Attaching to Our Children

From one of the authors, Gabor Mate’, M.D., of Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, a book I wrote about on my last post:

“The greatest gift parents can give a child is her or his own happiness, so I tell parents to really look after their emotional lives to examine the stress in their lives. And in this first few years make the child’s comfort and happiness and security their primary goal. Whatever life goals you have, put them on hold, and create a life where the child is connected and secure, and that child will be set for life pretty much.”

This next video is a summary of the book, Hold on to Your Kids. Please don’t get blindsided about how important breast-feeding is to attachment. If you weren’t able to breast feed your child, it is just one factor of many things we can do to attach to our children.

Here are a few notes from the above video:

“What is going on in society? What conditions are needed for healthy development, and what conditions are needed for them today? ‘

“It is the attachment relationship of parents to their children and a “village” of caring adults children can trust.’

“The brain development of children requires key brain circuits, such as:

stress responses

emotional self-regulation

impulse control

attention

decision making and

picking up on social cues.’

“These essential brain circuits for in a brain’s physiology development require the presence of non-stressed, emotionally available , attuned parental care-givers.’

“You have a society that destroys the village of many emotionally available adults, that separates children from the parents for most of the time, owing to economic pressures. A society that stresses the parents inordinately, so even if they are with their children, they are stressed and distracted.’

“What can you expect in a society like that? We expect all kind of disfunction, maldevelopment and bad behaviors.”

“We are not talking about behavior problems, we are talking about relationship problems.”

“Our children are programmed biologically to attach to someone, they can’t help it. They crave closeness to another human being. ”

“A child is much more vulnerable and helpless. They can’t abide not being attached to someone. Who is around? Who is around in our culture is other children.’

“So our children lose nurturing relationships from adults because of pressures and social factors. The adults are stressed out and distracted.’

“Children attach to other children, so for the first time in history you have immature creatures attaching themselves to other immature creatures inordinately.’

Dr. Mate’ finishes with, “It’s a developmental disaster.”

Dr. Mate’ holds the North American culture responsible, but I think this problem is so profound that we can’t expect our culture to change any time soon and protect and teach our children. We have to be awake to the supreme importance of attaching to our children. We have to work to make this a priority in our families. We can’t wait for someone else to help us.

In Hold On To Your Kids, there are many ideas of collecting and attaching with our children. This does not mean controlling and micro managing but connecting. Both authors said that after being at school all day we have many ways to bring them back to us–reading together, or having a slow dinner together, for instance. The weekends shouldn’t be full of playdates and sleepovers, they argue– make that family time. We also, in our family, had zip dates–30 minutes/$3.00–one of us with each of our children each week, that we still do today, to get that one on one, precious connection.

It seems counterintuitive–it’s important our children are popular, and social! But because of all the societal pressures of separation: social media with too much screen time, video games like Fortnite that not only suck our children in addictively, but during this intense video game, they are on with all of their friends so THEY NEED TO PLAY THIS GAME(!), club sports (one friend had her 7-year-old going to soccer games or practice 5 days a week), and both parents working, we have to actively work to connect and protect our children from all of these ways that can disintegrate a family.

Hold On To Your Kids gave me so many insights and ways to attach to my children even though they are grown. It has helped me revisit what I focus on, what I am spending my time and energy on, every day.

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