Category Archives: 4. The Growing Child

From age 4 to age 9.

From Homeschool to School, and Back Again

By Nikki Schaefer, staff writer for The Attached Family

**Originally published in the Fall 2008 Growing Child issue of The Journal of API

Fall leaves“Mom, there’s just seven more days until the first day of fall!” my six-year-old son announced, giving me the usual morning “fall countdown.” “How are we going to celebrate? Can we jump in the leaves?” he asked.

“You bet!” I responded. “How about jumping in the leaves and making caramel apples?”

“Hurray!” he cheered, with his younger sisters jumping in on the excitement. Continue reading From Homeschool to School, and Back Again

On Public School

By Joan DeMeyer, co-leader of API of St. Louis, Missouri

**Originally published in the Fall 2008 Growing Child issue of The Journal of API

Joan and children
Joan and children

My decision to send my children to public school was made with some trepidation. In my local API chapter, many of the parents planned to homeschool or send their kids to private schools. Even though I understood the rationale for other forms of education, they just weren’t possibilities for us at the time. For numerous personal and financial reasons, public school was our first choice.

Prepare for School as You Would for Childbirth

Before my oldest daughter started kindergarten, I read a lot of books about education. I read The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith, several of Alfie Kohn’s books on education, and also found Gordon Neufeld’s Hold On to Your Kids to be very insightful. It was a bit like preparing for childbirth. I felt well-informed and ready to tackle any problems that might arise during her school-aged journey.

Staying Connected

When school started, it was not an easy adjustment, but after two or three weeks, my daughter was enjoying school, making friends, and learning all sorts of things. I stayed connected to her while she was at school through several means: I stopped by to eat lunch with her as often as I could, volunteered to chaperone field trips and work at school book fairs, served on PTA committees, became a Girl Scout leader, and joined a group of moms from her kindergarten class. I also encouraged her to invite friends over for play dates. Continue reading On Public School

Sibling Spacing: Five-Plus Years Apart Means More Time with Each Child

By Amy Carrier O’Brien

**Originally published in the Spring 2008 New Baby issue of The Journal of API

Owen, Liam, and Aiden
Owen, Liam, and Aiden

Aiden was seven and a half when Owen was born, and almost ten when Liam was born. He had already been with us through the many adventures that had created the foundation of our lives. We didn’t set out to have our first two kids seven years apart; it just worked out that way.

Spacing Children Around College

We were undergrads in college when Aiden was born, with both Jim and I having full class schedules and part-time jobs. Aiden was there with us through college, relocating to what is now our hometown, and navigating through our first “real” jobs. He even went to work with Jim during our first summer out of school.

When Aiden was four, and our feet were firmly planted in our jobs and new house, we considered having more children. Just when I had become attached to the idea of having another child to love, I got the opportunity to go back to school for a master’s degree. Other than us wanting another child, it was the perfect time to go, and my employer would pay for it. Continue reading Sibling Spacing: Five-Plus Years Apart Means More Time with Each Child

UAE Childhood Depression on the Rise

From API’s Publications Team

childhood depressionAccording to an article on the United Arab Emirates’, “More than Sadness,” the rate of children with depression in the UAE is on the rise.

According to Dr. Timo Brosig of the German Center for Neurology and Psychiatry in Dubai Healthcare City, one in 33 children under 12 years old – and one in eight adolescents – suffers from significant depression. Experts blame the rising divorce rate, more stress in general, and family anxiety are to blame. With concerns over an economic recession and the financial worries families will have, the rate of childhood is only expected to increase.

Another factor in the UAE is that more children – especially expats – are being cared for by someone other than Mom or Dad. Parents aren’t taking the time to connect with their children, and television is replacing the caretaker position. Continue reading UAE Childhood Depression on the Rise

Solution to Childhood Obesity is in the Parents’ Behavior

From API’s Publications Team

ice creamAn article on the United Kingdom’s, “Tackle Child Obesity: Teach Mums to Eat,” explains how the solution to rising childhood obesity is in teaching parents that their eating behavior is how children themselves learn to eat.

