Editor’s pick: How your childhood shaped your adult personality

Parenting is largely undervalued in our society. So much discussion among politicians and policymakers centers on public education, gender equality, and poverty alleviation. These are all important areas, but parent support is glaringly missing from the list…

When I refer to parent support, I mean research-backed parenting education for all parents, regardless of income class or at-risk group.

Relatively few parents seek out parenting classes when they’re not court-ordered. Many parents do pick up a parenting book from time to time, or seek out support from Facebook groups, or search for specific parenting questions on the Internet. But there is much to be considered whenever any parent solicits advice in how to raise their child. Most parents don’t feel they have the time do the homework necessary to make sure their references are up-to-date, accurate, and aligned with their family values and personal parenting goals.

Media Analysis Guidelines for Parents

It’s important that we all learn how to read between the lines on any media report about parenting, so we can make informed decisions on how to raise our children. Attachment Parenting International (API) created these guidelines to help parents to be able to better discern appropriate resources amid the clutter of information that bombards us everyday:

What’s fact or fiction in parenting news?

Get the most out of a scientific study

Trusted resources

API supports parents in raising their children in a way that meets all of their needs for healthy development, not only physically but also socioemotionally. Growing up without a close, warm, trusting, and sensitively responsive attachment to the parent can have serious, lifelong consequences for a child. These children grow into adults who then struggle with raising their own children in a way that is warm and loving. In many ways, we could view this as a mental health crisis.

Not only that, but research also demonstrates that certain childhood events can alter our biological stress responses, translating into physical health problems not only in the affected individual but in his or her DNA with the possibility of being passed down the family tree through epigenetics. From this perspective, the lack of consistent parenting education available and promoted to all parents is a public health crisis on many levels.

Attachment Matters

API explores the effects of insecure childhood attachment on adults in-depth in our latest ebook, Attachment Matters. Receive your copy of this ebook with a donation of $25 or more to API.

To get a better feel for the specific effects of parenting that is not in line with research, this API Editor’s Pick highlights the Psych Central post, “Unloved in Childhood: 10 Common Effects on Your Adult Self” by Peg Streep, a parenting book author from New York City, USA. It’s important to note that while this post refers specifically to mothers and daughters, the effects of a son feeling unloved is much the same. These 10 effects include:

  • Insecure attachment
  • Undeveloped emotional intelligence
  • Impaired sense of self
  • Lack of trust
  • Difficulties with boundaries
  • Tendency toward toxic friends and partners
  • Fear of failure
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Extreme sensitivity
  • Inner conflict.

What I particularly like about this post is how it draws attention to the fact that the problem is not so much how well the parent perceives he or she loves the child, but rather, what’s important to that child’s development is the sense of love from the child’s perspective. It’s all about how the child perceives he or she is loved her by the parent. That’s an important distinction.

The author has so much to impart on this subject, so be sure to read the entire post, but here’s a quote I found especially enlightening:

“Because the culture stubbornly believes that all mothers are loving and that mothering is instinctual, the unloved daughter mistakenly believes she’s the only child on the planet to find herself in this predicament. As a result, she feels isolated and afraid, and is likely to continue to self-isolate because of her deep shame. She’s not likely to tell anyone. More than anything, she wants to belong to the tribe — those girls who hug their moms and laugh with them.” ~ Peg Streep, Psych Central

Parents, I urge you to be the parent whose children — no matter their age — finds it easy to laugh with you and who feels completely comfortable in seeking out a hug with you anytime. Don’t be afraid to be warm toward your child, don’t be afraid to offer comfort to your child night and day, don’t be afraid to use positive discipline rather than spanking or timeout, and don’t be afraid to be different from your friends and family. Seek out your free parenting support from a local API Support Group or the API Warmline.

Falling in love is scary…3 tips that make it safer

Falling in love with our kids is a daring thing to do. Love opens us up, wide open, no armor, no defenses. We’re naked and vulnerable when we’re in love.

Love is powerful. It’s not just cupids and chocolates and diamonds. It’s raw, heart, open, vulnerable, crazy, courageous, light that shines on every dark corner, every unmet need, and everything we don’t want to look at.

It’s our connection to all beings. It’s noticing that when I breathe, my children breathe, my lover breathes, my cat breathes, everyone in my neighborhood is breathing, all people in the world are breathing. All animals and even all plants in the world are breathing. We’re all connected, which should feel great.

