Growing Up: Attachment Parenting from Kindergarten to College
By Isabelle Fox, PhD
Sun Publishers, 2003
Reviewed by Sara Walters
Plas Glanrhydw United Kingdom
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 1, January-February 2004, pp. 21
There is plenty of information on the "tools" for attachment parenting of babies and toddlers. But what does a parent do once weaning has taken place, the sling is too small, and there's just not enough room in the family bed? In her new book, Growing Up: Attachment Parenting from Kindergarten to College, Isabelle Fox, PhD, provides an informative resource to help parents navigate these challenging later years.
The author's overall approach is to help parents get inside the mindset of their growing children. Do any of the following questions sound familiar? "Why is my teenager talking on the phone for two hours to a friend she's been with all day?" "Why is my seven-year-old so irritable when I ask him about homework?" "Should I let Suzie hang out with her friends at the mall?" "Where should Paul's girlfriend sleep when she comes to stay?" Fox maintains that these are typical concerns, and she shows how they reflect normal development.
Growing Up explains the emotional, social, and physical changes that growing children experience, and then shows parents how to use this knowledge to relate to their children sensitively and respectfully. The author believes that having detailed insight into developmental stages equips parents to deal with the challenges that arise over the years. Fox discusses all aspects of children's lives, including school, activities, homework, siblings, peer pressure, sexuality, clothes, discipline, and drugs.
Attached parents respond to their baby's cues and satisfy his needs; similarly, parents must learn about their child's development in order to respond appropriately to their child's latest idiosyncrasies. It is vitally important to create a loving, secure, and supportive family environment, and to "be there" both emotionally and physically for children. This may protect them from some of the threats that many parents fear, such as premature sexual activity or drug use.
How are the "tools" of attachment parenting extrapolated to the growing child? Well, for example, the sling extends to the family car. Fox recommends driving children to as many activities and social events as they require-it facilitates their social life and shows the parent's loving concern. The family bed may have disappeared, but security is now found in the family house, which should always be comforting to the child and welcoming to friends. Breastfeeding can never be replaced, but the joyous combination of nourishment and bonding can be achieved with regular family meals together.
Some readers may find the author's ideas fairly liberal. She believes that a certain level of freedom is important, and recommends letting teenagers have nights out, hang out at the mall, follow the fashions, and talk as much as they like on the phone. Just as parents allow their toddler to explore a baby-proofed house, so should they allow their growing children to experience the world and their need for independence. Parents may feel that they are losing control, but they must avoid stress and conflict or risk "ruining" the early adolescent period, Fox says:
It is hard to provide supervision, parental presence, and security...and at the same time provide increased independence and time for adventure. The goal here is to let out plenty of line, but keep (the child) on the hook and still hold on to the rod.
Growing Up also deals with special situations such as divorce, step-families, and death, and is a reassuring resource for anyone whose family stability is suddenly rocked. Although a well-known advocate for the stay-at-home mother, Fox also includes a chapter about the mother who returns to work, offering good suggestions to help the family with the transition.
This book does not offer any strict parenting guidelines or snappy "how-to" solutions. Rather, it expands on ideas similar to La Leche League's concept of loving guidance, including accepting children's capabilities and being sensitive to their feelings. Fox reminds parents of what it's like to be a child or teenager. After reading it, parents will not only understand why their teenager is running up the phone bill, they'll be okay with it!