Making a Difference to Children

1034106_ripplesI make a difference every day, and so do you.

July is recognized as “Make a Difference to Children Month,” and many organizations and businesses took this opportunity to raise awareness of their causes or to ask for donations to a favorite child-centered charity. And that is wonderful.

But we as parents are making a difference to children in the world every single day. We may not be teachers, childcare providers, parent educators or other professionals who touch the lives of children outside our homes, but yet, we are still making a huge difference to our communities and society—through our relationships with our children.

We as parents may forget the ripple effect that Attachment Parenting has. One drop causes a small ring, rippling out from the center in successively larger rings until the rings meet the shore. That is our impact. We as parents are that drop, and by raising our children in a way that promotes secure attachment, we are creating ripples that will reverberate through our society, carried by the interactions and impressions that our children make on their partners, children, and other important relationships, as well as those interactions and impressions that our grandchildren make, our great-grandchildren, and so forth.

Sometimes we get impatient with how slowly Attachment Parenting seems to catch on in our society when in reality, the grassroots movement is on fire! Just a few years ago, Attachment Parenting was still a relatively unknown term for our solidly research-based parenting approach, and now it’s a household name. Yes, it meets resistance as it clashes with long-held assumptions that children were blank slates, could spoil with too much holding and had to be controlled and coerced and punished to be taught to be good. The Attachment Parenting Movement has grown up with the technology able to demonstrate that children’s brain development depends on the consistently loving interactions between parent and child, as well as the technology able to provide education and support to even the most rural of households.

Our society’s parenting philosophies are gradually adopting the research-based information that makes up the Attachment Parenting approach. It’s generally accepted now that breastfeeding is better for babies, that there is merit to reducing Cesarean birth rates and most hospitals allow doulas to assist with their maternity patients. We’re seeing the importance of the family sit-down meal, that holding our babies as much as possible will not spoil them, that there is no basis in the idea that crying helps a baby’s lungs to grow. Society is recognizing that the attachment quality between the parent and the child is important not only for ease of childrearing and influence with the adolescent, but also that it affects relationship quality lifelong for that child. We’re slowing getting to the point of recognizing the vital importance of parents in the early childhood years, that social-emotional development affects cognitive gain, too, that spanking and physical punishments are archaic and unneeded.

We still have a ways to go. Nighttime parenting and non-punitive discipline are still hard to grasp for society at large, as is the crucial need for parents to spend much more time with their children and that it’s possible to find personal balance while doing so. We still have more education, support, and advocacy to do.

And that’s what Attachment Parenting International’s global base of volunteers do—volunteers who are parents themselves, whose lives were touched by Attachment Parenting to the point of making miracles in their family relationships, and who dedicate a little of their time and talents to carrying the Attachment Movement forward.

We are so thankful for our volunteers, who include the API-trained leaders of local parenting support groups and resource leaders available for information in their communities.

But you are making a difference to children simply by focusing on your attachment with your child in your everyday life. You are making a difference to society by playing with your child, by learning about your child’s interests, by listening to your child and responding with sensitivity as you would with a close friend, by being there. You are making a difference by teaching your child what positive, peaceful, empathetic, HEALTHY relationships look like. And when your child goes out in the world, his or her relationships will promote this same secure attachment quality so that each relationship encountered will touch off another ripple in our society, furthering the idea of Attachment Parenting through generations to come. Thank you.

Here, through API, every day is “Make a Difference to Children Month.”

Co-parenting: Sharing Our Struggles

co-parenting: sharing our struggles

Successful relationships require humility, that is, the ability to view our own wants and needs on a larger scale, which includes the wants and needs of others. As attachment parents, many of us know the importance of balancing our wants and needs with those of our child.

In marriage, this balance can be a bit more difficult, especially if our co-parent is not necessarily on the same page as us when it comes to parenting decisions. “They should know better” we argue, and too often lose our humility in dealing with adults. But, nobody is perfect.

