Telling Your Child About Death

Just three weeks ago I paced the house, cleaning and straightening. I was nervous about breaking the horrible news that our neighbor and first-grade teacher had died suddenly. My eight-year-old daughter adored this woman and I knew that she would be hurt.

Children learn about death from many sources, but they learn about grieving from the people they love most.

Many AP parents want to know how to be an attached parent beyond the baby years. I hope this post helps others to understand how the principles of AP can come together to help you make gentle parenting choices throughout the lives of your children. I did not realize until now just how many AP principles went into my approach.

I learned of the death after dinner, but knew that the end of a long day was the wrong time to tell her. We were still uncertain about the cause of death and hoped that morning would bring more information. Such tragic news delivered at bedtime was sure to bring poor sleep and nightmares. (API Principle 5: Ensure safe sleep; physically and emotionally)

After a good, healthy breakfast (Principle 2: Feed with love and respect) and some play time with her sisters, I found a chance to tell her alone. Random bits of advice and knowledge had swirled around in my head all morning.

Years ago, I heard a child psychologist tell parents that bad news should be delivered to children during the first ten seconds of the conversation. Children often get lost and overly anxious if you spend too much time trying to soften the blow. (Principle 1: Prepare for parenting)

Remembering this, I held her hands (Principle 4: Use nurturing touch) and told her that I had something hard to tell her. She was sitting across from me on my bed. I watched her head drop and her tiny heart break with the horrible words, “Mrs. Apolzan died this weekend.”

With just the slightest movement of my hands, she fell into my arms so we could cry together. (Principle 3: Respond with sensitivity.) Over the next few days, I answered all of her questions as patiently and honestly as I could. We allowed her to cry, to be sad, but also to forget all about it and just play.

She attended a painfully sad memorial service with me at her request and we talked about different customs regarding death, funerals and burial options. She is a very inquisitive child and the extra information seemed to help her to sort out her feelings.

Death is painful only to the living. I did not want to write about it. Looking back now, I realize I simply did not want to live it. I certainly did not want to be the one to inflict the heartache of death upon my child.

But, I’m a mother.

I could never let someone else deliver such a crushing blow. My only real choice was to catch her, to hold her and to love her while she learned this painful lesson of life.

Grace and peace.

We loved you, Mrs. Apolzan, and we will always be grateful for our opportunity to know you.

Teaching environmental responsibility

Editor’s note: Happy Earth Day 2015! While this post was originally published on April 26, 2011, it’s a good reminder of how Attachment Parenting dovetails with teaching the next generation about caring for our communities and planet.

5623106272_c4ecb7be77Today is Earth Day, which means that many of us are thinking about our environmental footprint. My 2-year-old Jacob is totally oblivious to all of the talk about saving the planet, but my 6-year-old Hannah is very interested.

She’s picking up cues from school and the media, and every day she asks me how one or more of our activities impact the planet. I do my best to answer honestly, in a way that she’ll understand.

As I talk to Hannah about how our actions impact the planet, I’ve been reflecting on what my parenting style teaches my children about taking care of the earth. I think that if I generally communicate empathy and connectedness through the way that I respond to my children, they will feel that empathy and connectedness toward other people. And, by extension, toward the planet as a whole.

I see a definite connection with Attachment Parenting International‘s Eight Principles of Parenting. Here are a few examples from my home:

Feed with Love and Respect

As we introduce table foods, we’re creating a connection between our child and the world. Everything that we consume is provided in some way by the planet. And as we strive to make healthy eating choices, we’ll naturally be eating more whole foods. It’s a very logical step to talk to our children about where their food comes from, how it’s grown and how life on earth is sustained.

Respond with Sensitivity

We build a relationship of trust with our children by responding to them sensitively. It starts with a newborn’s first cries, and it continues as our children grow and we involve ourselves in their interests and strive to meet their needs. The relationship that is formed in the process creates a model for how children interact with the larger world around them.

If they learn to trust us, they will also learn to trust others — and develop empathy for them. They will understand that their actions have an impact, and they’ll want to make sure it’s helpful instead of harmful.

Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life

One of the best ways that I’ve found to recharge my own batteries, as well as my kids’ batteries, is to get out into nature. Many parents that I talk to share the same experience. Getting outside, even if it just means spending 20 minutes in the backyard, can turn everyone’s mood around.

When my kids are outside, they explore the natural world. The wonder they experience is amazing, as they learn about plants and animals and insects and weather and seasons. They come to appreciate the earth, and they want to care for and support it.

By making healthy choices, taking the time to get outside, and helping our children learn empathy and feel connectedness, we’re setting the stage for them to make more sustainable choices. Without saying a word, our actions are communicating our values — and our kids pick up on them naturally. I think that’s a great thing.

How have your children learned to live more lightly on the planet? And do you think your parenting style plays a role in how they view the larger world? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Mamas Need White Space

One of my favorite non-mom blogs is Zen Habits. This week he posted about making space in your life using the design principle of creating white space.

