Nurturing peace, in our parenting and for our world

“Raising children with secure attachments and empathic hearts is essential to the future of mankind.” ~  GreatNonprofits               

Is world peace possible?

When we talk about the potential for Attachment Parenting (AP) to change the world, we are referring to a ripple effect: Our children growing up to be compassionate and empathic, becoming parents who foster secure attachments with their children, whose children then grow up to repeat the cycle of peaceful living both in and out of the home.

Just as what our society experienced with La Leche League International’s breastfeeding revolution, begun more than 50 years ago, we at Attachment Parenting International (API) hope to be looking at a different kind of society in coming generations — one where disconnection is discouraged and healthy, securely attached relationships are valued above competition and shame.

API is working every day to better support and educate parents on establishing and maintaining secure parent-child attachments. And parents are striving every day to put API’s Eight Principles of Parenting to practice in their relationships with their children.Peace cover

Many parents understand the challenge of adopting the new mindset needed to fully grasp how Attachment Parenting works. This parenting approach requires looking at the world, your child, your role as a parent and the way you live through a different lens — one that not everyone is able to see. API’s core ethos is a frame of mind that we promote as a practice: respect, empathy, compassion and reflection in thought, speech and action toward yourself and others.

We believe that parents who practice these habits of mind will tend to practice parenting in ways that resemble API’s Eight Principles of Parenting. Likewise, we believe that parents who practice the behaviors included in API’s Eight Principles of Parenting are capable and more likely to practice API’s ethos.

Once you “get” API’s ethos, Attachment Parenting can become much easier, much more “natural.” I liken it to stepping into an alternate reality of sorts. You’re able to view the world, your community, your home, your and others’ relationships in a whole new way and you can then make life choices from a point of compassion, trust, empathy and peace.

Our society tends to shy away from the concept of peace. To many, the idea of world peace is seen to be purely idealistic. We know it as the standard answer of pageant girls competing for Miss America. We also know that there are numerous ways touted to be the answer for world peace, from literacy to racial equality to democracy to certain religions. In reality, for world peace to be attainable, it must take a combination of factors from all levels of society. To many people, that may seem impossible.

Yet peace is what all of our souls crave. It is a sense of contentment, safety and security. It is a joy that doesn’t follow emotional highs and lows, that doesn’t fade when the excitement of instant gratification falls away. Peace allows us to feel centered and to find our balance quickly when we lose our equilibrium. Peace gives us a sense of purpose and control of our life’s direction. When living in peace, people have space in their lives to focus on bettering not only their lives but those around them.

But peace can be elusive. Many people simply do not know how to get to a place of peace in their lives.

For parents who come to API seeking support and education about Attachment Parenting, we offer a way. Secure attachment, promoted through API’s Eight Principles of Parenting, can help families find peace. A person whose attachment needs are met is able to think beyond the basic, day-to-day physical and mental survival and the “need” of trying to keep up with the hectic pace of society, in order to experience greater personal well-being and family enjoyment.

API is doing its part in promoting world peace. We truly believe in our mission to educate and support all parents in raising secure, joyful and empathic children in order to strengthen families and create a more compassionate world. And we truly believe in parents’ ability to do just that — to raise their children to be secure, full of joy, with the ability to empathize with and show compassion to others.

In the latest issue of The Attached Family, we explore “Nurturing Peace,” both in ourselves and our children, with features on:

  • lisa reaganConscious Living with Lisa Reagan, a member of API’s Resource Advisory Council, editor of Kindred and cofounder of Families for Conscious Living – through whom we learn about the inspiration for this issue’s cover, “the Blue Marble,” and how each of us are involved in public policy everyday of our lives just by living the choices we make…such how we choose to take parental leave after the birth of our baby
  • IMAG0486.JPGHow to talk to our children about world tragedies, why its important for our children’s development to protect them from adult concerns and what our children actually hear when parents mention starving children in Africa to try to convince their children to finish the food on their plates — by Tamara Brennan, executive director of the Sexto Sol Center
  • merynThe Dynamic of Disappearing Dads with Meryn Callander, author of Why Dads Leave – through whom we learn the generational result of disconnected parenting of boys, and how wives and partners can better support new fathers in healing their emotional wounds to be able to bond with their baby and fulfill their role in the family.
  • jane stevensACEs with Jane Stevens, founder of ACES Too High and ACEs Connection Network – through whom we learn what ACEs are, how they are just as prevalent among families in poverty as well as middle class, and how resilience-building practices such as Attachment Parenting can both heal and protect people from the consequences of ACEs.

