Guest Author - Julie Renee Holland
Attachment parenting is not just for traditional families. Children in families changed by divorce need even more help to feel secure and attached. Attachment parenting principles can help increase bonding and help part-time parents make up for lost parenting time.
For young children, it is important to wear them as much as they are comfortable with. Especially if the divorce was recent, they will need extra cuddling and holding time. A sling or mei tai can make young children feel secure. Cosleeping can be another way to help young children feel secure and safe, especially as they adapt to new surroundings. Obviously, it is important to choose whether or not to cosleep carefully. Think about how this might need to change if you enter a new relationship or how your former spouse may view this if custody is still in dispute. As much as cosleeping can be good for a very young child, it is not going to help increase bonding if the courts take the view that it is jeopardizing your child's safety.
Be aware that children often need extra time to transition between activities and environments. If your child is moving from one place to another, take some extra time to cuddle, read a book, or ask them about their favorite part of their day. While it is natural to want to maximize your time with your child, this does not mean filling the day with activity. Some children need more transition time than others, so if your child is one who needs extra time, consider establishing small rituals that will help them transition.
An example of a very simple, but very important ritual is that of my 2 year old niece. Each time she goes to Grandma's house for babysitting she has the same routine. She expects Grandma to sit in her favorite rocking chair and hold her for a few minutes. She then asks where each of her favorite toys are. Then she goes to look for those toys. Once she has found them she feels free to run around and play. The whole routine takes about 5 minutes. As simple as this routine is, it helps Isabella to feel grounded and make the transition. If any part of the routine is disrupted, she is disappointed.
Establish traditions and routines that help your child to feel close to you. These do not need to be expensive or elaborate. Something simple such as helping them put their things away, find their favorite toys, or read a favorite book can make all the difference. Be careful to make the routines about interaction and not about things. While it is tempting to spoil them while you have them, they will be happier if they are bonding with you.
If you are away from your child for more than a few days at a time, you can let them know that you are thinking about them in little ways. Send them a postcard or ecard, give them a picture of the two of you together that they can take with them, call them just to say hello.
While divorce and single parenting can make attachment parenting harder, if you look for ways to focus on interacting and being close to your child while they are together your bond will grow.