Attachment parenting has been a phrase in parenting circles for quite a while now – you see it talked about a fair amount in books on parenting infants, babies and toddlers, and it even seems to sneak into a few of the books on preschoolers, but then it’s as if it simply disappears.
As if, having laid this foundation of attachment you don’t really have to think about it after that.
And although I completely understand that life is life and there will be times when we can’t be as attached and connected with our kids and teens as we might want, that doesn’t mean this is a program we can set up at the beginning of life and then walk away and leave to run on it’s own. The simple truth is that we as humans can’t learn if we’re afraid, and the best way to turn off the alarm bells in our kids’ heads is by helping them to maintain the feeling that they are connected and attached – that they are ‘seen, known and precious’ – whatever age they may be.
This week, to help get us started with this process I have a few ‘attachment’ concepts that work with all of us, regardless of age or stage, that you can start to use in your day-to-day interactions with your kids and teens, and it can be helpful to link these ideas with the way that they work with infants and young children.
Affirmation is the first attachment concept we need to keep in mind. In infants we do this by coo-ing, eye contact, and smiling. This isn’t the big huge enormous celebrations that we’ll talk about in a minute – this is just the day-to-day encouragement that tells our children that they are seen – that we have noticed the things that they are doing that are positive and that we care about how wonderful and challenging and exciting and scary life is through their eyes. Examples of affirmations may include (but are in no way limited to) some of the following:
- Great job putting your shoes on!
- I love that you found your shirt, your pants and your underwear all by yourself!
- Great job clearing your dishes!
- Did you just put your bag away without me even having to ask? Way to go!
- I’m so impressed that you realized you needed some rest after your long day – great choice to read your book in the back yard away from your brothers!
- Did you make that yourself? Look at how intricate the beading is on that! I’m way impressed!
- When did you get so good at chess? I used to have to help you remember which way the pieces move and now you know every single one!
You start to get the idea. We want to ‘catch’ our kids in the act of doing amazingly well at as many of their ‘little’ and ‘big’ things as we can, because this is what gives us the basis for relationship – this is what tells them that they are seen and that they matter to us. Our kids receive dozens and dozens of blows to their confidence, value and worth every day, and while there may be times when we genuinely need to correct a behaviour or teach a new skill, one of the most effective ways we can help our children feel seen – and consequently safe enough to learn and grow and develop – is with affirmations!
For more info on this concept you can check out my post from January called 10:1.