According to a study published in the Paediatrics journal, one in four children ages four to five years old is overweight, despite normal birth weights. The reason, writes a convinced Susie Orbach, is that children are learning from their parents’ troublesome eating habits – their fear of food, preoccupation with body size, frequent dieting, and bingeing.

“You don’t have to be a psychoanalyst to know that childhood is formative and that one’s earliest eating experiences – entwined as they are with our fundamental feelings of security, love, attachment, and caring – form the basis of how we approach food and succour throughout our lives,” Orbach writes.

Continuing, she discusses how children learn to eat unhealthily from parents who eat to fill an emotional void. Children who watch their parents struggle with eating will grow up believing this is normal. These children grow up learning that eating is done not necessarily to meet a physical need but to curb negative feelings of boredom, anxiety, anger and conflict, sadness, and overexcitedness. Instead of dealing with their upset feelings, people with a tendency toward obesity turn to food for soothing, Orbach wrote.

To read the entire article, go to

Where Children Learn to Communicate

By Dr. James MacDonald, founder of the Communicating Partners Program

**Originally published in the Fall 2007 Special Needs issue of The Journal of API

Teaching girl to readIt is now clear that a child can learn in every social interaction, anywhere. The more a child interacts, the more the child will learn, communicatively and cognitively. The key factor is for the child to have many one-on-one partners who act and communicate in ways the child is capable of and interested in.

While this is true for typically developing children, the exciting finding is that it is also true for many “late-talking” children such as those with Autism, Down syndrome, apraxia, and other delays.

What is Apraxia?

Apraxia is a speech disorder in which a person has trouble saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently, and not due to weakness or paralysis of the speech muscles. Developmental apraxia of speech (DAS) differs from developmental delay of speech, in which a child follows the typical path of speech development but more slowly. Children with DAS may have difficulty putting sounds and syllables together in the correct order to form words, or may incorrectly use the varying rhythms, stresses, and inflections of speech that are used to help express meaning.

Many parents and professionals act as though a child, especially one with delays, will only learn to talk with trained professionals in therapy and school. This is a myth that can keep a child from his most important teachers – his family.

Even if a parent has only one hour each day of one-on-one time with his or her child, she still has about 11 times more interactions with her child than professionals who see the child for only one session per week or are managing a classroom full of children. The difference is much more pronounced in the early, most vulnerable years, when parents often have much more than one hour each day with a child. The difference is even greater than 50 times more than direct contact than with professionals (given several hours of contact at home a day). And since children can learn to interact and communicate in every one-on-one interaction, parents clearly have an enormous advantage over professionals in having developmental impact on children.

Even so, many parents believe their child will learn to communicate in the tiny proportion of time they spend with professionals. They will fight hard for an extra half hour of therapy and yet ignore the power they have in their many hours with the child.

Parents usually have very little training as to how they can effectively help their children socialize and communicate. Consequently, it is clear that professionals will have much more developmental impact on children when they educate parents in effective natural teaching strategies.

Looking Back on My Time as an AP Mother Now that My Children are Grown

By Lisa Walshe

Raising babies and small children is hard work. Physically, there is a lack of sleep and just the constancy of keeping up with toddlers. Apart from times of illness, I enjoyed the experience and found it relatively stress-free. All I had to do was go with the flow.

The challenge began when I had to take my son, Guy, to school.

The Problem with School

Guy was bright, well-behaved, and a delight to be around, but this was a time of great sadness for him as he found out that other five-year-olds did not believe in the same things he did. As he grew older, this feeling of being disappointed in the kindness of others continued. He was extremely trusting and honest, so he thought others would be in return. I remember in the sixth grade, he told me that he had learned to pretend to be “normal,” to not care about others as much.

A Different Kind of Education

After living in an apartment in Hong Kong for five years, we moved onto a boat for six months. During that time, we found great happiness in not having to go to school and be with others. The marina we lived in was out of Hong Kong, and it was like being in another world. Guy would spend hours studying fish and sea creatures, learning things from the local boat crews. Both Guy and his brother Dean would entertain themselves with creating things from paper, blue tack, and other random items they had available to them. They were never bored! When my husband was home, he taught our sons boat-related skills, such as how to tie knots and fix things.