When I first became an attachment parent, my husband didn’t immediately hop on board with all of the principles (and the resulting methods) that I was proposing we practice. And I must admit, the principles of attachment parenting and nonviolent communication didn’t quite carry over in the practice of my marriage.

Many times, I would tell my husband outright that his way of parenting was wrong, and that I was opposed to the way he was choosing to parent – the same way I had parented just months before. I pitted his actions against my philosophy.

What I failed to realize was this: While my parenting philosophy had changed, a change in my everyday parenting practices and reactions had yet to catch up. I had years of parenting beliefs and vices I needed to unlearn, and my husband was no different.

My arguing with him didn’t make him want to cooperate, but instead put him in a defensive mode. I wasn’t winning him over with this approach, that’s for sure!

What I was doing was the opposite of what I would want someone to do if I made a parenting mistake. I know I wouldn’t respond well if someone pointed out my every mistake in the heat of the moment. It almost always makes things worse.

I had my own parenting struggles, and he didn’t seem to respond to mine in the same manner. I realized what a hypocrite I was being.

Opening Communication

I decided to start showing some humility. Knowing that I still had my own parenting difficulties, I would share something I was struggling with, and ask for his advice.

It went something like this: “I really want to stop raising my voice at the kids, but it just seems to happen automatically when I’m frustrated. What do you think I should do?”

By humbling myself, they became “our” struggles, and we truly became partners on this parenting journey. Over time, once it became clear to him that I would no longer be singling out his behavior, he began to feel comfortable enough to open up to me about his own personal struggles.

Yes, it’s possible to feel connected to your partner even if you don’t share exactly the same views on parenting, and even if one of you has less visible struggles than the other. Some marriages require a bit more humility (read: balance) than others.

If you’re looking to open the lines of communication in your home, pick behaviors and issues that you both struggle with. Don’t single out something that only your spouse struggles with. Don’t use this as an opportunity to pick apart your spouse’s parenting. Be real. Be humble.

When we are humble, we can see that we are not “better” than other parents. We all have our hangups. We are all still learning and growing.

Tip: This also works with other family members and friends. And our kids!

 

Signed…Better Late Than Never

Hello all,

I wanted to share this letter below that I received today. I am deeply touched that this person, identity unknown, took the time to express himself so openly and honestly. I hope we can all read it and take something from it, whether we are parents or not.

 

Dear Sandy,

I’m probably not your average reader. I’m a single man without kids.

I take responsibility for the path I have chosen to follow in life and the dreams that have never come to pass because I have never followed them to see where they would lead. Still, there is a part of me that wonders how much different my life would be today if I had a mother who had loved me, the way you love your boys.

I wasn’t yet in the first grade and I remember going to bed at night, looking forward to the hugs and kisses my mom would give me. I loved her so much and couldn’t tell her enough times or kiss her cheek often enough. Then a moment would come, before bed, when she would tell me that she’d had enough and it was time for bed. I would ask her to tell me just one more time that she loved me and she would refuse, telling me that it was getting to be a bit much.

I would begin by asking nicely and when she refused to tell me that she loved me, just one more time, I would begin to beg, “mom, please tell me that you love me, please.” “No”, she would say. “Now go to bed and quit being a baby.”

I remember the feeling of going to bed wondering if I had upset my mom and if she even still loved me at all. In the morning, I would wake up and look for a smile on my mother’s face or a hug to reassure me that she did in fact still love me.

It was this one event that continually reoccured. She quit tucking me in at night because of the fuss it would cause and this is what began the deterioration of my self confidence. From that point forward I remember that I would never hear her say, “I love you” often enough. Even when she did say it, I doubted whether she really meant it or was just saying it so that I would behave.

The feeling of insecurity that comes from believing you must earn your mother’s love, is damaging beyond belief to a child. When I made this observation last week, I began crying uncontrollably.

I just want to say, “Thank you for showing me what love looks like.” From this one observation I have been able to take back control of my emotions and I have a confidence in myself that I have never had before. Now, for the fist time in my life I truly feel comfortable in my own skin.