Except I can’t control what happens to anyone except me, and even that’s uncertain. The more I love, the more I let in uncertainty.

We’re afraid to get swamped by the needs of everyone. We don’t know how to meet our own needs. We’ve never learned how to set boundaries to give what we want to give, to give what empowers us, and to only give in ways that fulfill us.

Love includes noticing that everything I love will end or change. Nothing is permanent. When our children blast our hearts open with their love, all this fear can come in, too. No one likes to feel afraid and so we distract. We shut down. We get busy. We work. We worry. We micromanage. We ignore.

Yet, we long for love. Many of us feel disconnected and alone. We struggle to feel a sense of belonging. So, what can we do?
This Valentine’s Day where pandora forsale.plus do the most of their sales that have been well reviewed, I ask each of us to challenge ourselves. I ask you to open your heart. I ask you to feel. Feel your own longing. Feel your desire to connect and belong. Dare to feel how much you love your children.

If you can’t or if it’s hard, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you don’t love or that you’re broken or wrong. For most of us, it just means we’re scared. But there are ways to make the fire of love easier to bear.

3 Tips That Make It Safer for Us to Love

1) Embrace feelings — all feelings

Emotions are energy in motion. When we feel them, and let them flow through us, they are cleansing and energizing: Tears are like a good rain, laughter is a fresh breeze, shouting shakes up dormant energy. Being with a trusted friend, a supportive coach, or alone in nature, you can find safe places to feel your feelings. When we let them move, feelings often have this cleansing energizing effect and pass within 15 minutes. However, when we block our feelings, they get stuck in us. They keep asking for attention. They start to ferment and contort themselves. They become scary and overwhelming. The more comfortable you are with feelings, the safer it will be for you to love.

2) Learn to set good boundaries

Author Brené Brown speaks of boundaries as the ability to say what’s OK and what’s not OK with us. When we are very clear on this, then we can give fully, love fully, and stop when we need to. We trust ourselves to stop when we need to and that makes it possible to be fully engaged while we’re engaging. Without these boundaries and self-trust, we are never sure if we’re giving too much and neither are the people around us. If you often feel resentment, anger, or numbness, chances are good that getting better with boundaries would help you be happier and more compassionate.

3) Create good stories

Your mind is a meaning-maker: Its job is to create meaning and stories about everything that happens to you. When you open your heart and then feel hurt or disappointment, your mind may create a story that, That was stupid, and You shouldn’t open up again. That’s one story, but there are others you can tell that fit the facts and make your life happier. To the extent that we can notice the power of our minds to interpret and even create our experiences, we are able to write our own stories. Your mind is making up a story right this instant. Take back your power and make it a good story.

Using these 3 tools will put you well on your way to feeling more connection, ease, and belonging. We need more of that in our families, our communities, and our world.

One definition of courage is to feel the fear and do it anyway. Thank you for moving through your fear and daring to love.

The gift of opening my heart

How an insecure childhood attachment affects a marriage…and what you can do about that

This summer, my husband and I will celebrate 15 years together. It has been a wild, sweet, frustrating at times, unforgettable ride through the years. I thought it would’ve grown easier over time. In some ways, it has. In other ways, it hasn’t.

I’m learning that is exactly how marriage is. It’s a relationship, and all relationships — as we know from our parent-child relationships — take work. Marriage isn’t something you can just get to a plateau and let it slide from there. If you’re not working on your marriage relationship — just as if you’re not working to continually strengthen your parent-child attachment relationship — it immediately begins to fall away. You always have to make it a priority and problem-solve to keep it a priority, despite whatever our lives throw our way.

However, there is a key difference between a marriage attachment bond and a parent-child attachment bond. With children, they are hard-wired to seek attachment with us and so learn to adapt how they seek that attachment from how we teach them — intentionally or inadvertently — to do so. This is why children who are overtly abused continue to feel love toward their abusive parents — the children are adapting out of their need for survival, and attachment to parents is as much a component of survival as air and food.

With our spouses, the attachment bond is different. One spouse doesn’t need the other for survival as strongly as we need air and food — we each have grown into an adult who is able to self-assure our survival — so each spouse isn’t subconsciously adapting to the other’s cues for what is acceptable or not in that relationship.

