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mental health

Attachment parenting, Parenting

Attachment parenting and good mental health

5 May, 2014

I read about Peaches Geldoff’s death on Facebook and my heart felt like it had cracked a little. I knew of Peaches primarily through her defence of Attachment Parenting on morning TV and I was struck by a grief for her two children. I have admired her staunch support of quite alternative parenting practices and I was compelled by her explanation of motherhood being a “rebirth” – healing the wounds of childhood trauma.

I am not going to speculate on her death, the hows or whys. But seeing as people have used her passing as a springboard to question the healthiness of Attachment Parenting, I am going to springboard off their springboarding to stick up for the healthiness of Attachment Parenting.

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(Also, I am just tapping out my thoughts while Juno sleeps in the sling, slugging back a coffee, so expect a BLOG POST here, not a thesis… Just imagine you are sitting here scoffing biscuits with me, hearing this wee collection of thoughts. Would love to hear your own thoughts on attachment parenting and mental health in the comments.)

Attachment Parenting isn’t a rigid barometer with which to judge mothers by
Attachment parenting is a parenting philosophy based on the theory that children thrive when they establish a close connection to their caregiver. There are principles that have been fleshed out that support this connection such as babywearing and breastfeeding, but they are ideas, aids to nurture a strong attachment. It is entirely possible to be a fully attached parent without adhering to all of these principles.
Sometimes I wonder if people within this natural parenting world sound aggressive / judgemental of other parents as a result of being constantly harangued in the media. Being on the defensive all the time can make people pretty strident. *raises hand*
Attachment parenting isn’t a curriculum that you can pass or fail. And it shouldn’t be used to judge people. We should be wary of any journalists or experts or bloggers that trade in the currency of guilt. Guilt is not a helpful or valid currency in the parenting world.

Attachment Parenting isn’t Martyrdom Parenting
I have written in the past about how I believe a child’s happiness if knitted together with  parent’s happiness. We simply can’t expect the sure well being of our children if we are neglecting our own. If you know attachment parents who do not accept and attend to their own needs then you need to realise that this isn’t because of the attachment parent philosophy, this is because they don’t love themselves enough and they would neglect their own needs whatever parenting style they went for. Got it?

Really, you must understand that. I do know a few attachment parents who are martyrs. I also know many more attachment parents who practice radical self-love and understand that a child’s needs must fit within the whole family’s needs. For any attachment parents struggling with getting the balance of needs right please read Marshall Rosenberg on Non Violent Communication.

Attachment Parenting Recognises the Importance of Full Cups
(Hehe, I don’t mean *those* cups, although that is handy for breastfeeding parents…) You won’t find the message of  “Sacrifice your needs for the sake of your child!” in any of the Attachment Parenting textbooks. (You might come across it in blogs, but I maintain that self-neglect comes out in whatever parenting philosophy people opt for.)  Something I HAVE read a lot in those books is the sentiment of filling your own cup in order to ensure our children’s cups are full. Most attachment parents I know work really flipping hard at co-parenting– ensuring a fair split between two parents- and all of them recognise the importance of support networks which is why their are lots of forums and groups for people who are practicing it.

ALL parenting is depleting and barely any parent gets the support that we really need to do a really bloody good job of it. But attachment parents at least recognise the importance of full emotional cups.

Attachment Parenting builds resilience in a parent
This is a little hard to explain, but let me know what you think of this. The more connected I am to my child the more I am able to let frustrations roll over me. When I have a disconnect- as a result of me not meeting a need or some tension- I struggle to find empathy with my children which in turn makes me stressed, upset and angry.

If I am quick to recognise we have had a disconnection and attempt to restore it, mostly through play, than I find I am restored myself and far less likely to get annoyed and cross.

I feel that attachment parenting, by valuing CONNECTION over anything, makes us resilient – a sturdy ship that can float amongst all the volatile waves of emotion that toddlerdom can bring.

Attachment Parenting can be a Liberated Parenting
Attachment parenting and gentle or respectful parenting are intricately linked. Most attachment parents will move into gentle parenting as a label (labels are rubbish etc) once their baby becomes a toddler.

One of the central tenets of Gentle Parenting is TRUST. Trusting that a child is an individual with an existing personhood – we are not here to shape them and teach them. We are here simply to allow them to grow and develop in freedom.

This is LIBERATING.

We do not have to hover as (the normally wonderful) Deberoh Orr suggests attachment parents do. We let our children explore and trial without feeling the pressure to dictate their actions.

We sit back at the park and let them climb, we don’t helicopter about urging them on to different ladders and slides in order to expand their horizons.

We accept their ability to self-regulate. Meal times are about providing good food and then letting them eat it or not. We don’t have to ruin our own dinner by coercing our kids to eat theirs.

We trust that children already have their character, we don’t have to shape it through reward charts and the stressful process of Time Outs.

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While our babies are small there perhaps *is* a little more effort put in- we rock them when they cry- but as they grow I think attachment parents find their role much less stressful and far, far less hands on.

When I am kicking back on the grass at the playground, watching other parents chasing their kids around with coats, or urging them not to climb too high, or persuading them to say Good Bye politely to Aunty, I think GOSH my parenting style is easy. (Not in a smug way, of course, as my children in their odd socks, felt-tip pen on their faces, and knotty hair counter any of that!)

I think there is enormous potential for Attachment Parenting to promote good mental healthiness in parents (how it promotes good mental health in children is a whole other wonderful post, eh?!) and have found it to be a perfect for for my own life and well being.

As ever, would love to hear from you about your experiences!