How does an attachment parenting style impact a child's development as far as attending preschool? Understanding the pros and cons of this particular parenting style helps parents feel confident about alleviating any difficulties related to school attendance, tantrums and separation anxiety.
What Is Attachment Parenting?
Attachment parenting is a philosophy and parenting style centered on meeting your baby’s needs immediately and frequently. You form an intense bond with your child from the start and continue to nurture that bond in the weeks and months that follow. This style revolves around using respect, kindness and nurture to raise children who grow up with a sense of empathy and a strong connection to family. However, problems may arise from attachment parenting when preschool time approaches.
Important Concepts in AP
Dr. Sears discusses the idea of the seven “B"s when it comes to using AP with your child.
- Birth Bonding -- The most important connection you will make with your baby is the one immediately after birth. Those first days and weeks are crucial in forming the intense bond that defines attachment parenting.
- Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding helps you learn to read your baby’s cues and cries, which is essential to meeting his or her needs immediately. Breastfeeding also releases hormones in the mother that further stimulate the mothering instinct.
Baby wearing – Using a baby carrier or sling promotes physical contact between you and your infant, further enhancing bonding and connecting.
- Bedding with Baby – Some parents choose to co-sleep with their child, while others decide to keep a bassinet or crib in their room next to the bed. Whatever your choice, the idea of rooming with your baby promotes meeting his or her needs immediately and prevents the separation of mother and baby.
- Baby’s cry – Learning to interpret and understand your baby’s cries is a key element. This parenting style operates under the belief that babies do not “just cry," and every cry has a reason attached to it. Responding to every cry as quickly as possible helps the baby learn to build trust in his or her caregivers.
- Beware of others – Watch out for people who insist you must have your baby on a schedule or let him or her cry it out to fall asleep at night. Attachment parenting is about feeding the baby when he or she is hungry and sleeping when tired. You need to do what is best for your baby and ignore the naysayers.
- Balance – While it is important to meet the needs of your baby immediately and frequently, you need to find time to care for yourself as well. Taking a 15-minute break to grab a shower and a sandwich while someone else sits with the baby will not break any bonds or ruin the attachment you have already built. However, it will recharge you and make you a better parent for the remainder of the day.
Pros and Cons
This style of parenting can have a positive and negative effect on your child’s development. Children who are raised by attachment theory parenting tend to develop extremely close bonds with at least one parent, which gives them security and comfort in stressful situations.
Babies and toddlers tend to sleep better, as they feel safe and secure with their parents being so close to them and able to meet their needs or soothe their nightmares instantaneously. Children raised by this parenting style tend to be more independent on their own; this is due to the security they feel from believing that a parent will be there no matter what happens.
However, children, particularly babies, raised by this method tend to experience higher and more intense levels of separation anxiety from their primary caretakers. Babies might even refuse to go to another caretaker at certain times such as nap or feeding times due to the extreme attachment they have to their mother. This can be hindrance in attempting to find child care for when you contemplate going back to work or enjoying a night away from your baby.
Making the Transition Smoother
Attachment parenting can, therefore, have a negative impact on your child attending a preschool facility. Your child has an intense bond with you and may still experience separation anxiety (although probably less so than when he or she was a baby).
Dropping a child off, saying “Bye," and returning at a later time not only goes against the philosophy of attachment parenting but is extremely difficult for the child to understand and may increase any anxiety. If you are practicing attachment parenting, preschool attendance is easier for your child when you use the following tips:
- Allow your child to spend more time with other caretakers. You can be present for the first few meetings, and then start to leave for a few minutes at a time; work up to an hour or so. This helps your child understand that when you leave, you will be back and he or she will be okay.
- Choose a preschool center that is friendly and clean and where your child feels comfortable. You will want to interview several schools and ask if you and your child can visit several times before you make a final decision. Having your child help choose the center can help alleviate anxiety and problems when the time to start comes.
- Attend the first day of center with your child, if possible. Having you there to comfort him or her (or just being there to watch) can assist a child in understanding it is okay to have fun with the other children and workers but you will still be there in the end.
- Prepare your child the night before preschool days by encouraging him or her to pack a bag and a lunch, or talk to him or her about any feelings regarding school. Preparing the night before can make the morning transition smoother.
- Analyze your own emotions about sending your child to preschool. Parents who are anxious or have reservations about preschool are likely to transfer those emotions to their child and create further difficulties.
- Role play scenarios at home to help your child understand the structure and routines involved in the school routine. This helps when the child actually starts attending a preschool facility.
- Have your child attend a play group or regular standing play date to acclimate to other children and environments.
Will It Get Easier?
It should. Children are resilient, and you will likely suffer more than your child does. You can eliminate your stress by realizing most children do stop crying after their parents leave and end up having a fun time with the other children. Preschool teachers tend to fill up the day with activities that keep the children focused on the center and distracted from missing their parents. If necessary to relieve your anxiety, call the preschool on your lunch break to check in on your child and see how he or she is faring. In the end, if you child does continue to struggle while adjusting to preschool, you may want to look into home care or wait until he or she is a bit older to attend.
Sears, William, MD and Martha Sears, RN; "What AP is: 7 Baby B's"; http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/attachment-parenting/what-ap-7-baby-bs