This means our adapting to one another’s attachment-seeking and keeping style has to be much more intentional. If we are not mindful about how to consciously adapt to one another’s style of relating, our subconscious attachment styles developed in childhood will reign in the relationship. Much of the time, this may not be a problem. Especially if you developed a secure attachment style as a child, relating to your spouse may be relatively easy.

But, especially if you developed an insecure attachment style as a child, you may have difficulty in relating to your spouse — and vice versa — particularly during conflict, while distressed, or when stressed-out. This is when the very common anxious and avoidance traits of insecure attachment are most prominent, and can be hardest to overcome.

When our ingrained attachment needs are triggered, such as during a conflict with our spouse, it can be difficult to rise above our knee-jerk, subconscious reflexes to shut down/run away or worry/cling — relating tendencies that insecurely attached children learn to be able to maintain attachment with their parents, but these same tendencies don’t work so well in other relationships like marriage.

Spouses, especially those who grew up with insecure attachments with their own parents, have to learn how to rise above those ingrained attachment reflexes to be able to adapt healthily to their spouse. The more we practice it, the more it rewires our brain in new, healthy ways to seek and strengthen attachment with our spouse without resorting to the insecure attachment tendencies from our youth.

This takes hard, hard work. But it’s so worth it.

As we observe Marriage Week, February 7-14 in the United States, Attachment Parenting International (API) reminds you of the incredible importance of seeking out like-minded support not only for parenting but also for your marriage. API offers many resources for couples, including these favorites:

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Positive discipline: The ‘golden rule’ of parenting

“From the attachment parenting perspective, positive discipline embodies the ‘golden rule’ of parenting: In other words, treat children the way you would want to be treated if you were the child.

Positive discipline is an overarching concept based on the understanding that when a child is treated respectfully within loving, age-appropriate boundaries, he will develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and empathy for others.

Positive discipline is rooted in a secure, trusting, and loving relationship between parent and child.” ~ Attached at the Heart: Eight Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children by Barbara Nicholson & Lysa Parker

Learn 25 tried-and-true tips for positive discipline, and so much more in this definitive guide to attachment parenting written by API’s cofounders. Purchase your copy through the Amazon link above to have a portion of the proceeds benefit Attachment Parenting International.

6 tips for talking politics with children

The present political discourse around our nation is undeniable as it is inescapable. We can see, hear, and feel the tension on the airwaves and social media, in the energy that surrounds us and the air we breathe. It’s transcending beyond the political realm –into the social and our everyday encounters.

Regardless of one’s convictions or political views, I’m certain that we can all agree that it seems as though the pot has been heating up for quite some time: The flames have been gradually rising and the water is now boiling…about to dangerously spill over.

I’m concerned about the “spilling over” effect of this political climate and its overall impact in our society — on our children.

Time to Listen

For the past year I’ve been following the political coverage on TV, reading articles from a variety of sources all across the political gamut, observing and engaging in social media discussions, and interacting with people from diverse political affiliations. Time and time again, I keep thinking in frustration: No one listens to one another, the door to collaboration and cooperation has been shut tight, and worst of all, there is little to no effort to try to understand each other’s point of view.

I would like to state clearly that I believe we don’t necessarily have to agree with one another, but it’s imperative that we at least listen and try to understand one another. Most of us want and wish the same for ourselves, our family, and our nation — though we clearly disagree on the avenues to accomplish it.

I wholeheartedly believe that listening and understanding are key components in creating tolerant and peaceful environments, both at home and beyond — in our communities and nation.

It feels as though there are two different, opposing camps on opposite sides of our country with the road between them nearly completely blocked. There is minimal communication and flow between the two camps.

It Starts At Home

As that image made itself into my mind one day, I chuckled because at times I feel like there are two opposing camps in my own house: my 11-year-old daughter and my 9-year-old son. Their personalities, interests, and habits are polar opposites. Yet, we are a family living under the same roof, and we share a special, sacred bond. To keep the peace and harmony in my house, I have to ensure the road between the two “camps” is wide open and well-traveled.

It has been a challenging task. I have been exploring different avenues to teach my kids to respect one another’s differences, to listen and keep the communication flowing, and to use their differences as a nurturing platform to strengthen one another, rather than diminish each other. We are a family — it’s imperative that we bridge our differences in spite and despite of them all. I wish the same for our nation and our children — because at the end of the day, we are one big family.

