Attachment parenting is often associated with babies and very young children. But what happens when your baby is too big for a sling or your preschooler has weaned? Does attachment parenting have to stop? Not at all. The basis of attachment parenting is getting tuned-in to your child, learning to communicate effectively, and staying connected. You may not be able/want to breastfeed your five-year-old, but that doesn't mean he no longer wants - and needs - the gentle nurturing touch that you and he shared when he was a sweet, chubby baby. Here are some ways to help strengthen those connections you built in babyhood, and stay in-tuned with your older kids:
Get down on the floor and play.
Sometimes it's really a challenge to shake the stiff realities of life as an adult and loosen up. Sometimes kids play seems boring. Sometimes all you can think about is what you're "not getting done" while playing with your kids. Maybe you're just not the playing kind? I get that. It can be hard at times, to get down and really play with kids, but it's worth it! Even a bit of an effort makes a difference. Every ten minutes spent helping construct a Lego tower, tossing a ball back and forth, or throwing a blanket over the kitchen table to make a fort adds to your connection bank. We can all find ten minutes. Remember, play is kids' language. We need to speak it now & then.
Hug, cuddle, and use gentle touch.
Not only babies like and benefit from gentle touch. Keeping attached to our children means cuddling up with them - even when they're nearly as big as we are! Offer hugs whenever you can (wrestle if kids say they are "too big" for hugs & kisses), offer a gentle massage to help kids relax before bed, cuddle up on the couch when watching a movie or reading a book, use gentle, reassuring touch (like a pat on the back) when your child is working hard at a task, offer to brush or braid your children's hair (and then have them do the same for you!). Gentle touch is a great way to reconnect and show love without having to say a word!
Write a love note.
My daughter has told me many times how much she enjoys reading the notes I've left in her lunch during the school year. Jot down a happy poem, an inspiring phrase, or a note from the heart and leave it somewhere your child will be sure to see it - in their lunch box, on their bathroom mirror, or in their sports bag. If you're not the flowery words type, try something simple like a smiley face or "Have a great day!" (I created a few "staying connected" cards - feel free to print & include them in your kids' lunches). Just a few words of encouragement or cheer, reminding your children that you're thinking of them - even when you're apart - can really mean a lot to your child.
Listen to your kids when they talk. Simple, right? But I know how challenging it can be to stop what you're doing and pay close attention when your child is in motor-mouth mode, or telling you the details of the latest Harry Potter book, which you both have already read, many times. Keep in mind that while the little details may not be important to you at that moment, what they are telling you is important to THEM. By making eye contact and actively listening, you're letting them know how important THEY are to YOU. Good listening is crucial to keeping your connection strong. And while the stories NOW may seem simplistic or boring, as they grow, if they're used to telling you their feelings and experiences, you'll be the first person they come to when the stories are scary, complex, or they're facing challenging decisions as teenagers. Listening now reverberates.
Attachment parenting doesn't have to stop with breastfeeding, babywearing, or cosleeping. Staying connected our kids doesn't take much effort, and can make a world of difference in maintaining that close relationship you established in babyhood. Go ahead, give your big kid an extra hug today & see how good it feels!