Teaching the art of giving

by Jillian Amodio on December 17, 2014

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I have such fond memories of my childhood Christmases.

I remember the emotions and feelings of warmth, love and happiness more so than the bountiful supply of gifts we eagerly unwrapped each year. I want my 3-year-old daughter to have the same kinds of cherished memories that I have stored so lovingly in my heart.

My daughter’s favorite traditions are probably the Christmas countdown chain and the 12 Days of Christmas tree, which both help to give a tangible reference to the amount of time left until Christmas day.

We have also started many Christmas traditions this year, including a kindness manger, where acts of kindness are written on pieces of hay (paper) and are placed in a manger (shoebox), to create a bed of love and kindness for baby Jesus to be placed in on Christmas.

While my daughter will certainly get gifts that she has expressed interest in or requested, I do not want the receiving of gifts to be what she equates with Christmas, nor do I want it to be the cause of most of her joy surrounding the season. Instead I want her to hold most dear the traditions we partake in as a family: the art of giving and the act of charity.

We talked about how great it feels to give someone a gift that lets them know they are loved and thought of. I flipped through an Oriental Trading catalog and decided to have Juliette choose a craft that she would like to make herself to hand out to friends and loved ones at Christmas this year. She is quite the creative soul and will spend hours with whatever craft supplies she can get her tiny hands on.

mittensTo my delight, she flipped through the catalog with the same enthusiasm as though it were the advertisements for Toys “R” Us. She settled on a mitten craft, which could be turned into ornaments. It was perfect — inexpensive, easy enough to do herself and something that could be cherished year after year by family and friends.

When the supplies arrived, she frantically tore open the package and begged to start creating her gifts right away. She cannot wait to hand out her own gifts this Christmas exclaiming, “Family is going to be so happy!”

bulbWhen I suggested creating simple gifts for our neighbors, she was more than happy to help put those together as well. We filled plastic ornaments with red and green M&M’s and attached a Christmas poem. She is just as excited to walk the neighborhood and hand out these gems as well.

Juliette is a very curious child. My husband and I love the questions she asks and how inquisitive she is. When she asked what the word “charity” meant, I decided to show her rather than to simply explain its definition.

We talked about the meaning of charity and what it means to help and serve others. She decided she wanted to help babies, so I spoke to the staff at Gabriel Network, an organization where I have done volunteered in the past and arranged for Juliette to do a projects that would benefit the moms and babies who rely on Gabriel Network’s services.

snowmanJuliette helped to design footprint snowmen cards and sold them for $2. The money she raised was donated to Gabriel Network. Not only did she enjoy doing yet another Christmas craft, but the look of joy and pride on her face as she handed over her donation and explained that she wanted to help babies in need was priceless.

Children may be small, but they still have much to offer.

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Strengthening AP marriages

by API Blog on December 16, 2014

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By Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson, cofounders of Attachment Parenting International (API) and coauthors of Attached at the Heart

“Couples who are having difficulties in their relationship will find parenting to be an added stressor, not necessarily the blessing that solves all their problems.” ~ Attached at the Heart by Lysa Parker & Barbara Nicholson

wedding-rings---african-american-1384053-mIn Attached at the Heart, we talk about Jay Belsky’s research on the transition to parenthood and how incredibly difficult it can be for couples, even couples who are strong in their relationships.

The transition to parenting is stressful in itself as new parents adjust to a new baby, and only intensifies issues in weak relationships.

Belsky’s research has found common areas of conflict in marriages, most notably money, household chores, work, social life and the couple relationship. Add to that: childhood wounds that emerge under stress.

Regardless of parenting choices, marriages or committed couple relationships can be put to severe tests if both parents cannot agree. We would add that additional stress on marriages can also come from parents and in-laws who may be critical of your choices.

We know all too well that to choose Attachment Parenting (AP) is not the easy road in our society. It’s not easy, because it goes against a tidal wave of generations of cultural beliefs and myths. It’s not easy, because it causes many of us to face certain realities of our own childhood experiences in order to help us become better parents.

At the same time, this experience can be freeing and empowering to be awakened and to make a conscious decision about changing family legacies and making a difference in the world.

For parents who have themselves experienced abuse, it can be very difficult to feel confident about doing things differently than their parents because they didn’t have positive role models. That’s why our local API Support Groups are so important — to provide not only education and support but modeling by more experienced AP parents.

It’s no one’s business why any person decides to get divorced. In any divorce situation, what must be the highest priority is the physical and emotional welfare of the children. All children deserve both parents involved in their lives, and it takes conscious effort and commitment.

Marriage, like child rearing, takes effort to educate oneself, to seek out resources and to find professional help if needed. There are so many great resources available now for couples and we have included some that we know and trust:

Warning Signs

A good reminder for couples is to be aware of Dr. John Gottman’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” that have been found to lead to divorce. If you recognize yourself, then it’s time to get professional help:

  1. Criticizing each other
  2. Contempt (feeling disgusted or fed up)
  3. Defensiveness (making excuses)
  4. Stonewalling (when one spouse shuts down emotionally).

