Attachment Parenting and School Age Children

by Amber Strocel on August 22, 2014

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Last week the second of my two children, my son, turned 6. I can hardly believe it, to be honest. Six! He’s not a baby anymore, or a toddler, or a preschooler. He’s not even a kindergartner. He’s looking forward to starting first grade in a couple of weeks. His big sister will be starting fourth grade at the same time.

attachment parenting school ageI was just looking back over some of the other posts I’ve written here at APtly Said, which date back to 2009. Over the past five years, my parenting style has shifted as my children have grown. Their needs have changed, so the way I relate to them has also changed. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is my commitment to maintaining a secure attachment. The way I go about it may be a little bit different these days, but the reasons are much the same.

I want my kids to know that I am here for them, no matter what. Because we have created and nurtured a strong bond, they know that I am in their corner, and they always have a safe space to return to after their adventures in the world. Today I have happy, independent, resilient kids. Is it all due to our Attachment Parenting practices? I have no way of knowing for sure, but this parenting approach has worked well for our family. And when my kids bowl me over with their awesomeness, it’s like payback for the time I invested in them when they were younger.

When we think of Attachment Parenting, we often think of practices like cosleeping, breastfeeding and babywearing. With a 9 year old and a 6 year old, I don’t do any of those things. So what does Attachment Parenting look like at this stage? Here’s how I incorporate Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting into my daily parenting:

  • Feed with Love and Respect — For my kids, this means offering a variety of healthy foods, and then respecting their choices. Of course we have the occasional treat, but because I know that they generally choose from food that I am comfortable with, I don’t sweat that too much. At this point, my kids are also preparing more of their own snacks, so they are taking even more charge over what they eat, choosing from the foods I offer. They especially love to use the toaster.
  • Respond with Sensitivity — Today I give my kids more space to work through their own emotions and solve some of their own problems. I let them know that I’m available if they need help or comfort, but I offer a hug rather than just scooping them up. Sometimes when my kids are upset, they don’t want me around and that’s okay. Almost always, they will come to me and share their anger or sadness — or their happiness, for that matter — when they’re ready. When that happens, I do my best to be available and offer them both support and guidance.
  • Use Nurturing Touch — While I don’t babywear anymore, and I respect my children’s wishes around physical contact, we do spend a lot of time cuddling and playing together. My son likes to play a game he calls “huggy mommy” in which I lavish him with hugs and kisses and he tries to get away, laughing all the while. My daughter periodically comes to me and says she just needs a hug. This physical connection seems to help ground my kids and let them know I’m there.
  • Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally — There are a number of steps I take to help my kids feel safe and secure at night. My son has a night light and special blanket, and both of my children have favorite stuffed animals. We have bedtime routines with stories and lullabies to help prepare them for sleep. My kids also know that if they need me at night, they can come to me for a snuggle. Sometimes I will tuck them back in their own beds; other times — if they’re really upset by a bad dream, for instance — I’ll bring them into bed with me for a while or for the rest of the night.
  • Provide Consistent and Loving Care — These days, time away from me is mostly spent at school. This works well for our family. I love our neighborhood school, and my kids enjoy it as well. I realize that school is much more than childcare, but for many working parents it serves that purpose, and it’s pretty fantastic. If the neighborhood school hadn’t been a good fit for my kids, I would have considered alternatives. Many of my friends chose alternative paths within the public school system, or opted for private school or homeschool. I think you’ve got to choose what works for your family, whether it’s daycare or school, so that both parents and kids feel secure in the choice.
  • Practice Positive Discipline — With school-age children, a lot of our discipline is really problem-solving. I do my best to listen to my children, validate their emotions and meet their needs. Then we work together to come up with positive solutions to problems. When there are issues at school, I make sure I understand exactly what happened from the teacher, and as adults, we craft a basic approach so that my kids are getting consistent messages and they understand what is expected of them. It’s hard to follow the rules if you don’t understand them or the reasoning behind them.
  • Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life — With school-age children, I have much more free time than I did when I had babies and toddlers. While my kids still require adult supervision, they can be trusted to take care of their own basic needs and I even give them a bit of freedom to play at the park across from our house. Also, the time spent in school is time I can use for other tasks outside of parenting. This freedom has allowed me to do things like go back to school myself.