Signed,
Better late than never.

Thank you, Mr. single man without kids, for your kind words and for allowing yourself to be vulnerable. I respect you for looking at yourself, and your upbringing, and for being open to learning and growing. I am so happy you are comfortable within your own skin and I wish you so much love and happiness in this life. We all deserve to be loved and I do believe that the need for LOVE begins at birth and continues on always. I am so delighted that you get to move forward and live your life from a different perspective and with a newfound confidence. Much Love and Respect.

Please always tell the ones you LOVE that you LOVE them. Please do your best to show it by being patient, respectful, loving and kind. We all need to hear it and feel it. I choose Love always and I am sending my Love to all of you.

Why Attachment Parenting Promotes a More Connected Society

My family and I spent most of the day yesterday in the Federal Building updating passports. It was a very long day in a crowded space and what else does one do, other than watch your kids play superheroes with other kids in their common language, except people watch.

I’ve always enjoyed people watching as a way of understanding the world and people more. It’s so easy to let the little gifts pass us by unless we take the time to look for them. Today we were surrounded by newborns. There must have been at least 20-30 of them with their parents in line and in the waiting area. At first my heart just melted and I had to ask how old they were. Most were only a week or two weeks old. Then my boys and I just stared as we viewed the miraculous sightings of these precious little angels.

I watched the mothers and fathers and it took me back to those first days and weeks. I remembered the magic, the LOVE, the fragility, the fatigue…all of it. I saw first borns, twins and siblings with their new little sidekicks. It made the day go by and I truly enjoyed being around and interacting with such a diverse group of people and witnessing my boys doing the same.

What surprised me the most in this very large crowd was the fact that not one person was wearing their baby in a wrap or carrier. It actually made me sad but I also felt fortunate as I reflected on the years I wore both of my boys in wraps and carriers. I wanted to stand up and tell everyone the joy that comes from wearing your child. The room was filled with strollers and car seats. I watched the babies drink from their bottles, get burped and then placed back into their seats, then repeat….over the course of several hours. My wish is that one day soon, I will walk into a waiting room or public setting and see a room full of parents holding and wearing their babies.

I am not judging those who bottle feed, nor am I judging you if your baby is in a car seat or stroller. What I am saying however, is that I feel our society has become and continues to promote and encourage detachment from our children. They go from car seats, to strollers to walkers, to play pens to cribs. I know they get fed and cuddled somewhere in between but I can’t help but to wish we could all connect even more. We all need to know we are loved and our babies are completely dependent on us for everything. If we are able to give them as much love, contact and warmth as possible, I believe they will feel more secure and safe which will only make them thrive even more.

In other societies and cultures throughout the world, it is normal and commonplace to wear your baby all day, sleep with your baby and spend as much time skin to skin as possible. Especially in the first year of life. I think about newborns. I imagine their world before they were delivered into this one. They are tucked in, warm, cozy, safe and comfortable within the womb of their Mother. When they enter this new realm, they are no longer tucked in tightly. The stimulation must be overwhelming and the warmth and basic necessities are all they require. Sleep, eat, burp, poop, repeat.

I know as a first time parent the responsibility of it all can be intimidating and taking care of the basics makes you feel like you made it through the day successfully.

Again, I want to make it clear that I understand we all do our best. At least I hope so. Not everyone was born to be a babywearing, cosleeping, breastfeeding parent. I get it. Not everyone will agree with me and in fact I realize many will disagree with me and my ways. That is okay also.

My need to express here isn’t about you or me or how we parent. It’s about the most fundamental principal in all of life. LOVE. If you aren’t wearing your baby in a wrap or carrier, I’m not saying you don’t love the same way a babywearing parent does. I’m saying, let’s do it more. All I thought about in that room all day was how happy those little babies would have been if they were wrapped up close against their Mothers.