Loving Each Uniquely as They Grew

Guy and Dean showed great interest in the arts growing up, both having been into music, drama, and the fine arts. From an early age, it was evident that they would pursue careers in a creative space. Today, they both work in the design and production of computer games. Although they share many passions, they have always done their own thing. It was obvious they were very different from the beginning, and my husband and I have always tried to respect those differences.

I do not think there is anything that can prepare a parent for the teenage years. It is always going to be hard. I never tried to be their friend, and Guy once told me, as a young adult, that he was grateful for that I had cared enough to say “no!”  That is not to say that he liked it at the time, or that we did not have many arguments. Guy always needed to see the justice in any situation, and he felt everything more intensely than most.

Guy was much more concerned with fitting in, and Dean seemed not to care. I think Dean had learned so much from watching Guy cope with adolescence that there were many experiences he just did not have to go through. Dean decided, at 12 years old, that school was too much of a social circus, and he chose to homeschool. He spent his time attending an adult art school, while pursuing his drama and personal sporting interests. He fitted his studies in around the things that mattered to him, and life was much easier for him.

Looking Through an Adult Child’s Eyes

When I asked my now-grown sons about the benefits of being raised AP, 21-year-old Dean said that the key to parenting is holding the baby a lot. And Guy, 26 years old, said that AP’s about developing a strong emotional bond so that the parents know their children well enough to know who they are as individuals, and then using that to guide them in developing into their own individual personalities, likes, and dislikes.

All I do know for sure is that I do not regret a moment of the time I spent mothering, and my advice to all is to enjoy each day and to just do what feels right. Looking now at Guy and Dean, I am pleased that they seem so emotionally secure. They are successful, sensitive, independent, and extremely honest young men. I’d like to think that their start to life, in the way I parented them as babies and young children, played a part in helping them become who they are today.

As he grew older, this feeling of being disappointed in the kindness of others continued. He was extremely trusting and honest, so he thought others would be in return.

Dear Editor: Public School Photo Not Representative

Dear Editor,

Public School sidebarI appreciate the effort of the Growing Child issue (The Journal of API, Fall 2008) to focus on the education of our older API-parented children. However, I feel that there was negative bias against public school. The photo selected to represent public school in the article showed unhappy children sitting at their desks without an adult in sight, whereas the other photos for other schooling options showed happy people interacting with each other or actively engaged in work.

The photo that was chosen to represent public school presents a narrow and negative view of public school. As an API family with children in public school, the image that you selected to represent public school quite plainly has put me on the defensive.

~ Lisa Repasky, New Milford, New Jersey


Thank you, Lisa, for bringing this to our attention. It is always our intention to present information in a balanced way, working to support parents by giving them the facts so that they can make the decisions that work best for their families. Looking back at the Growing Child issue, I understand your concern and assure you that it was not at all our intention to show public school in a lesser light than other educational choices.

It is because of parents like you that API is the strong, far-reaching grassroots organization that it is, and we do appreciate your comments to improve our publications and other materials.

~ Rita Brhel, editor of The Journal of API

Battling the Monsters

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

As a child, I was terrified of the dark. I still am, to a lesser extent. In order to move around my house at night, I must turn a light on in whatever room I’m in, even if I’m just going the 10 feet down the hall to the bathroom.

I shared a bed with my sister when I was younger, and even though she was always near, I would lay in bed listening to the hangers in the closet banging together or stare at the unrecognizable blobs made by familiar toys in the dark. My feet always had to be covered up with a blanket, even on the hottest nights, for fear that something would reach up from the end of the bed and “get them.”

I remember one night, when I was about seven years old and my five year old sister woke up screaming about an alligator living under the blankets and that it had come up and bit her on the finger. Even though our parents assured me it was a nightmare, I was sure that the ghost of a very mean alligator was living in our room. After having a similar nightmare myself, involving a python wrapping itself around my wrist and trying to pull me underneath the bed, my parents bought us a night light.

A Common Sleep Issue

Being afraid of the dark is a common sleep problem of young children, even those raised with AP.

