Raising An Adult By 18 – Attachment At Every Stage: Support

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

This week we are looking at five ways of helping to give our kids the attachment – the sense of safety and connectedness that comes from feeling seen, known and precious – that allows them to learn and develop to reach their full potential. Today, we are looking at the idea of support.

Support is our second attachment concept – and it goes along with the theme of being seen. You see, sometimes knowing our kids means seeing them, knowing what they are currently able to do, what they’re currently struggling with, and realizing that with just a little bit of support they could make that jump from the one to the other.

With babies we seem to automatically know we need to help them hold their heads up, then their bodies to help them sit, then help them stand and help them walk. But often we forget that this might continue to be necessary as they grow. We probably realize that they’ll need help laying out their clothes the right way round to get dressed, or getting their shoes on the correct feet as toddlers. We might remember that they need help learning to read – especially when those first reader books come home from school with homework sheets attached. But support especially is something I see disappearing as our kids get on in elementary, junior high and high school. Here are some examples of support in action in those later years:

  • Sitting down each night and reviewing what homework has come in and supporting your child or teen as they learn how to make plans for how and when they will get projects finished.
  • Sitting with your child or teen when assignments get annoying and helping them break down steps, do some of the typing or talk through a complicated math concept with them.
  • Talking with teachers and other school staff if you have concerns that your child may be struggling more than expected with their work – advocating for testing if you suspect learning disabilities or are just unsure of why there is such a gap between what you know about your child and what they seem to be able to accomplish at school.
  • Finding community opportunities for a child who is passionate about a sport or hobby or artform.
  • Finding community supports for a child who needs a higher level of support – be it therapy, group opportunities like Guides or Scouts, spaces to volunteer in like the Y that give purpose or whatever your child may need to succeed.
  • Recognizing that as your child approaches times of transition (like the first few weeks of junior high or high school) they may appreciate or even need a little bit of extra support with tasks you thought they knew how to do already, like making their lunches or making sure they get up on time to eat breakfast. Helping your child or teenager with these things doesn’t mean they can’t do them, but you’re taking off a little bit of the pressure and responsibility from their shoulders so that they can concentrate on their newest, latest, greatest skill. (Plus, this is completely developmentally normal!)
  • Listening to, accepting and supporting your child’s need for mental health days, and working with the school to mark these absences as excused, allowing them to avoid academic penalties whenever possible, without demanding that we need to know all of the reasons before a youth is ready to tell their parent. Youth mental health is a huge issue at the moment – the teenage brain is a rapidly changing, social pressures can run excruciatingly high, and increasing violence in school and economic despair are having significant impacts on our kids’ sense of safety every time they go to school – so when we send the message to our youth that their mental health is supported and valued by their parents it can help to keep the conversation open on this issue, which in turn can mitigate the negative impacts of untreated/unsupported mental health challenges.
  • If you do feel like you need to coach your child on when to most wisely take those needed mental health days (for example if you start getting calls home from school or marks seem to be suffering), remember to have these conversations assuming that your youth is trying their best, wants to succeed, but that – just like when they were younger – they may have gotten in (a little or a lot) over their head! Questions to ask without judgment or criticism might include things like:
    • ‘What assignments/quizzes/tests are happening today?’
    • ‘Are you prepared for that assignment/quiz/test or did you fall behind?’
    • ‘Is there anything making it harder for you to stay on top of this particular subject?’ (Think about things like is the teacher honouring their Individual Education Plan or equivalent support document, if relevant; is the youth in a course that they are uninterested in, unmotivated for, or that is actually beyond their skill level; is it possible that there are learning disabilities that weren’t picked up on at a younger age that should now be investigated; and then beyond just academics – what time of day is the class, are they eating enough/getting enough sleep/getting enough exercise to be able to stay present in the class; is there a conflict with another student in the class or bullying going on?)
    • ‘What will it look like in this class with this teacher if you are absent for this quiz or test or this assignment is late?’
    • ‘Is there anything you need from me to help you get back on track?’
    • ‘Is there anything you need from the school to help you get back on track that we could work on together?’ (Some teachers are simply more responsive when a parent comes with a youth to make a recovery plan than they are when a youth comes on their own – if you can make yourself available it can really help).
    • ‘Is there anything else going on at school right now that you want to talk about?’
    • Depending on what answers you get from these questions – whether immediately or over time – there may be further conversations to have between your youth and the staff or administration at your youth’s school.
  • Supporting your child as they gain increasing independence, by doing things like:
    • taking them on the bus the first time and teaching them how to use google maps to navigate buses in your city and purchasing bus tickets for them whenever possible to give them greater independence
    • helping them to obtain a bike that fits them properly so that they can travel further independently without cost
    • taking them with you grocery shopping regularly
    • giving them increasing opportunities and support in cooking, baking and household tasks (with you beside them all the way)
    • making sure you’re teaching basic life skills such as how to file taxes, how to change lightbulbs and how to unclog a sink or toilet

The biggest trick with support is that we as parents have to remember that we are supporting this child to take their next step – which means leaving our expectations and assumptions and timelines behind and seeing them clearly so that we can help them to take whatever step needs to come next for them personally.

Keep your eyes peeled for tomorrow’s post on using bids to develop attachment.


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