We hope that this issue of The Attached Family will inspire your efforts to nurture peace within yourself, your family, your community and, yes, even the world.

Daily Tip: Importance of maternal availability

Daily Tips logo“Maternal availability is particularly important within the first 2 years of life,” said the late child development psychologist John Bowlby, who was widely recognized for his ground-breaking work in attachment theory. “Even [experiences of separation] as brief as a few hours in duration can result in distress.”

From The Source Weekly‘s Whatever, Mom blog

 

martha with viola from LLL and baby stephen

API Board of Directors member Martha Sears and the late Viola Lennon (La Leche League International Cofounder) holding Martha’s son, Stephan

Send us a photo of how you are celebrating this year’s AP Month theme: “Parental Presence: Birthing Families, Strengthening Society.” Read here for complete guidelines.

Attachment Parenting International thanks Lamaze International, DONA, Dr. Peter Haiman, Linda Folden Palmer, DC and Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper for being our AP Month 2015 Sponsors!

WBW 2015: Who is the woman in pink?

martha with viola from LLL and baby stephenWhen this photograph was taken, 26 years ago, there was no such thing as the Internet. Cameras were film only. There were no cell phones or laptops. If you wanted to make a phone call while on the road, you had to first find a pay phone booth. And if you wanted to make a phone call at home, you had to stretch the cord connecting you to the wall around the corner to get any privacy. Mainstream parenting advice wasn’t particularly warm, fueled by a widespread fear of spoiling children, but parents who wanted another perspective could get it through a print subscription of Mothering magazine.

And while more mothers were breastfeeding back then than a couple decades before, lactation consulting was still gaining a foothold in medical practice. The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, which certifies lactation consultants, was still in its infancy, having been founded in 1985. Really, the only reliable source of breastfeeding education and support anywhere was La Leche League (LLL) with its expansive network of mother-to-mother support groups, many in small and rural communities.

This image was captured in 1989 at a LLL conference in Anaheim, California, USA. The young woman in this photograph — do you recognize her? (Keep reading to find out who this mystery mom is!) — was breastfeeding Stephen, the baby in the arms of Viola Lennon, one of LLL’s seven cofounders and coauthor of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

The world said a sad goodbye to Viola in 2010 when she passed away at the age of 86. She was the mother of 10 children and had learned how to breastfeed from her own mother before attending the founding meeting for LLL in 1956. She went on to serve LLL in many ways, including Board chairman and Development Director. LLL quotes Viola saying:

“Breastfeeding…led me to self-discovery and to a greater appreciation of the full humanity of the babies who were entrusted to me. Each woman needs to trust her own instincts, her own feelings and her own sense of what will work for her with each baby. Women in the 1950s had forgotten the wisdom of previous generations in relation to breastfeeding. Mothers who tried to breastfeed on their own were almost always destined to fail. The neighbors sent their children to watch me breastfeed, because they knew the children would not see it anywhere else!”

LLL, from the beginning, nudged parents toward a gentler, more biological way of relating to their children. Breastfeeding itself is rooted in a secure parent-child attachment bond; breastfeeding cannot be successful in any other way. No doubt, the very beginnings of the Attachment Parenting movement are rooted in LLL. Very significantly,  Attachment Parenting International (API) credits LLL as part of our foundation. API’s cofounders Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson were LLL Leaders before they conceived the idea of API in 1994, most influenced by a speaker they heard at an LLL conference about the importance of secure attachment on child development: Dr. Elliott Barker of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children explained how every violent criminal he had encountered had a history of extreme separation and insecure attachment as a child. As LLL continued to focus primarily on breastfeeding as its mission, API was able to take up Attachment Parenting as its mission.

