how to encourage independence in your child

 Dr. Kate Brennanbeach-holiday-vacation-sand-medium

The topic of attachment is getting a lot of interest these days. While a lot has been written about early infant and toddler attachment, the issue of attachment when raising older children or teens gets little press or at worst criticism. This article addresses how to encourage independence in your child.

More and more the phrase “helicopter parent” gets bantered about in reference to a caretaker who is seemingly over involved in the lives of their offspring. While it is true that micro managing a life does little to encourage mastery on the part of the child, it is also true that we live in a modern culture that offers up a glut of cheap thrills that seem to undermine the deep bonds we are trying to create with our children. Have we lost our senses? Certainly it seems we have lost our way.

Encouraging Connection

Learning how to encourage independence in your child can seem a bit counter intuitive if what we want to encourage is connection. However, it is in a child’s best interest to be attached to those who matter most to him. Peers are fickle and often subject each other to rejection (sometimes brutal) on a whim. Parents and other adults in a child’s life are the polestar, the constant to their developing sense of self. If a child does not have a deep connection to the adults in charge they will attach to their peers. Kids and especially teens have always needed to define themselves as separate and independent from their parents. However, it is from strong attachments with their parents that the foundation for independence is laid.

Today more than ever kids are using technology as a form of peer attachment. Technology now provides the opportunity to stay connected 24/7. It is being used primarily as a way to preserve contact with peers and peer culture. It is critical to think through how children and teens are using technology and what the implications of these forces are on the family.

Attachment parenting does not mean meeting a need for a child which can be fulfilled independently, It means being able to understand what the needs are, how they change over time and circumstance, being flexible in devising ways to respond, and most of all just making ourselves available to them.

Kate Brennan is the founder of Marin Therapy Partners which offers therapy for families including postpartum depression, attachement, sensory motor processing, PTSD, ADD, anxiety and depression.

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