Practicing Attachment Parenting in Older Children

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The term "attachment parenting" usually brings to mind practices like wearing your baby in a sling or co-sleeping or nursing on demand. But staying close and connected to your child isn't something that should stop as your child gets older, into their preschool and school-age years and beyond. (And in fact, if you want to have a strong relationship with your child when he hits the potentially turbulent teen years, it's especially important that you maintain a strong bond and establish good communication habits now, while your child is in grade school and is more likely to be willing to talk to you about what's going on in his life.) Here are some ideal ways you can practice attachment parenting with older children.

Know Your Child's Friends and People Who Are Close

If your child has been invited to a playdate at a friend's house, be sure to ask the parents of your child's friend some very important key questions such as whether they keep guns in the house and who will be there to supervise the children. Get to know who all your child's friends are and who she socialized with at school.

Suss out whether or not each friend is a good, supportive, empathetic, and kind person, or a toxic friend who you do not like and who could be a bad influence on your child.

Make Daily Communication a Habit

Establish regular times to talk with your child one-on-one, whether it's at bedtime, during dinner, in the car ride to school. Set aside distractions, like the cell phone; beware of how much "phubbing," or phone-snubbing has negatively affected our social relationships and try to focus on your child when you speak to him instead of being distracted and checking email or messages.

Have Dinner With Your Child Regularly

Studies have shown that simply eating dinner together regularly with kids is associated with numerous benefits for kids, including better grades, reduced risk of obesity, and better mental, social, and emotional skills. Even if you can't make every night family dinner night in your home, you can find creative solutions to connect with your kids at mealtime, such as talking while snacking before and after an after-school activity or setting aside a little extra time in the morning for a nice and healthy family breakfast.

Have Fun With Your Child

Research shows that when parents play with their kids and have fun with them, kids are less likely to develop depression and anxiety and are more likely to become compassionate and empathetic people.

Be Someone Your Child Can Talk to Easily

When you show your child that you are really listening and want to hear what he has to say, and you share some personal things about yourself and open up to your child, you are establishing a good foundation upon which your child will feel more comfortable talking to you about things.

This openness and communication will become invaluable as your child grows and may need to one day talk to you about something difficult in his life.

Discipline With Love

Discipline should be more about teaching rather than punishment, yelling, or hitting kids. Parents who are firm but who are loving when they correct their children's bad behavior allow their kids to feel secure in two important ways: by letting them know that there are boundaries and rules that they need to obey for their health, safety, and well-being, and by reassuring them that while you expect them to behave well and make good choices, your love for them is steadfast and strong.

Find Ways to Say "I Love You" Every Day

Something as simple as taking a minute to hug when you say goodbye in the morning or hello at the end of the day is one of the many ways you can show your child how much you love her every single day and is an important part of attachment parenting.

By Katherine Lee
Katherine Lee is a parenting writer and a former editor at Parenting and Working Mother magazines.