LLL influenced others apart from Lysa and Barbara to educate and support parents in Attachment Parenting, many who soon joined in encouraging API’s growth and development. Among them is pediatrician and API Advisory Board member Dr. William Sears and his wife, API Board of Directors member Martha Sears, a nurse and mother to their eight children. Bill and Martha Sears had first published The Baby Book — considered a parenting bible by families around the world — in 1992, and would go on to become two of the most recognized names in parenting.

MSears159Three years before, in 1989, a young Martha was sitting on a couch with Viola as they admired Stephen. I wonder if Martha had any idea at that point what her future would hold?

Thank you, Martha, for breastfeeding your babies…for becoming a LLL Leader…for coauthoring parenting books that questioned the status quo…and for going on to encourage mothers worldwide to reclaim the wisdom of previous generations in both breastfeeding and parenting in a sensitive, wbw2015-logo-mnurturing, gentle, attachment-minded way. You have made a difference in the world! And we recognize you this World Breastfeeding Week!

Editor’s Pick: AP Month on “How to get from there to here”

“We nod our heads recognizing scientific ‘child outcomes’ as…parenting goals regardless of our style of parenting. But how do we get from there to here? What’s the parenting analogue that allows us parents to be all that, enough of the time, so that these child benefits are possible?” ~ “How to get from there to here” on AP Month 2014

apm logoOn today’s AP Month post, we’re posed the question: How do we get from there to here? How do we, as parents, raise our children to fulfill the positive child outcomes that science shows is the result of effective parenting?

How do we get from there — a child-rearing mindset that might include hostility, rejection and coercion — to here, where we are consistently responding to our children with sensitivity, trust, empathy, affection, compassion and joy?

Many parents find themselves practicing Attachment Parenting all on their own. They may naturally incorporate all or a few of Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting.

I envy those parents a bit.

I was not one of those parents who stumbled upon Attachment Parenting International (API) and had an “aha” moment, recognizing myself and my parenting approach in API’s mission and vision.

I came to API and Attachment Parenting off a jagged path. I wasn’t looking for Attachment Parenting. I had no conscious decision that I was going to raise my children differently than how I was raised.

Before my first daughter was born, I was thrilled about the pregnancy but largely ignorant of preparing for parenting and all that entails. I remember thinking I would do cry-it-out and spanking just as I was raised, because…well, that was how I was raised, and I turned out fine, right?

Then, my first pregnancy ended in a placental abruption and preterm birth at 30 weeks gestation. And my world turned upside down.

rachelIt took me a week to get up the nerve to hold my baby girl. I felt an immense need to be close to her but was terrified of that feeling. I was terrified of giving my heart to her, lest she not survive her fragile state and my heart would break. I had to convince myself that it was better to love, and know, her than not — even if she didn’t make it.

More than that, I had to learn how to love her.

Love is a verb. It’s not a feeling. You can “feel” you love someone, but if you don’t act on that feeling — or if your actions don’t communicate that feeling — is it really love? If your significant other told you he/she felt love for you but then neglected your emotional needs, is that love?

No, love is a verb. It’s an action. It’s not something you “feel,” but something you do. And if you do it, if you build your world around “love” as a verb, your attitude and thought patterns eventually encompass what love is so that your whole self — mind, body, spirit — is loving, but even then, love is a verb, not a “feeling” that can be separated from your actions.

And more than that, “to love” isn’t some arbitrary action that you decide for another person. In order to love, the action has to be what the other person needs. If you have your baby cry it out or if you spank your child, you may feel that is “loving” them because you feel you’re teaching a life lesson, but crying it out and spanking is not perceived as loving actions by your child. It hurts.

Your child may learn, but through discomfort and fear. Do we want our children to associate love with hurt, fear and discomfort? Especially when it’s quite possible that we can teach our children through warm, safe, secure, compassionate actions?

Love, by its very definition, isn’t hurtful. So what does your child need instead?

It can be a hard concept to explain, because it does require a different way of thinking than the authoritarian model, but here’s an illustration:

Before my first daughter’s birth, I had preconceived notions that crying it out would be the best thing to do for my child. She would need to learn to sleep through the night and self-soothe, right? But then I gave birth to a very ill child, one that defied death for weeks after she was delivered, sometimes hanging on the very brink.

I had no idea how to parent such a baby! So I relied on the hospital staff to teach me how to care for my baby.