Attachment Parenting International supports collaboration and cooperation in the parent-child relationship, as well as nonviolent communication, listening and respect. Following such practices fosters understanding, harmony, and a strong bond – which in turn reduce tensions conflicts within the family structure.

In my role as a parent, I learned the importance of listening and trying my best to understand the true expressions of my kids’ behaviors –what thoughts and emotions are manifested through their behavior.

For example, as I observed my 12-month-old daughter become increasingly irritated and frustrated, I explored and suspected that her inability to verbally communicate contributed to her discontent. Seeking solutions, I embraced sign language to alleviate her inability to communicate effectively, and she had transformed and blossomed into a content, happy child.

With my younger son, I needed to understand that his needs and learning habits are vastly different than those of his older sister. Once I understood and accepted that, I was able to explore and implement different ways of approaching challenges that we encountered. Consequently, his schoolwork and overall behavior at home improved drastically.

Striving to understand why our children behave in certain ways and listening to them doesn’t necessarily mean we accept or support certain behaviors but rather, it means that we are better equipped to diffuse our frustrations and seek effective solutions. For instance, we understand that it is developmentally appropriate for a 12-month-old baby to shriek and throw a tantrum when they are frustrated due to their inability to communicate verbally and be understood. It gets us closer to minimizing conflicts and finding solutions.

Talking To Our Children About Politics, And Other Uncomfortable Topics

As a mother of 2 children and an individual who advocates for peaceful existence for our children, I’m concerned for our nation but, as importantly, about the inflamed political and social tone our kids are surrounded by.

Conflicts and struggles can present great opportunities for learning and growth. We can seize the current political climate as an invitation to open the door to valuable and applicable conversations with our children.

Here are some discussion points and contemplations that can help steer the conversation in the right direction — keeping in mind subject matter and language ought to be age-appropriate:

  1. Family Values — Clarify your own family values. It’s a good opportunity to emphasize your belief system, ideals, and priorities.
  2. Listen — Sometimes as parents we can get caught up in expressing our own views and feelings that we neglect to ask our children how they feel or think. Just ask them about their own thoughts and feelings. Make sure to create a comfortable space for them to form and share their own opinions, even if they differ from yours.
  3. Bullying –Most kids have likely been exposed to the past election cycle’s political debates, ads, and mudslinging. This can open the conversation about how and why some adults and kids mistreat or bully each other.
    · What are some constructive ways kids can use to deal with everyday bullying scenarios at school or the playground?
    · When kids witness a peer being bullied, how can they best diffuse the situation?
  4. Honesty — Some delicate and divisive subjects,  such as racism, terrorism, war, and poverty, can be challenging to discuss and uncomfortable. Our children expect and deserve our honesty. Children’s books and movies can be helpful tools to aid the conversation.
  5. Accept and respect differences — Our differences can strengthen or weaken us. It is important that we emphasize to children that different people come from different backgrounds and experiences in life and, as such, their values and points of views may be at odds with our own.
    · What are some scenarios where children encounter differences?
    · What are respectful and peaceful ways they can practice to bridge their differences?
  6. Humor — Humor and laughter can be beneficial by lightening up a mood and reducing stress and anxiety. Political humor is one of the hallmarks of a free society. You can share with your kids age-appropriate political cartoons and watch comedy together.
    · An important point to highlight: When does funny get to a point of not-so-funny-anymore, harsh, or even abusive?

Our kids observe and learn from our behavior as we are their most significant role models. As such, we ought to engage in introspection and investigate our own conduct — demonstrating to them that we are fostering a tolerant environment for them as well as our nation.

I can think of very few things that are more paramount than nurturing our children for a compassionate world. It’s our responsibility to illustrate to them that we know better, we can do and be better — individually and collectively — as one big family.

On handling unwanted parenting advice

Attached at the Heart, 2nd edition“Just as your baby is an important part of your life, she is also important to others. People who care about your baby are bonded to you and your child in a special way that invites their counsel. Knowing this may give you a reason to handle the interference gently, in a way that leaves everyone’s feelings intact. Regardless of the advice, she is your baby and, in the end, you will raise your child the way you think best.” ~ Attached at the Heart: Eight Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children by Barbara Nicholson & Lysa Parker

Learn 13 strategies of how to respond to unwanted parenting advice, and so much more in this definitive guide to attachment parenting written by API’s cofounders. Purchase your copy through the Amazon link above to have a portion of the proceeds benefit Attachment Parenting International.