I saw people getting frustrated and annoyed that their babies were crying. Babies cry. Don’t ever feel embarrassed or ashamed when yours does. To me though, the quickest way to ease them once you tend to their needs, is to hold them close. Let them feel your heartbeat. Let them smell your skin. Let them hear your voice. Let them feel the thousands of kisses on their little heads as you carry them throughout your day.

Yes, I support babywearing. Yes, I am an attachment parent. I am not saying I’m better. I am not saying it is all easy. What I am saying is this. This time goes by so fast. These moments need to be cherished. The sacrifices we make are worth it. I promise. The love, security, stability, warmth and connection you offer will make a difference. My wish for the New Year is for all of us to Love more. To connect more. To Accept more. To Attach more. That is my wish.

Congratulations to all of you who have already experienced the extraordinary gift of giving birth. I wish those of you expecting to have safe and healthy deliveries. Being a mother is the greatest gift and role of my life. I am so thankful for my boys and for my family and I will love with all of my heart each and every minute I am breathing.

Much Love and Support,

Observations in Attachment Parenting in Bangladesh – Guest Post by Annie Urban

Around the world, parents love their babies. They do what they think is best to keep them safe, to nurture them, and to help them grow into exceptional human beings. In many Western countries, attachment parenting is being celebrated as a positive choice that parents can make, while in may traditional cultures it is what they’ve been practicing all along.

In September, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Bangladesh with Save the Children Canada to visit their health and nutrition and education programs. While the main goal of the trip was to understand the needs of children in those countries and have the opportunity to observe the positive results that Save the Children’s programs are having, I found it fascinating to be able to observe similarities and differences in parenting styles and choices.

Although I didn’t have the opportunity to spend enough time with families there to get an in-depth understanding of their parenting styles, there were some observations I was able to make as it relates to some of the principles of attachment parenting.

Prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting: A lot of remote communities in Bangladesh haven’t had access to health workers or authoritative health information to help women in the community to prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting. Women have given birth at home, on dirt floors, without a trained birth assistant present. Through Save the Children Canada’s programs, communities are able to found birth centres that act as a central point to care for midwives to care for mothers throughout their pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. The health workers there visit mothers at home during their pregnancies to check in on them and educate them. These communities have also established community action groups and engaged community volunteers to help identify health problems that mothers and babies are facing and to find ways to address those through education and care in their communities.

Feed with love and respect: According to the WHO Global Data Bank on Infant and Young Child Feeding, 98% of babies in Bangladesh are breastfed and the average age of weaning is 33 months. Dig even deeper and you’ll see that 95% of one year olds are still being breastfed as are 91% of two year olds. I was incredibly impressed with these statistics. The idea of a mother being unable to breastfeed is foreign to them because it is so rare that significant breastfeeding problems occur. Breastfeeding is a part of their culture and formula is something that is unnecessary and unaffordable for most. Breastfeeding on cue is the norm in Bangladesh and if anything mothers there need to be taught about the importance of introducing solids at the right time instead of relying on just breast milk to meet the baby’s nutritional needs for too long.

Use Nurturing Touch: One of the ways that women around the world keep their babies close to them is through babywearing. Many traditional cultures have types of wraps or carriers that they use and a lot of those have been adapted and adopted in Western cultures. I was curious to see how the moms carried their babies in Bangladesh and was surprised to find out that they don’t use carriers at all. It isn’t that they were using strollers (they weren’t) or that the babies weren’t being held (they were). But whenever I saw babies they were being carried on a mom’s hip or sitting on a mom’s lap. When I asked why no carriers, I was told that it just isn’t part of their culture and that there are always enough hands around (grandmothers, aunts, friends, etc.) that when the mother needs to put the baby down to do something, someone else can hold the baby. That made a lot of sense to me within a home or community environment, but I have to admit I was tired just watching some of these moms walk along long paths or roads with a large baby on their hip supported by their arm.

Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally: Cribs? What cribs? In all of the homes that we visited in Bangladesh, it was a given that the mom would sleep with the baby. In fact, most homes had only one or two rooms and the whole family slept together in one bed. Educational materials around breastfeeding always picture the mom lying in bed with the baby to nurse at night.

Provide Consistent and Loving Care:  In most families and in the Bangladeshi culture, it seems as though consistent and loving care is the norm. Babies are kept close and as they get older, they are given more independence and responsibility, but families remain very close with everyone living in one small space and often working together in the family business. Unfortunately, for some families, that isn’t the reality. If they cannot afford to feed all of their children, they may send some of them away to work as servants (child domestic workers) in another family’s home, often far away. Those children may be sent away as young as six years old, will have no regular contact with their families back in their village, and are often mistreated and abused by the families they are working for.

Overall, from what I saw in Bangladesh, the principles of attachment parenting are very much a part of their culture. They are very community-minded and the village steps in to help raise children in a nurturing environment, helping them to overcome some of the challenges to attachment parenting that are created by the isolation of the nuclear family in Western cultures. The challenges they face are due to the dire economic circumstances that sometimes prevent them from being able to parent in the way that they would like, creating a lot of heartbreak for families and having dire consequences for children.

The good news though is that the work that non-profit organizations like Save the Children are doing in Bangladesh is having exceptional results. The programs are designed in a way that fits with the local culture and that is sustainable, so that communities can take control of their own health, education and destiny.

For more information

Save the Children Canada

Getting Results for Maternal and Child Health in Bangladesh Through Community Empowerment.

More on breastfeeding in Bangladesh

More on child domestic workers 

Save the Children Canada’s health and nutrition programs for mothers and children

 

Annie has been blogging about the art and science of parenting on the PhD in Parenting Blog since May 2008. She is a social, political and consumer advocate on issues of importance to parents, women and children. She uses her blog as a platform to create awareness and to advocate for change, calling out the government, corporations, media and sometimes other bloggers for positions, policies and actions that threaten the rights and well-being of parents and their children

My First API Meeting: Finding My People

Welcome Sign Mosaic in Warm Tones
flickr/Nutmeg Designs

My daughter was weeks old when I realized I needed to get out of the house and find a community. The moment my daughter was born all the systems and strategies I’d read about flew out the window.  I realized that I knew what felt right and what my baby needed: closeness, love, attention, and safety. I also realized that I could not sleep unless I could feel her breathing next to me.

I walked into my first API meeting with my baby in arms. Around the room were seated moms chatting, playing with their children, nursing, and laughing. Is this some kind of parenting paradise, I thought. I had never been in a room with mothers nursing toddlers, babies happily asleep in slings amidst the din of happy conversation and so much care for little people.  “Welcome to our  Attachment Parenting group, we are glad you are here.” said the leader.  And so began my first API meeting. I had no idea what Attachment Parenting was when my first child was born. But I knew what felt right and made sense. I had no idea that there was a whole organization filled with people who felt the same and had such riches of experience and knowledge.

The meeting topic was Positive Discipline and I learned about the concept of Time In with a child vs. a Time Out. It made so much sense and yet was so counter to what I had heard my whole life. The idea that a child needs more time, attention, love and special concern when they are out of control made me immediately begin to rethink my preconceptions. Parents shared experiences and difficult situations and I heard over and over the idea that they were looking for what their children needed not how to control them.

And then there were the kids themselves. Babies and toddlers were playing on the floor in the middle of our discussion circle. Sometimes toys were snatched or thrown but I watched closely how mothers spoke to their children at these moments. Short, gentle sentences. Help for those in tears. Emphasis on empathy. But no forced sharing or robotic apologies. The older children orbited our group. Running, talking, laughing and then settling in to play in a fort they had invented under a table. Who is watching them, I kept thinking at first. But as the meeting progressed I noticed this little group of five to nine year olds was incredibly independent and very very kind to one another. I saw a moment when a little girl was trying to get into the fort and couldn’t fit. “Come on, let’s get another chair and put it here.” said another child. Hmm, I thought, this compassion idea isn’t just theory here.