I learned that love wasn’t a feeling. It is an action. It is meeting my child’s needs, physically and emotionally. More than that, the physical needs and the emotional needs are tied together. They cannot be untied.

To love my baby, I needed to pump my breast milk. She needed that breast milk to help her grow faster and protect her against infections. Formula wouldn’t do. Premature babies fed formula are high risk of the deadly necrotizing enterocolitis.

rachel 2To love my baby, I needed to visit the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit frequently. She needed to hear my voice and have oxytocin-boosting, heartbeat-regulating, breathing-regulating skin-to-skin contact with me and her father to grow better.

To love my baby, I needed to allow myself to follow my biological instincts to be close to her and to bond with her. She required my adoration, attention, encouragement, warmth, compassion, trust in the process and joy in order to grow and develop.

To love my baby, I needed to attend to her cues before she cried. Crying wastes calories, and she needed every calorie she could get. Calories meant growth, and growth meant development, and development meant survival.

To love my baby, I needed to room-share. She was born with severe apnea and was on an apnea monitor for nine months. She needed my rapid action if she stopped breathing, which she did a few times.

To love my baby, I needed to take care of myself emotionally and physically. She needed my presence. I needed to find a sense of balance, and so I began writing about my experience and joined a local La Leche League group. My baby needed to be able to rely on someone who feels refreshed.

To love my baby, I needed to find a more family-friendly workplace. She was highly susceptible to infections and still had numerous problems with her breathing. So I found a job that allowed flex time and for me to work part of my hours at home when my husband was working, so we had the flexibility to care for our daughter’s health issues.

To love my baby, I met her needs. I didn’t go along with parenting choices just because I was raised that way or because my friends did it that way or because “that’s the way it always been done.”

Not everyone understood. I remember several people telling me when I brought my daughter home that I should do cry-it-it as she didn’t need the same level of care as she had in the hospital, that I needed to undo the habits that had created a baby that expected to have her needs met whenever she wanted them, that my baby was being taught to manipulate.

They didn’t understand that it is in meeting those needs whenever my baby requested them, that she was even able to come home and be with us. Babies don’t have “wants.” They only have needs. Whatever my baby wanted is what she needed. In that realization, babies only appear to be manipulative when they struggle against their physical, communicative and emotional limitations to get their needs met.

An aside: Children learn to do behaviors that appear manipulative if their needs are not met, because those needs for secure attachment are as vital to their growth and development as eating or breathing. So not meeting a child’s needs for secure attachment is like taking his/her oxygen away, and like adults, he will “fight” for his life and find another way to get those attachment needs met. The question is, what exactly do children need and how can parents go about meeting those needs? API can help.

While it was La Leche League that introduced me to Attachment Parenting, I was already searching for support to continue what I had learned in the hospital from apparently knowledgeable staff — they had saved my baby after all — amid the flood of criticism.

At some point, on some Internet search, I found Attachment Parenting International. The closest API Support Group was in another state, five hours away, so I contacted API and asked if I could volunteer with them — because I knew that if I didn’t affiliate myself with API in some way, I would not have the strength to continue on with Attachment Parenting without support at home.

API saved my family. I had a lot more to learn about child rearing than the introduction the hospital gave me and I had a setback early on regarding discipline, but through the years, Attachment Parenting has transformed the way I look at myself, my children, my spouse, my community, my world.

API got me from there to here.

All through October, AP Month has been posting daily tips based on this year’s theme: “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children.” All of these tips are written by an amazing API volunteer, Kelly Johnson, the coordinator of AP Month. You can read through all of the tips so far, as well as the tips from previous years, on the AP Month website. Or start having daily tips sent to your inbox by clicking here or “Subscribe” in the upper right corner of the AP Month website. Today’s post is especially inspirational:

How to Get There from Here

Warmth, inductive reasoning, appropriate monitoring and clear communication. We easily identify these as the parenting behaviors associated with beneficial child outcomes that include positive cognitive functioning, social skills, moral development and psychological adjustment.

We nod our heads recognizing these scientific “child outcomes” as the equivalent of our AP Month “flourishing children.” We also recognize all of these benefits as parenting goals regardless of our style of parenting.