Creating white space around the important things and getting rid of clutter lets you focus on what’s important.

I loved the post so much that I immediately began moving things out of my home or into better spots. I’m somewhat of a hoarder and I often pile things up in and around my home instead of finding a good spot for it right away. I also live in a tiny little apartment with a 2-year-old. Nuff said.

So this post was so perfect for me. It clarified for me just why creating space is important. Not just so your house will look clean for when you have company over. But so your mind can concentrate in an orderly space. Interior is affected by exterior.

Then I imagined what parenting would be like if I used the white space principle on my parenting. Lose arbitrary rules. Focus on what’s important, a connection with my child. That’s what really needs to pop out at me.

Using white space creates:

* greater legibility
* feeling of luxury
* breathing room & balance
* more emphasis

Wouldn’t it be nice if we felt those things surrounding our relationship with our children?
Continue reading “Mamas Need White Space”

Taking Care of Ourselves

park benchMany parents (myself included) are under the impression that the moment we are born into the world of parenting, our own needs and desires become secondary. That is true to an extent: parents do not make up the bulk of the nightlife scene, we often have to yield the bathroom to littler bodies, and we have less time to leisurely read the newspaper or go backpacking when children are around.

But sharing our time and space with children does not mean that we have been forced into a life of martyrdom. We have our own needs, and we need to take care of ourselves in order to parent effectively. I recently wrote a guest post on dealing with mama guilt; the first suggestion in that article was to take care of yourself.

Mothers who are stretched too thin – who run from work to their kids’ activities, who volunteer and organize, who cook and clean – without also doing something to make themselves happy, are apt to burn out. There are several reasons this is not ideal, not the least of which is that a burnt out mama is not functioning at her best.

Nor is a completely selfless mother the best role model. She is passively teaching her children that her needs are not important. Consequently, her children will not consider her thoughts and feelings either. She is also influencing her children’s future relationships. Her child may learn to always bow to the will of others, or he may never stop to think about the feelings and needs of his friends and family. Neither is a desirable outcome. If you are looking  hair cut for women in Franklin , visit us now. In case you’re searching for the cut you need when you need it, simply stroll in, call ahead, or registration online anytime. You can demand your preferred beautician or see any of our skilled staff!

Take Care of Number One

Here are a few things I have tried to do lately to take care of myself:

  • Leaving the house for an hour or two: This gives my husband and son the chance to play uninterrupted. I can run an errand or surf the Internet alone, and my son learns that papa takes care of him just as well as mama does.
  • Stashing a special treat away: Not only does sneaking a treat give me a little chocolate “ahhhh” moment, but it has the added benefit of detracting from any potential mama guilt for letting my son eat too much sugar.
  • Indulging my vanity: I used to care what I looked like when I left the house; not so much anymore. I’m lucky if my clothes match, and I rarely do anything beyond washing my hair. But once or twice a year I have someone cut my hair. And once in awhile I color my hair from a box (I used to pay someone to do that, but I’ve discovered that’s not necessary at this point in my life). And I insist on my favorite shampoo (one big reason I’ve been hesitant to go no ‘poo).

What do you do to take care of yourself, and how often do you consciously do so?

What effects can you feel if you neglect your own needs?

Photo credit: costi

Modeling AP Values

I spend a lot of time writing and speaking to people about the values I hold as a person who practices attachment/responsive parenting. I try to use facts and logic to respectfully encourage others to research their parenting decisions and embrace ideas that might have been uncomfortable a generation ago, such as full-term breastfeeding and breastfeeding in public, leaving our sons intact, responding to our children with love and respect, and realizing the detrimental effects of physical discipline.

Looking through some recent pictures of my son (Kieran), I realized that we (as parents who share these values) might be doing more just by modeling these concepts to our children. Of course I will continue to extol the value of full-term breastfeeding, and I will defend every mother’s right to nurse in public when, where and how she wants to. But I take immense comfort in the fact that my son might not need to fight these same battles because we are normalizing it for his generation, simply by living.

Here are some examples of how the Eight API Principles are being normalized for my son every day:

Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

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My sister recently had a baby (this picture is of Kieran with my sister only weeks before she gave birth). Throughout her pregnancy, we talked with Kieran about how babies grow in their mama’s tummies. He loved feeling my sister’s stomach, and he often talked about the baby growing in his own belly.

Someday, I hope that he will experience the pregnancy of his own little brother or sister. I look forward to his thoughts on all of the changes that will occur in my body. We will prepare him for his sibling’s homebirth and allow him to participate as fully as is practical and comfortable for everyone.
Continue reading “Modeling AP Values”

Practice Positive Discipline & Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

Following the Principles: Parts 7 & 8 in a series of 8

Baby Lazlo~ 1/6/10 ~ 11lbs~  23"long ~ Born Safely at Home!
Baby Lazlo~ 1/6/10 ~ 11lbs~ 23"long ~ Born Safely at Home!

