Tag Archives: listening

Help Your Toddler Bond with the New Baby

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves

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

Siblings“Mommy, why do you need another Yonatan?” asked my first-born, looking at my growing belly. I hugged him and said, “I do not need another Yonatan. There is no other Yonatan. You are the only ‘you’ there will ever be, and I love you so much.”

No matter how much we explain and include a young child in welcoming his new sibling, he will not comprehend this concept any more than you would welcome another lover for your spouse.

In an extended family, the situation is a lot easier, as mom is not the only caregiver. In the nuclear family, a seven-year-old would happily welcome a new baby as a wonderful addition, but a toddler or a young child who is still seeing himself as the needy one will have a lot of inner turmoil and needs your reassurance that he is still your darling child. Continue reading Help Your Toddler Bond with the New Baby

UAE Childhood Depression on the Rise

From API’s Publications Team

childhood depressionAccording to an article on the United Arab Emirates’ TheNational.ae, “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

The Secret Power of Ignorance

By Michael Piraino, CEO of the National CASA Association

**Orginally published in the Winter 2007-08 Adoption issue of The Journal of API

boyI don’t know why, as adults, we think we know everything. Maybe we just automatically subscribe to the theory that as we get older, we get wiser. What I think actually happens is we become more jaded, and we mistake that for knowledge. I think we all agree that age does not teach us. Experience does. That’s why some of my most powerful learning experiences have come from folks far younger than me – but wise beyond their years.

It occurred to me early in my career of advocating for foster children that I needed to find a path to communication with them. This path led me to accepting my own ignorance. I’d like to introduce you to the moment I embraced that ignorance and the impact it’s had on me and thousands of foster children for the past 25 years.

Be Present

My wife and I were at the airport, in an area specially set aside for parents and their young children, waiting to greet our newly adopted infant son. I could barely contain my anticipation. Despite my nervousness and expectation, I couldn’t help but notice a little boy somberly absorbed in squeezing blobs of play clay. After a few minutes, I sat on the ground next to him. He looked at me. I asked what he was playing with. He studied me for a beat and then said, “Play-Doh.” Continue reading The Secret Power of Ignorance

A Day in the Life of a Homeschooling Mother

By Avril Dannebaum, co-leader of API-NYC

One morning last summer, as my husband was getting ready to leave for work, I casually mentioned to our 10-year-old son Gerard that today was writing day and that the assignment was 250 to 300 words on his fishing experience during our vacation. “Oh, no! I can’t do it!” he yelled, as he lay down on the couch and proceeded to dissolve into a wet puddle of anxiety.

My husband came back to the living room. I worried that he’d be late, but he took the time to sit down and explain to Gerard that he could definitely write and all it took was an outline. I let him do his stuff. I had been homeschooling our son for almost three years, and both my husband and I knew that Gerard knows how to write an outline. But hearing it from Dad couldn’t hurt.

Eventually Gerard said he just wanted to be left alone. Hubby left for work after I reassured him that our son would be fine, and didn’t he remember what a wonderful 250-word report he had written a couple of weeks ago on our trip to the American Folk Art Museum?

I headed out to our community garden, watered some new transplants, then came in and made my son breakfast. He was still moaning about not being able to write. I told him he had his reading to do first, another chapter of Treasure Island by Stevenson, then math, and then we’d work on the outline together.

Keep balance. It’s hard to stay centered when my son is storming about telling me what he can’t do. Yet I have an idea of what he’s going through. He’s a star in his own personal drama, and I should know because I go through it every time I need to do something important. My process is to ventilate, have a fit of nerves and negativity which I then just have to work through (usually by washing the floor or getting rid of those pesky cobwebs near the ceiling which keep cropping up). And I wouldn’t like it if my husband were to patronize me about my occasional bouts of insecurity. Give the boy his space.

So we get done with algebra, and it’s time to do the dreaded writing assignment. I get out a fresh pad of paper. We talk about the fact that a short essay is usually about five paragraphs. The first one and last one is a given: Introduction and Conclusion. It’s the in between where you have to get a bit creative. We also discussed that 300 words divided by 5 is just 60 words per paragraph. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! We also discussed that, like any other essay, we use the five Ws and H: who, what, where, when, why and how.