What struck me most about my first API meeting was that I felt at home. I felt that I had a place where I could be open about my parenting questions without fearing that I would be berated with harsh advice. And just to see other parents in action, caring and being present for their children was priceless. I learned that I was not alone that day. I knew walking out that I now had a community: I had found my people!

The Importance of Volunteering

We have a familiar face guest blogging for us today – former Managing Editor of the blog of Attachment Parenting International, Melissa Hincha-Ownby! She talks about what volunteering has meant for her family and how volunteering can benefit yours. 

The Importance of Volunteering

by Melissa Hincha-Ownby

The parenting journey starts with giving birth, breastfeeding and attending to your infant’s every need.  As your children get older these decisions change – homeschool, public school or private school?  Sports, the arts or both?  One activity that isn’t as common, but should be, is volunteering.  In my opinion, every child should have the opportunity to volunteer their time with an organization they feel passionate about.

According to the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service, there are many benefits to children serving as volunteers including:

Volunteering promotes healthy lifestyle and choices – children that volunteer are less likely to use drugs, drink alcohol or participate in other at-risk behaviors

Volunteering enhances development – psychological, social and intellectual development growth is enhanced through volunteerism

Volunteering teaches life skills – children that volunteer learn the importance of task completion, reliability, getting along well with others and more

Volunteering improves the community – when children volunteer, they become active and positive participants in their community

Volunteering encourages a lifelong service ethic – children that volunteer grow up to be adults that volunteer

The best way to encourage volunteerism in our children, especially those of us with older children, is to model the behavior.  So much of parenting is about modeling the behavior we want our children to emulate and this holds true for volunteerism.

I first began volunteering with Attachment Parenting International as a new support group leader in 2004.  Now here it is eight years later and I’m still an active volunteer with the organization even though my role has changed over the years.

As I’ve worked on projects for API, I’ve explain to my children what I’m doing and why.  Now, when I take a phone call from a new mom that is worried that her child isn’t sleeping well, my children know that this is part of my volunteer work.  I’ve been volunteering for the majority of my children’s lives and so, for them, volunteerism is normal.

Now my oldest is nearing the age where he can go out and find an organization that he is passionate about and volunteer on his own.  I’m excited to guide him during this new chapter in his life.
For those of you with older children – do they volunteer their time with an organization they are passionate about?

 

 

Melissa is an Arizona-based freelance writer that is passionate about parenting, the environment and of course, volunteerism.  Find her at the Mother Nature Network.

 

Bonding With Children at Every Age – Guest Post by Susan Stiffelman

Once past the early years, many parents come to API for information on how to continue raising children with attachment in mind. Today’s special guest blogger, Susan Stiffelman, explains how Attachment Parenting principles apply to the next phases of a child’s life.

 

Bonding with Children at Every Age

by MFT Susan Stiffelman

Most of us know that a secure attachment to an attuned parent contributes enormously to a child’s developing sense of self, emotional resilience, and capacity for intimacy. Research has shown that when a child forms a strong attachment with a stable and loving caregiver in the first five years of life, his psychological health will be influenced for the better.

But what if a healthy attachment doesn’t develop during a child’s formative years? Many parents worry that if mother was unavailable due to illness when she had her baby, or a child was adopted at age six, the window of opportunity for establishing a strong parent/child attachment will have been irretrievably lost, and their youngster will be incapable of forging deep attachments as an adult.

Alan Smoufe, Professor of Child Psychology in the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota writes in March/ April 2011 Psychotherapy Networker, “Another important implication of attachment research is that it’s possible to develop a secure state of mind as an adult, even in the face of a difficult childhood. Early experience influences later development, but it isn’t fate: therapeutic experiences can profoundly alter an individual’s life course.”

In an ideal situation, the journey of attachment progresses smoothly from birth through young adulthood, empowering the child to venture forth into her ever-expanding world with a solid sense of self.