Strong Family Characteristics

In 1985, Stinnett & DeFrain published the results of an extensive research project designed to learn more about the characteristics that were associated with strong families (Secrets of Strong Families, NY: Berkley Books). They identified 3,000 strong families throughout the United States and conducted extensive interviews with family members. The families represented a true cross-section of the population on many dimensions. After careful analysis, they determined there were six primary features that strong families have in common:

  1. Commitment – Family members were committed to their relationships and to helping each member grow as an individual.
  2. Appreciation – Family members frequently told and showed each other that they appreciated each other, and they were able to be specific about the things they expressed.
  3. Communication – These families used good communication skills, and they communicated frequently with each other.
  4. Fun Time Together – Strong families made time together a priority, and some of that time was spent doing enjoyable, fun things.
  5. Spiritual Wellness – Whether it was involvement in their own respective religious groups or involvement in inspirational activities such as deep appreciation of nature or music, strong families reported that their spirituality helped them keep perspective on the day-to-day stresses.
  6. Coping Ability – When these families encountered tough times, they found a way to pull together and support each other rather than being fragmented by crises.

Relationship Therapy

Counseling for your relationship can make a world of difference, in times of trouble and for prevention, too. There are three schools of marriage counseling therapy compatible with Attachment Parenting, so you’ll want to make sure your counselor is accredited with one of these programs: Gottman Method Couples Therapy, Imago Relationship Therapy and Emotionally Focused Therapy. The API Marriage Resources page offers more information on these programs and what type of questions to ask before engaging a therapist.

For example, if you are struggling in your relationship, you can find out if there is an Imago therapist in your area. Imago focuses on couple communication using a specific dialogue technique and addresses possible adult attachment issues that often interfere with intimacy and expression of feelings, a perfect complement to the Attachment Parenting approach. This program has helped many couples preserve their marriage when they felt on the edge of divorce.

An easy — and inexpensive — way to get started is for both parents to read the book Getting the Love You Want by Imago’s founders Dr. Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt, and discuss each chapter as you go along. That alone can awaken awareness.

Be sure to see what’s available and what serves your family best.

Strengthening Communication Skills

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is another great way to help couples develop better communication and understanding of individual needs and feelings. After attending many workshops and being involved on a personal level with NVC, we have learned just how illiterate most of us are when it comes to knowing what our needs are, let alone identifying them with the correct words.

Striving for Balance

Remember API’s Eight Principles of Parenting includes Striving for Personal and Family Balance. It is critical not only for preserving relationships, but for our own personal health and well-being.

Our couple relationship is extremely important, and it’s important to not neglect it. Mothers especially can easily become consumed with caring for the children to the exclusion of themselves and their partners — we’ve been there — and it’s not healthy for anyone. A strong AP support network will make it easier to share caregiving, if needed, so you can focus on your relationship.

Divorce is an extremely difficult decision for any family. While our culture remains content on labeling, judging and criticizing, let’s stay focused on what’s important in strengthening our marriages and family relationships to create a culture of empathy, support and peace for our children.

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Being intentional in holiday family traditions

December 15, 2014
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With the holiday season upon us, I am reminded of how important it is to keep our family’s focus on the true meaning of the season. For us, that is Christmas but no matter what your family celebrates or believes, I think everyone can agree that family is what’s most important. It is easy to […]

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December 12, 2014
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What an exciting time of the year! The days are getting shorter, and the wish lists are getting longer. My evening walks have been so pleasant as neighbors are putting up twinkling lights that add such cheer to an otherwise gloomy night. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my children’s experience to […]

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Tantrums are opportunies to connect

December 11, 2014
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 Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Oct. 2, 2008, but offers timely tips to parents of toddlers. Before I became the mother of a toddler, I remember listening to other parents describe their little one’s behavior with the term “terrible twos.” To be honest, I had no idea what kind of behavior was […]

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Parent like nobody’s watching

December 10, 2014
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Every now and again, we parents are called upon to respond to something for which we are not prepared. Maybe we didn’t anticipate a particular comment from our child or maybe his behavior is outright embarrassing. In these moments, we have a choice: We can hide under the table and freak out, we can blush […]

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Reflections of AP fatherhood

December 9, 2014
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By Jim Parker First, let me give you a little background on how I was raised, so you will have some idea why I believe Attachment Parenting (AP) has spared my family from another generation of physical and verbal abuse. It gives me pause to consider the upbringing of this Texas latchkey kid, who was […]

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A mother’s cry for justice

December 8, 2014
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By Gratiela Sidor, a dual national from Romania living in the United Kingdom for 15 years There is a worrying new trend in the English courts to separate infants from their primary carers overnight, despite compelling evidence that this can be psychologically harmful to them. More worryingly, nursing mothers are forced to allow overnight contact […]

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