But how do we get there from here? What’s the parenting analogue that allows us parents to be all of that enough of the time so that these child benefits are possible? What are the names of the concrete resources that we parents need to have available so that we can provide all of that?

At other times, maybe we also need these resources to help extricate ourselves from situations that may involve our use, inadvertent or planned, of more or less hostility, rejection and coercion.

We can get there from here with support. Telling our stories can help unravel the stress. Taking the breaks we know we need, yet consistently ignore, provide moments of respite. Turning to a hobby, physical activity or just quiet for a brief period allows the spin cycle to slow. How else do you replenish your resources?

How can you plan five minutes (or more) this week to do so?

Reflecting on 20 years of API

By Barbara Nicholson, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International (API) and coauthor of Attached at the Heart with Lysa Parker

API-Logo-20th-themeOn June 6, Lysa and I celebrated the official 20th anniversary of Attachment Parenting International’s founding, but as we like to say: It took us 20 years of teaching and parenting experience to lead us to a decision to start the nonprofit parenting organization you know as API.

As many of you know, we were special education teachers before we became mothers, then La Leche League (LLL) Leaders, students of Attachment Theory and researchers of the childhoods of all kinds of famous and infamous people.

It became obvious that someone needed to do something to help parents navigate the confusing messages we get from our culture: “If you pick them up, you’ll spoil them.” “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” “They’re only doing that to get attention.” “Break the will of the strong-willed child.”

All of these cultural “truths” are in exact opposition to clear and overwhelming research and biographical data on the optimum care and treatment of children. Yet, despite decades of studies, most parents and professionals are still very confused and misinformed! This is the result of the power of cultural myth, family dynamics and imprinting, and excellent marketing of products including books and magazines that have only profit — not child welfare — as their goal.

The journey to this remarkable milestone has been a long one but full of incredible memories and remarkable people.

api 1st exhibit at lll indiana 1994We had our first official “exhibit” for API at the La Leche League of Indiana conference in 1994. There, we met Edwina Froehlich, one of the LLL founders, who was so incredibly kind and supportive.

We later met all of the founders of LLL, who told us that if they hadn’t been so overwhelmed with focusing just on breastfeeding education and support, they would have loved to do what we were doing: focusing on parent education. It was obvious to them that their model of mother-to-mother support was needed by all parents, whether they were breastfeeding or not, as parenting is so demanding without mentors, peers and listening ears.

early api bodIn the early years, we leaned heavily on dear friends in our Nashville, Tennessee, USA, community to serve on our Board of Directors, staff our little office — which for seven years was in Barbara’s house — and volunteer for fundraising efforts. Many were LLL Leaders and friends, and others were like-minded professionals at local universities like Vanderbilt.

Lysa had a teacher friend in Alabama, USA, that was learning how to put up a website on the then-new Internet. She designed a very simple website for us, forcing us to get up to speed, create email addresses and come in to the 21st Century!

Amazingly we heard from some moms in Seattle, Washington, USA, who wanted to be our first API Support Group. We were off!

Of course, our Board was instrumental in helping us define our Eight Principles of Parenting, mission and vision. It’s an ongoing creative group that serves on our Board and other councils today, from all over the world!

There are too many people to thank here, but we want to mention Dr. Elliott Barker, the founder of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the journal, Empathic Parenting. He was an incredible mentor to us as we struggled with the idea of founding a nonprofit. He was instrumental in opening doors to other professionals, guiding us in our vision and mission, warning us of those who might oppose us and even helping us design stationary so we could look professional when we wrote letters! He was so thrilled that our organization had a simple model of parent-to-parent support, which was in his experience one of the most-needed components in society.

Dr. Barker’s work with violent young offenders in the Canadian prison system confirmed what Dr. John Bowlby was seeing in England: These young people were all suffering from the lack of love and affection from a parental figure, and the only way to stem the tide of crime and violence is to support parents in their capacity to give love to their children.

Writing this brings back a flood of memories, reinvigorating why we started API and the gratitude for all the loving people who have given so selflessly of their time and expertise to help families grow strong in love and connection. To all of you who continue to lend your support, we send our love and passionate thanks.

Happy 20th Anniversary, API!