School-aged children have outgrown the typical basics of attachment parenting. How can a parent stay attached past the preschool years?
For the parents of infants and toddlers, attachment parenting is easy to define. Breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and babywearing are straightforward ways to create strong parent and child attachment. Once children are school-age they have outgrown these basics of attachment parenting. How can a parent maintain a close relationship with a child past the preschool years?
Is Attachment Parenting Necessary with Older Children?
Table of Contents
It is just as important to keep an attached relationship with your older child as it is with an infant. Outside influences pull children away from their parents at an alarmingly early age in our society. Maintaining a close relationship gives your child a strong foundation. Attached parents gain confidence in their children’s abilities and are readily able to trust their children. Likewise, attached children gain confidence when their parents trust them to act responsibly and make decisions.
How Does a Parent Practice Attachment Parenting with an Older Child?
Attachment parenting looks different once a child is over three or four years old. While it is different, it is not impossible. Here are some tips to continue to foster an attached relationship with your older child.
Connect With Your Children Everyday
Parents should spend some time every day connecting with their children over a shared activity. Children will often be more relaxed and talk to their parents more readily when they are enjoying an activity together. Ideally, parents will spend one-on-one time with each child daily. This is the time to play board games, card games, or sports. Picking something that the child enjoys is especially helpful, though shared activities can also include chores, cooking, or similar tasks.
Co-sleeping is an important step in practicing attachment parenting with babies and young children. But, co-sleeping doesn’t have to end once a toddler stops breastfeeding. Many children continue to co-sleep some of the time, or even all the time until they are past the elementary school years. When children are sick, overtired or frightened, they need the comfort of a parent sleeping next to them.
Practice Gentle Discipline
Gentle discipline does not mean that children are undisciplined. It does mean that attached parents refrain from spanking or shaming their children for punishment. Having behavioral expectations is necessary for all children and it is normal for children to test the limits. Attached parents support their child by talking about misbehavior and reaching an agreement on consequences. Alternatively, many parents who practice gentle discipline often let the natural consequences teach the lesson and talk about it afterward.
Continue to Read
Bedtime stories are a wonderful shared activity with older children, even those that are reading on their own. Attached parents know that family reading time is an important bonding time. It allows the parents to teach the values that are important to them through books. As children get older, book discussions are a great way to introduce difficult topics, such as drug use, racism, and violence.
Make it a goal to hug each child several times a day. As kids get older, it can feel awkward to continue with hugs. But, persist even when your child seems to shy away. Attachment parenting means building hugs into your daily routine. Hug your child before he leaves for school every morning when he gets home and at bedtime. Regular hugs let your child know that you will be available in times of stress when he needs you the most.
For information on attachment parenting an infant read What Attachment Parenting Is Not (And What It Is) by Sara McGrath.