The article “Seven Ways to Help Your Child Handle Fear” on explains what is so frightening for preschoolers: “Children do not think like adults. Most of the world is unknown to the child, and children, like adults, fear the unknown. The preschool child cannot reason through each new experience and decide what’s OK and what’s threatening. As if the real world were not scary enough, the ability to form mental images, which develops from two to four years, opens the world of magical thinking with its consequent fearful fantasies.”

These fantasies can turn real things into scary creatures.

“The ability to imagine monsters without the ability to reason them away as imaginary creatures results in a developmental stage where little persons are likely to have big fears,” according to

Help Your Child Handle Fear

Helping your child cope with his fear of darkness may be stressful to parents, especially if the child was previously sleeping soundly through the night. But, this challenge also provides opportunity for parents to strengthen their child’s trust in their relationship, by helping them to accept their changing world and overcome their fears.

“Fear is one of the earliest emotions, and with a little help from caregivers, the child can turn this unpleasant feeling into an opportunity for emotional growth,” according to “Learning to deal with fears is one of the child’s earliest lessons in dealing with emotions and using outside help. Understand and support your child during these times, and the closeness between you will grow.”

Here are some ways you can help your child overcome her fear of the dark:

  • Help your child explore her fear – On The Parent Report Radio Show’s article “Fear of the Dark,” at, psychologist John Munn suggests asking your child questions to help her understand her fear on her own and to let her know that you care about her feelings.
  • Help your child understand the real root of her fears – As explained on, one case of fear of the dark was “cured” by explaining to the child that his imagination was growing. Once he learned that there was a reason for his sudden fear of the dark, it seemed to help him relax at night and work through his fear.
  • Co-sleep with your child, or have your child sleep with her siblings – Just having another person nearby can help make the night less scary.
  • Lead by example – According to, young children learn how to be afraid of something just as they learn how to do everything else: By watching you. If you act afraid of the dark, so will your children tend to.
  • Use a night light – Because the fear of darkness is actually the fear of what can be imagined is out there when we can’t see, a night light lessens the engulfing feeling of a pitch black room.
  • Give your child a flashlight – Empower your child to conquer the darkness by giving her a way to shine a light on a scary object or a dark corner anytime during the night.
  • Play night games – advises parents to play games at dusk and in the dark, like tag and hide-and-seek, to help lessen children’s fears through exposure.
  • Help your child explore the dark during the day time – Keyes advises parents to talk with the child about her fears when it’s daylight and what in their room looks scary at night. Parents might want to consider moving furniture, large toys, or other items that create frightening objects in the dark. Let your child help to “redecorate” her room; children who are more comfortable with their surroundings have less fear of the dark.
  • Turn off the TV – Get rid of scary images for a preschooler’s imaginative mind by limiting your child’s exposure to television shows and videos, especially any program or movie rated for older children and adult viewing.
  • Watch out for phobia – Most children are afraid of the dark, but this fear doesn’t turn into a phobia. Signs of a phobia, say Munn, include: increasingly being afraid to go into their bedroom at night, with the lights turned off; increasingly being afraid to go into a darkened basement or outside in the dark; if their bedtime fear of the dark becomes increasingly more difficult for the child; or if the fear of the dark doesn’t go away as the child grows old enough to be able to understand what goes on in his world.

Helping your child cope with his fear of darkness provides opportunity for parents to strengthen their child’s trust in their relationship, by helping them to accept their changing world and overcome their fears.



The Long-Term Effects of Bullying on the Victim, the Bully, and the Bystander

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

Even as late as a generation ago, teasing was considered almost a rite of passage for school-age children. It was seen as the natural establishment of the childhood “pecking order” – either you were teased or you became the bully, at least once.

Within the last decade, more attention has been directed to the severely negative effects of this “normal” part of childhood. Research has found that bullying – which can include name-calling, teasing, spreading of rumors, threats, stealing possessions, and other forms of intimidation, even as extreme as hitting, pushing, and additional physical violence – has long-term effects on the emotional well-being of children and teens, well into their adult years.

