Tag Archives: single parent

Take Time to Reconnect After the Work Day

By Rita Brhel, managing editor of Attached Family magazine, API’s Publications Coordinator and an API Leader (Hastings API, Nebraska). Originally published on TheAttachedFamily.com in October 2008.

Boy & TeddyMy friend, Nicole, and her husband both work full-time. Their two-year-old daughter spends the day with a childcare provider who has watched her since she was six weeks old. Oftentimes, Nicole comes home after a 45-minute commute tired, wanting to relax and spend time playing happily with her daughter.

When her child was younger, Nicole would breastfeed to help reconnect in the evenings, but as her daughter grew into a toddler and weaned, the challenge of creating a peaceful evening has mounted. Her daughter, hungry for her attention, seems to push the limits constantly, often bringing home acting-out behaviors she’s learned from older children in her daycare. While Nicole believes that discipline is important, she doesn’t want to ruin the evening, and tends to discipline inconsistently, choosing not to discipline when it appears her child is starting a tantrum.

When you’ve spent most of the day away from your child, it’s natural to want to come home and spend a peaceful evening relaxing and playing together. But some busy parents have difficulty finding quality time to spend with their child. The parents’ priority may be to enjoy a phone conversation with a friend, to watch television for an hour, or to have a family dinner at a local restaurant. The children, anxious for their parents’ undivided attention, may express their frustration through tantrums and other acting-out behavior, quickly causing tension for the entire family. Should these parents, like Nicole, let discipline go by the wayside in an effort to have a more peaceful evening?

Consistent Discipline Always Important

Discipline is a very important component of Attachment Parenting (AP). As outlined by Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting, discipline is an essential tool in helping children to develop a conscience, especially as the child grows and becomes more independent. But a key part of AP discipline is teaching children, not by reacting to their behavior, but by meeting the needs that lead to undesirable behavior. The same holds true for stressed, dual-income families seeking quality family time in the evenings after the children come home from daycare and before they go to bed.

Reconnecting after being apart for a day is essential for working families, according to Jane Nelsen, EdD, in her 2005 article “Seven Ways Busy Parents Can Help Their Children Feel Special,” posted on www.positivediscipline.com.

“Helping your child feel special is a matter of planning and habit, not a lack of time,” writes Nelsen, who co-authored Positive Discipline for Working Parents.

Here are some of her tips to help parents to reconnect with their children at the end of the day:

  • Take time for hugs – Don’t underestimate the power of a hug in changing attitudes, yours and your children’s. Hugs can also be significant in stopping acting-out behavior.
  • Involve your children in rule-setting – Children are much more enthusiastic about following rules that they’ve had a part in setting. Help them come up with creative ways of getting their chores done or setting morning and bedtime routines, and brainstorm solutions for other issues that tend to be contentious.
  • Include your children in your chores – Your children will feel empowered when you ask them for help, instead of lecturing or scolding. Instead of getting angry that there are toys all over the floor of the family room, ask them to help clean it up.
  • Regularly schedule special time with the children – Set aside some one-on-one time together with each of your children. Nelsen recommends at least 10 to 15 minutes a day for young children and at least 30-60 minutes a week for school-age children, although many parents would argue that children need more one-on-one time with their parents than this. Actually putting this quality time in your calendar means you’re making it a priority, and even when an evening is particularly hectic, your children will know that you will be available for their special time.
  • Take time to listen and share – Ask your child to share her happiest and saddest moments of the day. Perhaps you do this during your special time together, or at bedtime as Nelsen recommends. Listen without trying to solve problems, and then take your turn to tell your own happy and sad moments.
  • Write a note to your child – Put a hand-written note in your child’s lunch box, on his pillow, or tape it to the bathroom mirror. The notes, like hugs, give children a boost during the day.
  • Take advantage of errands – Whether you’re going grocery shopping, to the bank, or dropping mail off at the post office, the drive time during these errands provides additional one-on-one time for your child. If you have several children, have them take turns. Take this time to listen to whatever your child wants to talk about, and share special stories from your life, such as when you were younger.