How do you practice Attachment Parenting with your school age children?

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An Unexpected Evening Out with Our Son

by Guest blogger on August 19, 2014

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By Barbara Nicholson, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International and coauthor of Attached at the Heart

barbaranicholsonYou never know when a precious family memory will start out as a seeming disaster!

Many years ago, my husband and I had been planning a special evening out with his boss. I bought a new dress and carefully arranged childcare with a trusted family friend. The plan was that I would drop off our boys ages 7, 5 and 2, and then come home for a leisurely bath, so we’d have plenty of time to get ready.

For some reason, our 5-year-old son did not want to be left that night. He worried about it all day, but I kept reassuring him that he’d have so much fun, we’d only be gone a few hours, and that Mommy and Daddy would spend some special time with him the next day.

I finally got them all in the car, but as I was pulling away from the curb, I looked back to see that he was still very distressed and begged me to let him stay home. Impulsively, he ran back into the house and I followed, asking my husband to talk to him, as I had no choice but to take the other boys to the sitter. I dreaded the scene when I returned home, thinking that they would both be upset, and my husband would be stressed about what to do. We were going to a very exclusive restaurant that did not cater to children, so I wondered if we’d have to cancel.

I will never forget the joy on my son’s face when I came back in the house. My husband had dressed him in his Sunday best suit, and they were both looking so handsome. They had talked through the problem and decided that if it was this traumatic to be left, and if he was willing to go to a grown-up event and sit quietly in the restaurant, we would let him go with us. Of course, he was an angel that night and all the guests couldn’t get over his maturity and sweetness.

I remember how it felt so right to listen to him and find a positive solution that kept all of our dignity intact. And I will always be grateful to my husband for trusting that our son’s needs came above a dinner out with the boss!

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API-Inspired Leadership: An interview with Lauren Osborne

August 15, 2014
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In celebration of Attachment Parenting International’s 20th Anniversary, the four-part “API-Inspired Leadership” series honors the unique paths that inspired parents to pursue API Leadership. This series will run on Fridays. Here is the first part of the series: API’s Leadership program is an opportunity for passionate parents, like Lauren Osborne of Huntsville-Madison, Alabama, USA, to […]

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Choosing to Sit in the Dark

August 13, 2014
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Brené Brown is a researcher at the University of Houston whose work centers on shame, empathy and vulnerability. She has written several books and speaks all over the world on these important topics, which have a dramatic effect on the ways we live, work and raise our children. I just love this segment of one of […]

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API Reads: Parenting from the Inside Out starting this month

August 12, 2014
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The API Reads program is winding down a discussion of Attached at the Heart (2nd edition) by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker. Join in on the last of the topics being discussed online at GoodReads: Principle 8: Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life – Peace Within Creates Peace at Home Chapter 10: […]

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Postpartum and Exercise

August 11, 2014
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The crazy world of the postpartum body… there is really nothing quite like it. I didn’t even recognize myself after I had my son and was almost at a loss of where to start getting active again. I had always been an active person, but it was difficult at first to figure out how to […]

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World Breastfeeding Week 2014: Parent Support Deserts in the USA

August 7, 2014
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By Rita Brhel, Editor of Attached Family magazine, API’s Publications Coordinator What this year’s celebration of World Breastfeeding Week is really about—more than updating the status on breastfeeding acceptance or increasing understanding for mothers who are unable to breastfeed—is advocacy for parent support. While the primary goal of Attachment Parenting International (API) is to raise […]

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World Breastfeeding Week 2014: Learning to Listen

August 6, 2014
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By Sara Jones Rust My husband gently bounced our wailing 3-week-old son while pacing around our apartment. I quickly finished toweling off, ran a comb through my wet hair and threw on a comfy pair of post-baby pants and a T-shirt. Luckily I had the forethought to brush my teeth while in the shower, a […]

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