While AP provides us with tools for holding on to your kids, once they enter the world at large you hope your children will stay connected, but we’ve found it continues to take effort on our part as parents. The bottom line is that all relationships take work — even with our spouses.
At every stage of our children’s lives, we hoped that we just could relax and enjoy the fruits of all the efforts we put into them in their early years, only to find out that the relaxing part comes in spurts.
Of course their successes, joys and triumphs become yours as well, but it can be so hard to watch them find their way in this world. Their struggles and pain become your struggles and pain. You know they have to go through the realities of life; they have to learn through their own experiences and decisions.
I wish we could just turn off our emotions and brush our hands and say, “We did our job as parents and now it’s up to them,” but you can’t — not when you are connected. As children grow into their teens and even adulthood, it takes a conscious effort to keep that connection…everyday!
There are so many temptations in our world, so many “wolves” just waiting to attack the hearts and minds of our children. We not only have to build their strength and confidence to face these challenges, but we have to do it for ourselves so that we can be there when they need us and be strong. That’s where having a strong AP community as your extended family can be a safety net.
Attachment Parenting International cofounder and Attached at the Heart coauthor Barbara Nicholson and I often talk about our sons, how we’ve raised sensitive young men who are creative and very independent. While these are wonderful qualities, some of our children are finding it very difficult to find their place in this world and it’s taking a lot longer than we thought. We have no doubt that they will, but it’s not as easy as it seems for others.
We can’t help ourselves from wondering, worrying about them finding the right person to share their life, to bear their children. Will they choose AP as their path or go the opposite way? Will they stay close to our family? Will they all be healthy and happy?
My husband will half-jokingly say that when he turned 18, his parents ran away from home. Our parents’ and grandparents’ generation thinks it is very odd for a child over the age of 18 to live at home. But more importantly, our high-touch, sensitive children require close connections at home to help them maintain their stability.
I recently listened to an interview with Dr. Robert Epstein who said, in reference to the turmoil and troubles many teens and young adults are having in our Western culture: “Any culture that severs the connection between young people and older people creates this problem.” He went on to say that no other teens in the world experience the problems with drug abuse and suicide like we see.
The point I want to make is that while we may make great improvements in our parenting from previous generations, the AP way of life will not always protect our children or prevent them from making mistakes in judgment. If there are generations of abuse or addictions in your family, changing that course will likely take more than one generation. Still, we can affirm to ourselves that we are on the right path to breaking the cycles of dysfunction that so many families have endured for generations.
Our job as parents is to maintain our connection to our children, to be there when they fall, to be their rock and their compass and bring them back home to a circle of security that will refresh and strengthen their hearts. Attachment Parenting gives us the strength, the wisdom and support to do just that.