When it Pours for Moms, Help them RAIN! Your Being, their Well-being!

Exclusive to AP Month 2020 “Parenting with PEACE -” with our focus on positive childhood experiences – API is pleased to welcome this special guest post from Christina Bethell: PhD, MBA, MPH Professor, Johns Hopkins University.

Blue earth with parents and children of different backgrounds standing all around edge and words attachment parenting month in the centerBeing a consistently kind and positive parent can be challenging, especially when children are also struggling or stressed.  Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, national data showed that over 1 in 3 children had moms who were not coping very well.1 And over 2 in 5 had parents who struggled to stay hopeful or find strengths to draw on when things were hard.  These parents were three times more likely to report routinely feeling angry and aggravated with their child.1 


Our best research calls for doing all we can to foster positive parent-child experiences.


About 1 in 4 US children have mothers who do not experience excellent or very good mental health and are less likely to cope, remain resilient and connect positively with their child. This is especially true for the more than 4 in 10 US children with parents who face economic, safety or household problems like someone who drinks too much, has untreated mental illness or is emotionally or physically abusive.1  Perhaps a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is the light it shines on the need and possibilities to support moms and families by encouraging them (and their children) to reach out for help: to reduce longstanding sources of stress, build resilience, hope and strengths, and prioritize positive emotional connections with their children – especially during difficult times.


We can help moms recognize and heal from their own pain and build resilience, while also helping their children flourish.


Research points to transformational opportunities to promote both parent and child well-being by helping them build skills to recognize their stress; allow the feelings to move (and pass); identify core needs for compassion, care and support; and nurture themselves and reach out when they struggle. Taught by Tara Brach, the RAIN model (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture) works.2 As do similar approaches.2 RAIN paves the way for mothers and children to withstand challenges and stay emotionally connected during difficult times. It also supports clinicians to cope and learn from challenges, which, in turn, helps their clients.2 

Red umbrella graphic with text: Parenting with peace daily tip - Do you find it easy or hard to talk to your family about feelings? Talking to your children about feelings is a positive childhood experience.Our best research calls for doing all we can to foster positive parent-child experiences: like talking together about things that really matter, looking for strengths and reasons to hope, and reaching out for support during hard times.3,4   The benefits are long lasting for us all.  Our recent research shows that fostering the most important positive childhood experience of all- safe and nurturing connection with parents-markedly reduces the risk of having depression or poor mental health as an adult. This increases the chances of having the social and emotional support they need later in life, when they might be parents too.3,4 

When it pours down for moms, help them RAIN!2  In doing so we can help moms recognize and heal from their own pain and build resilience, while also helping their children flourish4 and become healthy adults,3 despite the challenges of life.

  1. Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, National Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health, Johns Hopkins University. 2017-2018 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) national data findings accessed 10.20.20 at www.childhealthdata.org.  Additional NSCH analyses conducted for this article by C. Bethell, 10.20.20. 
  2. Hedderman E, O’Doherty V, O’Connor S. Mindfulness moments for clinicians in the midst of a pandemic [published online ahead of print, 2020 May 21]. Ir J Psychol Med. 2020;1-4. doi:10.1017/ipm.2020.59
  3. Bethell CD, Jones J, Gombojav N, Linkenbach J, Sege R. Positive and Adverse Childhood Experiences: Interactions and Effects on Adult Health Outcomes. JAMA Peds 9.09.19
  4. Bethell CD, Gombojav N, Whitaker RC. (2019). Family Resilience And Connection Promote Flourishing Among US Children, Even Amid Adversity. Health Affairs. 38(5). May 2020

Some winning tips to connect and reconnect with children – at the holidays and all of the time

Making time to share time and interests with your child refills the love-tank and lets you bounce back after struggles.  Small moments in every day, every week, keep us connected. Small moments mean the connections do not have to be complicated to be powerful; they can be something like:

  • Stop and make eye contact over breakfast
  • Find a funny meme to share a smile together
  • Put your coat on backwards for a silly laugh together
  • Put a note of appreciation on the bathroom mirror
  • Notice something your child does well that might not normally get noticed and ask them about it
  • Interrupt dinner prep and give a hug
  • Make up a special word or phrase to share that means “I love you”
  • Take a walk together and share what you notice
  • Sit and make plans together for an adventure
  • Join your child in something he or she enjoys and share the excitement
  • Playing simple games your children make up and direct
  • Find ways to help others together

All of these moments in time are the heartbeats that keep us connected. This heartbeat tells our children that we’re there for them, we’re available, we see them, we love them. What keeps you connected?

The sweetness of Attachment Parenting

Have you ever tried to explain to someone what attachment parenting is? Parenting is very personal, and it’s not so easy to describe any approach to raising children given the amount of emotional baggage, future hopes, joys, and trials there are wrapped up in that one word, “parenting.”

But as I was contemplating today about how much Attachment Parenting International and attachment parenting means to me and my family, how it literally changed the very direction of my life — personally and professionally — not to mention, given my children the quality of lives they enjoy, I came up with a word that sums up what attachment parenting is in my home: “sweetness.”

It really is just about treating my children with the sweetness of attachment.

I received one of those fun challenges on Facebook a few days ago where you ask your children a series of questions and then post exactly what they say. The first question was, “What do you hear me say the most?” Other Facebook friend’s posts had responses like “clean your room,” “dang it,” or “supper’s ready.” More curious of what my kids would say, rather than posting their responses on Facebook, I decided to ask them the questions.