The Effect of Bullying on the Victim

In her article “Teasing and Bullying: No Laughing Matter,” published on, author Diana Townsend-Butterworth warns of how bullying can distort emotional and mental development, not only through the psychological torture of being a victim but also because the fear of being bullied can take a toll on academic and social success through loss of concentration and reduced class attendance. School becomes a place to be feared for many children who are bullied. Bullying also affects self esteem development and may cause depression, both of which can last well into adulthood, hurting their professional achievements and personal relationships.

The Effect of Bullying on the Bully

Bullies, too, often have difficulty in forming positive relationships in adulthood, reports Townsend-Butterworth. Bullies are more likely to use tobacco and alcohol, to become abusive in their marital and parental relationships, and to engage in criminal activities.

The Effect of Bullying on the Bystander

Even children who are not directly involved, either as bullies or as targets, may be adversely affected, Townsend-Butterworth continues. Academically, these innocent bystanders suffer from disruption in the classroom created by a bully or by the teacher disciplining the bully or attending to the victim. These children can also be traumatized by witnessing the bully in action, fearing that they be the next victim or feeling guilty for not helping the target, according to James Garbarino, PhD, author of Lost Boys and Words Can Hurt Forever.

Bullying Hurtful No Matter the Form…or the Age

Bullying is also not limited to boys or girls, either. It used to be that only boys could be bullied; girls were teased. Actually, teasing and bullying are one in the same. What is different is how they are expressed by the different genders. As Townsend-Butterworth explains, boys are typically physical in their bullying. They might push each other or steal someone’s backpack. On the other hand, girls are usually more subtle and indirect. A young girl may threaten not to be someone’s friend unless that friend gives her something in return, and an older girl will tell other girls not to be friends with someone or say a hurtful remark and then pretend they didn’t mean it.

Incredibly, bullying can begin as early as preschool. Bullying is also common around the world, in all cultures, ethnicities, and socio-economic classes. Townsend-Butterworth reports research that estimates as many as a third of all school-age children are involved in bullying, either as bullies or victims. In some schools, such as those with students of mixed ethnicities or socio-economic classes, this number may be higher. Bullying often intensifies at certain transitional stages, such as starting elementary school, middle school, or high school. While bullying is no longer considered customary, and most schools have adopted some form of anti-bullying policies, children can’t be fully protected since bullying can take many forms and can occur elsewhere.

Where Children Learn to Bully

The goal of Attachment Parenting (AP) is to raise children to be empathetic, compassionate, loving people. Instilling these values in children early, and continuing to nurture these qualities as they child grows, is an inoculation against them becoming bullies. Children learn to bully from their peers, and even from adults and media influences, writes Townsend-Butterworth. Even unconsciously, parents may teach bullying behaviors by the way they speak to or treat their children.

“If children experience put-downs or physical punishment at home or in school, and if they see emotional and psychological abuse go unchallenged, they believe this behavior is acceptable,” Townsend-Butterworth writes. “Bullies like to feel powerful and in control. They are insensitive to the feelings of others and defiant toward adults.”

How Children Become Targets of Bullying

But, what about not becoming a victim? Some AP parents may worry that if their child isn’t aggressive, he will get bullied himself. But, as Townsend-Butterworth explains, children who repeatedly find themselves the target of bullying are similar in that they have a shy personality, low self-esteem, poor social skills, and less physical strength.

“Bullies consider these children safe targets, because they usually don’t retaliate,” Townsend-Butterworth writes. In addition, repeated targets inadvertently “reward” bullies by giving in to them, according to a 1997 article from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “Teaching Children Not to Be, or Be Victims of, Bullies,” reprinted on the Focus Adolescent Services website, which works to support families of troubled and at-risk teens.

Unfortunately, as this article points out, targets of bullying are not helped by adults speaking for them; sometimes, this can actually make the bullying more aggressive. The goal for parents is not to teach aggression, but assertiveness. According to Focus, while parents can’t solve the problem of bullying, they do hold the key to teaching their children to avoid becoming victims.

“Children must learn that they have the right to say ‘no,’” according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children article, “not only when they are threatened, but in a wide range of everyday situations.”

While parents can’t solve the problem of bullying, they do hold the key to teaching their children to avoid becoming victims.