As we talk about it, I see him relaxing. I throw out a title, “Fishing Vacation,” and he thinks it’s OK. I start asking leading questions like, “What do you need to go fishing?” “Equipment,” he says. And there is our second paragraph. He lists the things needed, and I scribble them down for him.

Third paragraph is a how-to – something we’ve practiced a lot. He smoothly lists the steps needed to do fishing. I suggest that this is going to be a longer paragraph than 60 words, more like 100 to 125. He agrees. I can tell he’s warming up to the subject.

Paragraph Four: I suggest the “why” of fishing. He replies that it’s fun. “Fun?” I say in mock horror. “It’s not fun for that poor worm. And what about the fish that you’re going to hook?” He gives me a look of real horror, as he sees that there are two sides to this issue.

We don’t say anything about the final paragraph. It’s a conclusion, and he knows how to do those.

I hand him his notes, and he heads to his room to his computer. He asks me to sit with him while he composes. Then he asks, “Can it be fictional?” Sure why not? Suddenly, my son is having a very good time. He’s no longer going to Esopus Creek with his parents. Instead, he’s going by himself to a place called Beaver Creek.

The first paragraph whizzes by, and he asks me to do the word count. Fifty-five words. The second one seems to go a bit faster, and is over 60 words. The third paragraph is 113 words, and he’s laughing to himself. “Here’s the funny part, Mom,” and he reads it out loud to me. It’s humor for 10-year-olds, but that’s what he is, so he loves it.

At this point Gerard realizes that he’s only about 35 words away from the minimum word count. He writes it in one sentence. “I’m done,” he announces. No, you still need a conclusion. “OK,” he shrugs and goes back and writes a bit more, but you can tell, it’s over for him, just an afterthought.

At 285 words, he’s written yet another essay. His formal schooling is over for the day, but there will still be art, music, or exercise in the afternoon. We do three hours of the formal stuff, and then afternoons are free for the soft subjects, and I almost always follow his lead in what he wants.

I ask him why he was so upset this morning. “Well, I forgot what it was like,” he replies. That’s summer for you. Take just a little break, and the anxiety builds.

I’m proud of my son. And I want him to continue to feel the exhilaration of writing and the joy of sharing one’s thoughts on paper. Days like today, when I see him shine…well, I’m just grateful for Attachment Parenting teaching me to do what is right for my family and to follow my heart – something which has included the one-on-one work of homeschooling.

I’m just grateful for Attachment Parenting teaching me to do what is right for my family and to follow my heart.

Extracurricular Activities Should Be Fun, Not Work

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

Kids today are busier than any generation before.

School-aged children and teens have ample opportunities to fill their free time with extracurricular activities, and many parents encourage their children to participate in these activities. These activities are fun; they help children find talents and build up skill sets; and they give children additional ways to socialize and make friends. Children as young as early elementary can now participate in  myriad activities, from soccer to scouts to theatre.

But parents have to be careful that these fun activities don’t become burdens to their children, that they don’t inadvertently or purposely place their child in a position where the child is feeling pushed to excel in order to gain parental approval, and that they don’t schedule too many activities so that children simply don’t have time to play, relax, connect with others, or just be children.

Rick Wolff, chairman of the Institute for International Sport’s Center for Sports Parenting, spoke in 2005 at the University of Rhode Island about the unreasonable expectations parents can be tempted to place on their children’s athletic futures. His presentation was covered in the article “Parents Pushing Children into Sports a Problem, Growing in Culture” by Meghan Vendettoli, published by the University.

Activities are for Children, Not the Parents

Wolff noted that children want to participate in extracurricular activities because they find them enjoyable, but that some parents see these activities – particularly sports – as a “foundation” for their future, most often in hopes of getting their child a college scholarship. Never mind the fact that less than four percent of high school athletes end up playing collegiate sports.

Wolff was most bothered by the trend of more and more parents pushing their children as young as five or six years old to excel in a sport, at the expense of the child’s happiness.

“A lot of parents don’t get it, and the kids become the victims,” he said.

