Are AP groups and ideas a thing of the past now that your little ones are big kids (or even – gasp! -- teenagers) and you’re no longer breastfeeding and diapering? Are you an attachment parenting graduate (or drop-out)?
Attachment parenting is not just for babies – and you don’t have to stop as your kids grow older!
Obviously, you only get one chance for bonding at birth. Breastfeeding and baby wearing have their own eras, as well. Those days may be gone, but those strategies represent fewer than half of the seven keys of attachment parenting cited by internationally renowned AP experts Dr. William and Martha Sears.
Think you’re done APing when your kids reach school age? Think again! Many older children still want or need to sleep with a parent or sibling. You won’t be responding to a baby’s cry anymore, but you’ll always need to keep an open ear to the real messages your kids fervently wish you would hear. You’ll want to continue to avoid rigid approaches to parenting and discipline, especially as your children approach their teen years, when striking a balance between the parental “no” and “yes!” grabs center stage once again.
Trust, respect and commitment
Attachment parenting isn’t simply about breastfeeding and holding your baby. It’s about trust, respect and deep commitment. Early patterns of open communication, trust and mutual respect play a vital role in your child's development all the way through the teen years. "AP parents trust their children to grow out of developmental stages naturally, when they are ready," says Kelly's Attachment Parenting. "Because children are allowed to mature at their own pace, they have a secure base from which to learn about their world. Emotional stability and independence of both thought and action are possible as they age, because their childhood needs have been met."
But what about the needs of everyone else in the family? Won't all this intense attention spoil kids and chain parents to years of servitude? Don't forget the seventh "Baby B" listed above: balance. Effective AP families are family-centered, not child-centered; they take into consideration the needs of everyone in the family. "It appears that many parents of toddlers, in their anxiety to be neither negligent nor disrespectful, have gone overboard in what may seem to be the other direction," says researcher Jean Liedloff. The key to building a successful family life is to include children rather than focusing on them, avoiding what Liedloff calls "the unhappy consequences of being child-centered."
So what about all this other stuff?
As you explore AP resources, you'll run into a host of other topics, some closely related to parenting and others where the connection is not so clear: cloth diapering, herbal and homeopathic medicine, whole foods and vegetarianism, homeschooling and more. Many of these areas could be categorized as "natural family living." Are these all necessary ingredients of attached parenting? Absolutely not! Many families who are attracted to attachment parenting are also interested in natural, holistic lifestyles. However positive their influence, however, these areas are not irreplaceable components of an AP repertoire.
The key to successful attachment parenting is how you and your children relate -- not how "crunchy granola" your lifestyle may or may not be. Natural Family Online advocates both attachment parenting and natural family living, but we recognize that different degrees of each work best for different families. Take the ideas and strategies that work for you, leave the rest behind, and build a healthy, vibrant lifestyle that fits your own family.
When you learn better, you do better
Parenting skills aren't something you acquire overnight. Parenting is not a finite skill that you master and then equip in a belt loop or pocket to whip out when needed. Parenting is a journey, and attachment parenting is a journey that integrally involves your children and family in the entire process.
As you learn and grow as a parent, you'll find yourself choosing new and different paths. When this happens, it's important to be able to let go of regrets over old choices. Allow yourself the time to ripen as a parent. When you know better, you do better. Reach out today and parent anew. Parent freely. Parent with love.
Used with permission of Natural Family Online and Lisa Poisso.
Lisa Poisso has performed in ballet and musical theatre, edited magazines, slogged through the world of corporate communications and run a home-based writing and editing business while raising a family. A passionate advocate for attachment parenting and natural family living, she is the founder and publisher of APConnect!, Dallas/Fort Worth’s online resource for AP and natural parenting. She writes for publications and edits for authors specializing in the natural family, attachment parenting, vegetarian and parenting fields.