As we head into a winter of prolonged quarantine during a season that looks like none of us have experienced in years past, we are especially aching to connect with the people we love. Our children are also entering into unknown territory, yearning for a sense of normalcy, traditions and time spent with family and friends.
As days of home isolation continue over the holidays, why not use this time to take a step back and view the big picture of parenting. Reflect on reasons for strengthening the bonds with our children. As parents — this time of year more than ever — knowing our own “why” in this scenario helps us to stay calm, present and attached, and allows us to be more effective in our roles.
Power of attachment
I’ve recently been inspired by research on attachment parenting by Dr. Gordon Neufeld. It’s compelling work. I am reassured that despite less time with their peers these days — a common concern among many parents — our children will be OK. As we build parental attachment with them, they will return to their peer community stronger and resilient.
Attachment, unfortunately, often generates an idea of weakness. If we consider the fitting plant analogy often used by Neufeld in his lectures, we learn that with solid roots, strong parent-child attachments provide a foundation from which independent, whole-hearted people develop.
Nurturing relationships with children, at every age, is the responsibility of the parent. We need to let our children know we want to be with them, that they belong and that they matter. They do not need to earn our attention; it is something we must offer first. A focused 15 minutes with a child is more impactful than an hour of answering emails while trying to engage with a child.
Older children are attached to their friends and eagerly seek peer approval, especially in the world of social media. This can be an unstable source of self-worth. With a strong attachment to our children, we can help them stay secure in their self-worth even as they experience loss or rejection in other relationships.
Stay focused and commit
By keeping our focus on the relationship with our child, we can observe inappropriate behavior patiently and without harsh judgment. Rather than immediately pointing out the wrongness of a rude or irrational outburst, we can make space for their strong emotions. The goal is to remain calm and connected even as the behavior pushes us to want to isolate the child and deliver swift punishment for the wrong behavior.
This is challenging. We must also remember to attend to our own self-care in order to keep calm. With a strong commitment to attachment, we can address negative behaviors after the storm has passed, with a sense of curiosity and desire to understand the child’s underlying feelings.
As we continually invest time and energy into the relationship, we trust that deep work is happening below the surface. We are planting seeds. We have to stay present through the waiting, especially when it feels like they are pushing us away.
Ask yourself this
There are many “what if” or “what about” scenarios to argue when using this parenting style. Today, I want to ask: “What if we love our children a little more when it would seem they deserve it the least?”
Before I explored this approach, I would walk away from my teenage daughter in response to angry outbursts or her insistence she did not want to talk. This time, when I stayed, asked questions and didn’t dismiss her perspective, we were able to come through to a place of forgiveness and trust.
Whether it’s during this especially hectic season, or any time of the year, remembering why our relationships with our children are so very important helps us to weather the challenges that parenting presents. Keep calm. You’ve got this.
Maggie Ellis, PA-C, is a certified physician assistant with Mount Nittany Physician Group Pediatrics. She sees patients at the Mount Nittany Health – Bellefonte and Boalsburg office locations.
Back to News
View All News