Children may act out because they feel they aren’t receiving enough undivided attention from their parents. By taking the time to reconnect with their children, parents are not only fulfilling children’s needs but also giving themselves exactly what they need – children who feel right with themselves and with their families, and who are less likely to act out. And if children do have a tantrum or act out, those who feel connected respond more positively to their parents’ discipline.

A key part of AP discipline is teaching children, not by reacting to their behavior but by meeting the needs that are leading to the undesirable behavior.

The Delicate Balance of Parenthood

By Megan Kunze, MS

Being raised by a single mother molded me into the woman and mother I am today. Some of my parenting practices are similar and others are very different. My attempts to successfully nurture three little lives involve a constant balance between caring for myself and caring for others, so I can best facilitate love, growth, and joy in the lives of my children.

Here, I have included four focus areas that promote balance in life as a parent.

Create a Support Network

Surround yourself with people you enjoy and who build you up. Choose your support network carefully and thoughtfully: Continue reading The Delicate Balance of Parenthood

Breastfeeding Helps to Offset Early Disadvantages

From the University of London

BreastfeedingBreastfeeding may be particularly important to the educational and emotional development of children from single-parent and low-income families, new research suggests.

Previous studies have reported that the high nutritional content of breast milk can increase a baby’s IQ. Other research has found that breastfed children are at an advantage because their mothers are, on average, better-off and more articulate.

However, a new study from the Institute of Education, London, which involved 1,136 mothers, strengthens the argument that breastfeeding is also associated with more positive parenting practices that can continue beyond infancy.

Breastfeeding Strengthens Mother-Baby Attachment

Researchers who analyzed the behavior of mothers reading a storybook to their one-year-old children found that, on average, those who breastfed made more effort to engage their infants in the book than mothers who bottle-fed. In general, mothers with more positive attitudes towards breastfeeding also appeared to have a warmer relationship with their babies.

The greatest differences in behavior were between two groups of single and low-income mothers — those who breastfed for six to 12 months, and those who bottle-fed. Poorer women who breastfed interacted with their babies during the book-reading exercise almost as well as more advantaged mothers did. However, low-income mothers who bottle-fed their babies tended to communicate with them much less well than other mothers, the researchers say.

Marital status had no effect on the quality of a mother’s interaction with her child, provided she had breastfed for six to 12 months. In fact, single mothers who had breastfed for this period made slightly more effort than other mothers to explain the storybook to their child.

A repeat experiment four years later found that mothers who had been on a low income when their child was one, but had breastfed for more than six months, had a higher quality of interaction with their five-year-old than other mothers. They also made more effort to engage their child in the book-reading exercise than mothers who had not breastfed. By contrast, breastfeeding appeared to have no lasting effect on the parenting behaviors of married and higher-income mothers.

Study Author: Breastfeeding Especially Important for Single and Low-Income Parents

The report’s principal author, Leslie Gutman, research director of the Institute’s Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning, says that the age five findings underscore the “protective” influence of breastfeeding for lone parent and low-income families.  Future studies should investigate the processes behind the findings, she suggests. Researchers should attempt to establish, for example, whether skin-to-skin contact forms stronger bonds between breastfed infants and their mothers which, in turn, lead to more positive parenting practices.

Report Indicates a Need for Change in Government Policy, Improvement in Education

Gutman also says that the findings provide support for government policies that encourage breastfeeding, particularly for more disadvantaged mothers. “Mothers in such challenging circumstances may face more obstacles to breastfeeding, especially for a longer period of time,” she points out. “They may lack role models and encouragement, or they may be under greater pressure to return to work when their child is still very young.”

If a mother works on a short-term casual basis, or is an agency worker, she may not qualify for maternity leave, and if she earns less than £90 per week, on average, she does not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay. This may act as an incentive to stop breastfeeding and return to work as soon as possible, the study says.