Now that we have finally welcomed our newest addition— an 11lb son named Lazlo who was born safely at our home — I can take the time to sit down and write again. The swelling and the restlessness of late pregnancy made computer time just one more form of torture in a sea of physical discomforts. Fortunately, those discomforts are behind me now (although I vow to never, ever forget the challenges of the third trimester, just in case I am ever stricken with Baby Fever again years from now) and my recovery has been a joyous time of healing, snuggling, nursing and marveling. Well…for the most part.

Our first tandem nursing session a few minutes after Lazlo's birth.
Our first tandem nursing session a few minutes after Lazlo's birth.

There, of course, is my sweet little 22-month-old T-Bird to deal with. While she is thrilled that there is breastmilk on the menu again, she is not as enthusiastic about her new little brother trying to enjoy that milk–with or without her. Nursing them together is a terrific way to get a worry-free 20-minute power-nap, but can also backfire and result in T-Bird’s numerous attempts to unlatch the baby, to poke him the eye, to cover his face with a blanket, to elbow him… fun times. So then, I will go with the other extreme and nurse T-Bird first, or nurse her in another room, or nurse her after I get Lazlo to sleep. She then proceeds to spend that time constantly unlatching and relatching asking “Where’s Lazlo? Baby wants nursie?” while pulling, scratching and patting the unoccupied breast…more fun times. Not to mention the all-new behaviors when we are not nursing—throwing, hitting, screeching, drawing on walls, stomping food into the carpets.
Continue reading “Practice Positive Discipline & Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life”

Attachment Parenting and the Holidays

The holiday season is in full swing and as families get together for celebrations, they might find themselves faced with several challenges: co-sleeping while traveling, maintaining balance with so much going on, nurturing a new baby, and much more. There have been several posts here at API Speaks related to the holidays and so today, I thought I’d compile them all in one place – Attachment Parenting and the Holidays.

Thankful – Even young children can learn how to be thankful for what they have this holiday season.

Attached During the Holiday – Learn how one family stays attached during the busy holiday season.

The Giving Tree – One mom shares her family traditions and asks you to share yours.

Creating Holiday Traditions – Every year you have the opportunity to create a new holiday tradition, what do you have planned for this year?

Attachment Parenting Makes the Holidays Easier – Babywearing leaves you with two hands free! What other ways has attachment parenting made your holiday season a little bit easier?

Holiday Expectations Denied – How do you handle it when your holiday plans don’t go as expected?

A Foundation of Trust – Santa or no Santa? Weigh in on this issue.

Guiding Children to Associate the Holiday Season with Giving – The holidays are more about giving than getting; help your children embrace this idea.

AP Picture Books Make Great Holiday Presents – What holiday list would be complete without a gift recommendation?

Ringing in the New Year – A New Year’s Resolution for each of API’s Principles of Parenting.

If you have an attachment parenting-related holiday post that you’d like to submit to API Speaks, please email apispeaks [at] attachmentparenting [dot] org.

Melissa is the mother of two children and has been an API Leader since 2004. Melissa blogs about raising eco-conscious children at Raising Them Green.

Following the Principles: Use Nurturing Touch

Part 4 of a series of 8: Carrying our little LF#5 (Loin Fruit Number Five) in my body is the ultimate in nurturing touch. A tiny body wrapped up inside of mine.  Bouncing. Rolling. Rocking. Swaying. Swirling. Surrounded by warmth. We are hoping to have another gentle homebirth for our new little one . We will enjoy our Babymoon as long as we can, remaining in bed and nursing for 2-3 weeks while my body heals. Of course we have made preparations (as much as anyone can prepare for the unknown at any rate) in case of an emergency need to transfer our care to a hospital and are prepared to do whatever it takes to make even the most medicalized situation a high-touch, high-compassion one. No matter what happens with our pregnancy and birth, we know that we are committed to our attached and connected parenting principles. We trust that our new baby will be lovingly connected to our family even if that means finding new ways to apply the attachment parenting principles to whatever circumstances LF#5 is welcomed into the world under.

A Rare Moment: Everyone together! T-Bird, Sir Hubby, Bug, Brent, Ella
A Rare Moment: Everyone together! T-Bird, Sir Hubby, Bug, Brent, Ella

But what about the rest of us? We are already dealing with situations which are challenging our ability to stay connected. It seems as if the past few months could be defined by one word: Distance. Distance keeps our family apart while Sir Hubby attempts to balance his business, his father’s health, and our family. Distance has my son several hours away at college.  Our older girls are both at ages where they are pulling away (in healthy ways) to explore independence, self-directed learning, and social pursuits without holding our hands. But the biggest distance I feel is the one between my little T-Bird and I. Continue reading “Following the Principles: Use Nurturing Touch”

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