And here’s what they said:

  1. What is something I say a lot? I love you
  2. What makes me happy? When we make you food and give you wildflowers (Nathan, 6), When we don’t yell and we follow the rules (Emily, 10), When we give you hugs (Rachel, 11)
  3. What makes me sad? When you’re sick and you want to do something excited that day (Rachel), When you have to postpone something because it just won’t work out and it was going to be really fun (Emily)
  4. What’s my favorite thing to do? Spend time with us (Nathan), Pet the cat (Rachel), Cuddle with us (Emily)
  5. Do I have a favorite child? No! But if you did, it would be Rachel-Emily-Nathan-Kate (Kate is my angel baby)
  6. If I could go anywhere, where would it be? To a chocolate factory made of chocolate in a chocolate land in a chocolate world
  7. Do you think you could live without me? No! Well, I guess we could, but it would be really, really sad (Emily) Yeah, it’d be a sad life (Nathan) I mean, we could still be alive but it wouldn’t be a really happy life (Rachel)
  8. How do you annoy me? By yelling, screaming, or interrupting you when you’re doing work
  9. What scares me? If we’re quiet in the bath tub and you hear no splashing or rippling or anything
  10. How do you describe me? A nice mom, the best mom in the world! With dark hair, dark curly hair, dark short curly hair. A person who likes being warm.

Now, isn’t that sweetness? And you may think that all children would say nice things about their parents, and gosh, I hope so!

But my point is, the overall atmosphere in my home is sweetness and peace and love. My oldest is now 11, and my youngest is 6. I’m well past the early years of attachment parenting, but for all the intensity of breastfeeding, cosleeping, responding sensitively, and learning gentle discipline, attachment parenting has since become a lifestyle.

Attachment parenting has become a mindset that directs my thoughts and actions with everyone, not just my kids and husband but my friends, coworkers, and strangers. In all my interactions with others — and with myself — I strive for the sweetness of attachment.

AP Research: Nurturing touch changes DNA, Spanking doesn’t work, and more

It’s exciting to see how much research is constantly being churned out that shows just how beneficial Attachment Parenting is to healthy infant and child development! Check out these recent studies that support API’s Eight Principles of Parenting:

  1. Knowing how our eating habits while pregnant may affect the health of our child is Preparing for Parenting 
  2. Waiting to introduce solid foods until at least 6 months is Feeding with Love & Respect
  3. Responding with Sensitivity may involve treating infant colic with probiotics
  4. Using Nurturing Touch changes DNA
  5. Ensuring Safe Sleep means feeding our children fish
  6. A lack of safe childcare options makes Providing Consistent & Loving Care challenging for dual-income and single-parent homes
  7. Practicing Positive Discipline realizes that spanking doesn’t work
  8. Guarding against paternal postpartum depression is an important part of Striving for Balance

What are API’s Eight Principles of Parenting all about?

Learn more about API’s Eight Principles of Parenting here.

An Open Letter to New Mamas

Dear New Mamas,

With so much unsolicited parenting advice in our information era, I encourage you to raise a red flag to advice including any of the following 6 terms:

”Should”

There is no “should” with babies especially regarding breastfeeding, safe cosleeping, and milestones. Ignore anyone telling you what your baby “should” or “should not” be doing, based on age of baby. The easiest way to avoid these types of conversations is to not discuss the topics of lactation, sleep, milestones, and nutrition with family members, friends, and coworkers who may not be aligned with your gentle parenting style. Once you find your groove, a simple response of, “This works great for us,” will hopefully pacify the naysayers.

There are lots of varying parenting styles, and it’s less stressful to not compare your baby with others of similar age and to not discuss those topics listed above openly.

“Habit”

Babies change so frequently that there is not enough time in one consistent state of development for habits to form. If your instinct is telling you to soothe baby in a certain way or to create a safe sleeping environment, you are not forming “bad habits.”

“It works.”

You may come across defensive loved ones advising, “It worked for you,” or well-intentioned friends saying, “It worked for us.” But at what cost? Do your research. For example, the only reason sleep-training “works” is because a baby doesn’t think anyone will come get baby. As another example, putting rice cereal in a bottle adds no nutritional benefits and actually reduces the nutrition baby would otherwise receive from the breastmilk that the rice cereal displaces.

“That’s what the doctor advised.”

Pediatricians receive minimal lactation and nutrition education. Lactation advice should only be taken from a lactation specialist, preferably with the credentials of IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). Many insurance companies cover their costs. Important to note, only 40% of US women successfully breastfeed after 4 months postpartum and only 20% after 6 months postpartum. If those statistics are that low, yet most infants see a pediatrician, one could assume pediatric advice is not aiding in successful breastfeeding rates.

Children’s nutrition guidelines and recommendations change frequently and can be skewed by corporate sponsorship. Read labels, and get up-to-date about children’s’ nutrition information. Consider baby-led weaning once baby is starting solids as early as 6 months. MDs are not to be considered experts on parenting style advice. Various methods for baby sleep and nutrition fall under parenting styles and do not require a medical professional’s input.

“Spoiling”

You cannot spoil a baby. Creating a relationship of trust and responsiveness is your role as a mother. Terms like babywearing and Attachment Parenting do not mean you are “spoiling” your baby, but rather creating a safe and secure foundation to set up baby to be an emotionally thriving child adult.

“Good baby”

You will quickly learn the term, “good baby,” is redundant. All babies are good. Unfortunately, Western society associates a “good baby” with one who requires the least amount of caregiver attention. Instead of asking if a baby is “good” when striking up conversation, it’d be more appropriate to ask “What makes baby happy?” And when someone asks if your baby is “good,” try responding with, “We’re having fun.”

Sincerely,

A fellow mom, meandering her own peaceful parenting journey, by surrounding herself with those who get it