“New mothers, particularly in deprived communities, may therefore require more than information leaflets,” the researchers comment. “Rather, interventions that offer early and ongoing support and encouragement to manage breastfeeding may be needed: this may come from financial support in order to enable a delay in return to work and/or workplace nurseries where mothers can visit and breastfeed their babies during the day. Meanwhile, campaigns such as ‘Be a star’, run by Blackpool Primary Care Trust (PCT) and North Lancashire Teaching PCT to provide role models for young mothers, may be a way of highlighting the issue.”

The Institute of Education research, which was funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, is based on a new analysis of previously unreported data that were originally collected as part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the mid-1990s.

Report Also Shows Social Mothers as Having Stronger Attachments with Their Babies

Gutman and her colleagues also found that mothers with extensive social networks interacted with their infants more positively, on average, than mothers with more limited social circles. “At a community level, the finding implies that the networking and social interactions that go on between parents in children’s centres, early-years settings, community groups and many other community venues,  such as libraries, and health and leisure centres, are of great value,” they say.

Efforts to improve maternal health could also help to build parenting capabilities as postnatal depression impairs communication between mother and child, the researchers add.

For More Information

“Nurturing Parenting Capability: The Early Years,” by Gutman, John Brown, and Rodie Akerman, can be downloaded at www.learningbenefits.net.

Do Two Halves Make a Whole?

By Isabelle Fox, PhD, author of Being There and Growing Up and member of API’s Advisory Board

**Originally published in the Fall 2006 Divorce & Single Parenting issue of The Journal of API

Custody BattlesI frequently receive e-mail from parents who practice Attachment Parenting (AP) across the United States and in other countries asking for help and support in custody cases when they are contemplating shared joint custody of their infants, toddlers, and preschool children.

Most of the communications come from single moms who never married or were married only briefly. They often have a poor working alliance with the child’s father and have been unable to establish or maintain a loving, committed relationship with him. As a result, finding an equitable and responsible solution to child custody issues can become a low priority. Money, support payments, anger and/or resentment may be the underlying cause of the conflict.

The best interest of the child is often forgotten. It is tragic that courts and lawyers are frequently insensitive or unaware of the developmental needs of infants and toddlers who lack the language to express their anxieties, stresses, and concerns. Continue reading Do Two Halves Make a Whole?

In Search of Support: My Experience as a Single AP Mom

By Christy Farr Ferrelli, former executive director of API

**Originally published in the Fall 2006 Divorce & Single Parenting issue of The Journal of API

The Many Faces of Single ParentingMy experience as a single attachment parent started when my son was 19 months old and I was seven and one-half months pregnant with my daughter.

The Attachment Parenting (AP) practices that I chose before my divorce, such as breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and babywearing, become more like survival tactics for me as a single parent.

In my experience, the primary obstacle to AP single parenting is a monumental lack of resources. Continue reading In Search of Support: My Experience as a Single AP Mom

Duty Calls: An AP Single Parent’s Slice of Life

By Hazel Larkin

**Originally published in the Fall 2006 Divorce & Single Parenting issue of The Journal of API

Slice of LifeAs the lone parent of two little girls four years old and two years old, one of the hardest things I find about doing it on my own is the fact that I am constantly “on duty.”

I knew an AP couple when I lived in Singapore, and I remember watching, with more than a tinge of jealousy, as they ping-ponged responsibility for their child between them. It was their daughter’s first birthday, and they were hosting a poolside party at their apartment complex. AS one parent moved away to tend to a guest, bring food, or tend to something else, he would call out the other parent that she was now “on.” For example, the mother would simply call out to her husband, “Peter, you’re on!” and he knew that he needed to keep an eye on their daughter. It was a system that worked beautifully for them, and one that I wished I could emulate.

Being attentive and attached to your children is draining, and when you never have a day off, it can be very tempting to just dump them in front of the television and make phone calls for an hour. As an attached parent, however, this course of action simply isn’t an option. I get through my bad days by reminding myself that I am in the privileged position of raising the next generation, and this is my golden opportunity to make a real difference.