holding and cuddling her infant or child. She does not regularly play with, talk to, or exchange smiles with the child. Instead, the mother may attempt to impose her own interests on the child, such as by providing toys and activities of her own choosing. In general, none of the intimate behaviors that occur during secure bonding happen, or these behaviors happen so infrequently that they are not noticed by the child.

As a result, the child becomes frustrated because his or her needs are not being met responsively. The child begins to expect that this will happen whenever a need arises. Thus, the child fails to develop trust in adults and in himself or herself. In short, the child becomes insecure rather than secure.

Many undesirable outcomes can occur when a child forms an insecure attachment. Youngsters who experience insecure attachments at home also form insecure attachments with their preschool, kindergarten, and first-grade teachers. These teachers often have difficulty building a relationship with these young students because these children harbor negative views of adults. The children are not trusting of their teachers and may act out in class. In turn, it is difficult therefore for teachers to learn about these children’s needs and to respond to them in a manner that helps them learn and adjust (Bowlby 1988).

Effects of Secure and Insecure Attachment

The type of emotional attachment established during the first four or five years usually lasts a lifetime. The pattern of early attachment significantly influences the quality of love relationship an individual will have as a teenager, adult, and even as a parent with his or her own children. Let’s summarize what research has concluded about the effects of secure and insecure attachment:

  • Children who experienced a secure attachment at one year are better able to explore on their own than are insecure infants (Waters, Whippman, & Sroufe, 1979). Secure toddlers are more independent than are their insecure peers, and as a result, more curious and interested in exploring the world around them. Secure infants and toddlers develop a sense of agency; that is, the sense that “I am a person” and “I can do.” Insecure infants and toddlers are far less curious, and are far more inhibited and withdrawn (Kagan, 1981; Suess, Grossman, & Sroufe, 1992). As a result, secure children are better able than are insecure children to master the environment using their senses. They are also better able to perform related motor actions than are insecure infants and toddlers (Matas, Arend, & Sroufe, 1978).
  • Numerous studies have concluded a positive relationship exists between the development of secure attachment in the early years of life and later social competence (e.g., Coleman, 2003; Lieberman, Doyle, & Markiewicz, 1999). Preschool children who are secure demonstrate better social skills and school adjustment than do their insecure peers (Sroufe, Carlson, & Schulman, 1993). Elementary schoolchildren who are secure are significantly more accepted by their peers and have more friendships and are less lonely than are less secure children (Kerns, Klepac, & Cole, 1996). The attachment security a child feels throughout his or her early years has been associated with that youngster’s later ability to pay attention, focus, and learn in school. Children with secure attachment histories earn higher grades and are more goal-oriented and cooperative than are students with insecure attachment histories (Crittenden, 1992; Jacobsen & Hofmann, 1997).
  • Insecure children are more likely to struggle academically than are secure children (Wong, Wiest, & Cusick, 2002). Secure children successfully bond with their teacher, view their teacher favorably, have the confidence to succeed, and use the teacher as a secure base from which to engage in academic tasks and challenges (O’Conner & McCartney, 2006). Children who have experienced secure bonding later have high self-esteem and are confident in their ability to excel academically. These children prefer to be challenged in class and are more motivated to learn for the sake of learning than are their insecure counterparts.

According to Attachment Theory, the most essential task of the first years of life is the creation of a child’s secure bond to the mother. Many studies have demonstrated this by examining the interactions of mother and child and by contrasting the long-term behavioral outcomes of securely and insecurely attached children. More recently, research has shown that the type of attachment formed during infancy affects right brain development (Schore 2002). In fact, this biologic foundation can last a lifetime.

References

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: Assessed in the strange situation and at home. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss (Vol. 1). New York, NY: Basic Books.

Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base: Parent-child attachment and healthy human development. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Bus, A. G., & Van Ijzendoorn, M. H. (1988). Attachment and early reading: A longitudinal study. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 149(2), 199–210.

Coleman, P. K. (2003). Perceptions of parent-child attachment, social self-efficacy, and peer relationships in middle childhood. Infant and Child Development, 12, 351–368.

Crittenden, P. M. (1992). Treatment of anxious attachment in infancy and early childhood. Development and Psychopathology, 4, 575–602.

Jacobsen, T., & Hofmann, V. (1997). Children’s attachment representations: Longitudinal relations to school behavior and academic competency in middle childhood and adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 33(4), 703–710.

Kagan, J. (1981). The second year: The emergence of self awareness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kerns, K., Klepac, L., & Cole, A. (1996). Peer relationships and preadolescents’ perceptions of security in the child-mother relationship. Developmental Psychology, 32(3), 457–466.

Lieberman, M., Doyle, A. B., & Markiewicz, D. (1999). Developmental patterns in security of attachment to mother and father in late childhood and early adolescence: Associations with peer relations. Child Development, 70, 202–213.

Matas, L., Arend, R. A., Sroufe, L. A. (1978). Continuity of adaptation in the second year: The relationship between quality of attachment and later competence. Child Development, 49, 547–556.

O’Conner, E., & McCartney, K. (2006). Testing associations between young children’s relationships with mothers and teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 87–98.

Schore, A. N. (2002). Dysregulation of the right brain: A fundamental mechanism of traumatic attachment and the psychopathogenesis of posttraumatic stress disorder. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 36, 9–30.

Sroufe, L. A., Carlson, E., & Shulman, S. (1993). Individuals in relationships: Development from infancy through adolescence. In D. C. Funder, R. Parke, C. Tomlinson-Keesey, & K. Widaman (Eds.), Studying lives through time: Personality and development (pp. 315–342), Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Suess, G., Grossman, K. E., & Sroufe, L. A. (1992). Effects of infant attachment to mother and father on quality of adaptation in preschool: From dyadic to individual organization of self. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 15, 43–65.

Waters, E., Wippman, J., & Sroufe, L. A. (1979). Attachment, positive affect, and competence in the peer group: Two studies in construct validation. Child Development, 50(3), 821–829.

Wong, E., Wiest, D., & Cusick, L. (2002). Perceptions of autonomy support, parent attachment, competence and self-worth as predictors of motivational orientation and academic achievement: An examination of sixth and ninth grade regular education students. Adolescence, 37(146), 255–266.