But it’s never too late to nourish a strong attachment with your child, regardless of his or her age. I have even seen profound shifts in the parent/child bond when the “child” was an adult. While there is plenty of evidence that the first years of life are critical when it comes to attachment, healing is always an option, even in a child’s later years.

Here are some tips for fortifying attachment with children as they grow up.

18 months:

Attunement is the key when bonding with an infant or baby. By letting your toddler know that you are present with him and reading his signals accurately at least most of the time, he relaxes into the safety of your presence.

Physical contact is a very important element in deepening attachment; cuddling and snuggling continue to help regulate a young child’s nervous system.

Your soothing voice is powerfully comforting. Sing, recite poems, or simply allow your child to bathe in the cadence of your calm words to strengthen connection.

5 years:

Play helps attachment deepen. Running, hiding, chasing and laughing all contribute to a stronger sense of connection between you and your child.

Physical contact is important, but make sure that all of you is available. Splitting your attention between your child and your Blackberry is not the same as being fully present with your child for at least a little time each day.

Seek out your child’s company (when she isn’t demanding it) with an invitation to do something unexpected, like playing a game of checkers or heading to the park. When you generously seek one on one time with your youngster, she feels liked, cherished and nourished.

10 years:

• Initiate a project that reflects one of your child’s non-academic interests, like drawing, baking or making music. This lets her feel you are genuinely interested in who she is, and who she’s becoming.

• Tell your child what—specifically—you like, love or admire about them. “No one tells a joke the way you do, sweetheart”, or “I love how patient you are with the neighbor’s little kids.” When a child feels seen by you for qualities that have nothing to do with accomplishments or achievements, it strengthens attachment.

• Listen to your child, and acknowledge the message underneath his words. If he knows you understand his emotional ups and downs—and can hear what he’s going through without jumping in with lectures or advice– it makes him feel close to you.

15 years:

Surprise your teenager with an unexpected “hookie” day, going somewhere neither of you have ever been before. Sharing new experiences is a wonderful way to fortify connection.

Shift your conversations from lectures and advice-giving to asking your teen’s opinions and ideas about a newsworthy or controversial topic, giving them the sense that you are genuinely interested in what they think and believe.

Show your teen that you are her ally, rather than adversary. If there’s a behavior or academic issue, approach it by coming alongside her, rather than at her with unwanted suggestions or demands. By feeling you’re on her side—even when things are rough—she’ll feel naturally connected to you, even if there’s conflict below the surface.

20 years:

Ask your adult son or daughter how often they’d like to be in touch, and respect their wishes, keeping in mind that frequency will change—often rapidly—depending on what they’re going through at any given time.

Stay connected with text messages or short emails with news from home that help your young adult feel close to you without feeling suffocated with long phone calls.

Don’t take a young adult’s infrequent contact personally. Make sure he hears the warmth in your voice when you do talk, and knows that you’re there in the background if he needs an emotional lift, while trusting him to rely more on himself to get through life’s ups and downs.

Every child—regardless of their age—longs to have a healthy connection with their parent. It is never too late to work on developing a deep connection with your children. My mom and I have grown enormously closer in the last few years, and she is in her eighties! So don’t give up if things between you and your child feel distant or awkward. Take one step at a time toward fortifying attachment, and you will both be richly rewarded.

 

Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected, released in March, 2012 by Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster. Ms. Stiffelman is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child therapist, a K-9 credentialed teacher, an educational therapist and a sought after parenting coach. Her approach focuses on helping parents be the calm, confident “Captain of the ship” that children naturally want to cooperate with, confide in, and respect. Susan is the weekly staff parenting expert (“Parent Coach”) for the Huffington Post where her columns have garnered an international following. Susan weighs in on issues relevant to every age group and demographic, ranging from toddler meltdowns, tweens who sass back, and teens who may be struggling with depression or substance abuse.. Susan periodically offers articles for Psychology Today, Gaiam, More.com and other sites.

 

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