No Pushing, Please

In the article “Don’t Push Your Children Too Hard in Sports or Other Activities,” published in 2000 on http://healthlink.mcw.edu, Anthony D. Meyer, MD, warns parents of how easy it is to “push” a child into an activity even as they try not to.

“As pre-teenagers, children are completely egocentric, meaning they believe that whatever they do is responsible for what actually happens. If they miss the goal or strike out and the team loses, they believe they are solely at fault,” Meyer wrote. “They also have a very, very strong need to please adults, and a coach or parent who feeds into that need may very easily push a child beyond his or her breaking point.”

How does Meyer advise parents to avoid this pitfall?

“A skillful coach or concerned parent will watch for signs of stress, including difficulty sleeping or eating, total preoccupation with one activity and nothing else, or moodiness,” he said.

If parents fail to recognize these signs, not only will the child grow to dislike the activity but may also become resentful toward his parents. Here are Meyer’s tips to parents to avoid inadvertently pushing their children:

  • Get to know your child – Spend time with your child, especially “unconditional time” in which there is no teaching involved. Do whatever the child wants to do, and observe him for 45 minutes. Be open and encouraging, and take delight in what your child enjoys. Learn to empathize with your child.
  • Ask the right questions – Is this activity good for your child at this time? Is your child enjoying herself and, perhaps, growing from the experience? Can your child enjoy participating, win or lose? Put what you want for the child out of your mind, and focus on your child’s needs and desires from her level.
  • Talk with your spouse or partner – Your spouse may have good insight into how your child is feeling, especially if your spouse’s interests differ from yours; for example, if the wife is interested in volleyball and the husband is interested in choir.
  • Help your child find a place in the activity – Not every child is going to excel in the activities they enjoy. For example, a child may enjoy softball but not be very competitive, so instead, the parent can encourage her to serve as the team manager or cheerleader. Show your child that there are many ways they can enjoy an activity, even if she isn’t as talented as her peers.
  • Introduce your child to other types of activities – Your child will be drawn toward the activities he enjoys and will be more likely to find his talent. He will also develop a balanced appreciation for many things in life. Children allowed to participate in a variety of activities are able to better handle wins and losses and challenges, and feel that their interests and desires have been recognized.

For More Information
The Sports Parenting Edge by Rick Wolff

Focus on the Simple Moments

By Nikki Schaefer, staff writer for The Attached Family


On a rainy day, I took my three-year-old son to the restaurant with the golden arches, thinking that he would love to go down the big slides. He did…one time…then stopped to take a bite of his apple dippers.

I asked him, “Do you want to go down the slides again?”

“No,” he replied emphatically. “All done!”

He began to gobble down a few more slices. Having trouble believing that a child would not want to play in Playland, I asked him again, “Do you want to go down the slides?”

“NO,” he said, “ALL DONE!”

He began to run around in circles yelling, “Circle! Circle!” His blond curls bobbed up and down with a toothy smile across his face as he continued to run around, over and over again.

Amused, I watched my son closely. “This is why I love being a mom,” I thought. “What a joy it is to watch this little person take such delight in something so simple.”

It was in that instance I was reminded that, it is not in the jungle gyms of life but in the daily cycles of being where the greatest joys are found.

In a culture that teaches that a child needs Disneyland, a dance class, and a soccer team at age three to find satisfaction, my child reminded me that what he needs most is the space to “be.” My call as a mother of a young child is to allow him the freedom to run, spin, laugh, dance, chase a bug, touch the rain, paint a mural, or just “be.” My job is to create the margins in my life to hold him, talk to him, delight in him, mend an ouchie, pour a glass of milk, and share the wonders of God.

Sometimes, the Playlands of life have their place. It is good to get out of the house, move our bodies, change the scene, and experience some of the greater amusements…from time to time. Yet, instead of always ordering the Big Macs, we are called to “supersize the ordinary.” By consciously choosing not to focus on the highs of life, but instead on the simple moments, we as parents choose a love for our families that is extraordinary indeed.

My call as a mother of a young child is to allow him the freedom to run, spin, laugh, dance, chase a bug, touch the rain, paint a mural, or just “be.”