15 years

by Alissa Tschetter-Siedschlaw on April 24, 2015

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alissa tschetter siedschlawFifteen years — a lot can happen in that length of time. Marriages, divorces, births, deaths, adoptions, new jobs and big adventures can paint their way through a life like mine when so many days have gone by.

It truly seems like it was just the other day that a small group of dear friends and I decided to start a local group affiliated with Attachment Parenting International (API) in Des Moines, Iowa, USA — only the second one in the Midwest.

We were all in need of building our intentional village.

Having been a leader of a breastfeeding support group prior, I now found myself facing a new challenge of not only re-lactating to nurse a micro-preemie, but an adopted, drug- and alcohol-affected baby with a plethora of special needs. I finally needed to call in favors for support for myself. But those supports didn’t exist in my community at the time.

My parenting was evolving, and I longed for a group where I could speak more openly and find honest and straightforward, yet gentle and kind friends, while offering the same to others. I wanted us to be the kind of people you trust around your children, because you know we believe in nurturing and validating each other and we want the best for all of our kids collectively, not only individually.

I had been doing Attachment Parenting (AP) for many years before I knew there was a word, but once I realized that we could begin offering support, information and encouragement to others, I was excited to get going. From very early on, we had a few very regular families and we bonded into such a natural support that it wasn’t unusual to see us with one dad pushing someone else’s child on a swing while a mom wore two babies at once, hers and her dear friend’s. We viewed Attachment Parenting not only as our choice in a parenting style but in our broader approach as to how we faced the world.

Later, when some coleaders moved away, my current co-leader of somewhere close to a decade, Laurie Belin, stepped forward and agreed to assist, support, advocate, nurture and encourage so many here in Des Moines — along with me. Other organizations were envious that I had such a phenomenal coleader, but as I moved into a place of single parenting my five children, with many special needs, while trying to provide financially for them, she took on so much more of the responsibility so that our group could not only survive, but thrive and I could just show up and help lead meetings.

Many families have passed through our doors through the years, and many more find support through our private online support group that Laurie moderates with grace and knowledge like few could. We have had a diverse group, and I have been privileged to witness some beautiful parenting and some thought-provoking conversations, and to be a part in some parents’ growth. I have heard myself quoted and am honored to have a positive impact on our AP community.

I have been blessed to lead API of Central Iowa for 15 years. My children are now nearly 23, 19, 15, 12 and 7. My Attachment Parenting journey is far from over, as I believe we carry API’s Eight Principles of Parenting throughout life. I am tremendously thankful for all I have learned, how I myself have grown and for all Laura, other coleaders and I have been allowed to share with families throughout these 15 years.

Thank you, API. I have received so much more than I ever gave.

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721847_mother_and_daughterSome parents misconstrue Attachment Parenting (AP) as promoting undisciplined children and martyred parents, when in actuality, Attachment Parenting has a strong basis in discipline and balance.

Parents are encouraged to look at child behavior in a different perspective than a punishment-based mindset. Children need abundant nurturing and an authentic, open bond with their parents based in trust rather than in fear.

This doesn’t mean that AP parents never say “no.” In fact, boundary-setting is very important to Attachment Parenting. What it means is that AP parents approach discipline in a different way — instead of punishing for undesirable behavior, they teach and guide their children through non-punitive ways. AP parents strive to teach problem-solving.

It’s also important for AP parents to teach emotional health by modeling. Take tantrums, for example, a natural response to boundary setting for a toddler or young child. Tantrums, or “losing it,” is a learned response for adults. A parent who “loses it” in response to their child’s behavior and punishes the child isn’t meeting that child’s need for guidance into how to handle strong emotions like frustration and disappointment, but actually teaching the child that tantrums can’t be controlled except by lashing out at others — or alternatively, stuffing emotions in the case of a parent who is more likely to not set firm boundaries. AP parents are able to identify and respond to their own strong emotions, and therefore are then able to teach their children in how to manage their own tantrums over time through emotion-coaching and problem-solving.

For example, for children — and, to be honest, adults too — a meltdown may be precipitated by tiredness, hunger, illness or a feeling of emotional disconnect from others. These contributors can be addressed, which can significantly and immediately reduce the number of tantrums. The remaining tantrums can then be addressed from a point of view of what emotional needs is the child trying to express: Does the child feel misunderstood? Does the child need more choices? Does the child need help learning a new skill?

I like to say that discipline begins at birth, because parents are always teaching their child something, even newborn babies, by how they respond and what priority they give to a warm, compassionate but balanced parent-child relationship. Positive discipline is rooted in the right relationship between a parent and child.

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Insight from the International Children’s Yoga Conference on mindfulness

April 20, 2015
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Last month, I was invited as a guest speaker to the International Children’s Yoga Conference in the beautiful town of Heidelberg in Southern Germany. The main topic of this year’s conference was mindfulness, and my workshop focused on my mindfulness and yoga work with children dealing with chronic illness. Participants with all kinds of different […]

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Maintaining connection through long separations

April 10, 2015
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Editor’s note: April is Month of the Military Child, an observance designed to increase support to children in military families. Attachment Parenting International‘s Sixth Principle of Parenting: Provide Consistent and Loving Care advocates for parents to provide abundant presence to their children and to carefully consider options of non-parental care. Because they experience frequent moves […]

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Obeying out of fear

April 7, 2015
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“A child who obeys out of fear will only do so as long as he or she is scared. A child like this never develops an internalized sense of right and wrong without being policed by a more powerful authority figure.” ~ Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma by Nancy Samlin How do you feel […]

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I took back control of my Cesarean

April 1, 2015
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Editor’s note: April is Cesarean Awareness Month, an international observance designed to reduce unnecessary Cesareans, advocate for Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) and help women heal from the sometimes-difficult emotions surrounding a Cesarean birth. Attachment Parenting International‘s First Principle of Parenting: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting advocates for parents to research their options regarding […]

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What presence means to me

March 26, 2015
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Oct. 24, 2008, but it echoes a sentiment many Attachment Parenting parents have heard from well-meaning friends, family members and even strangers to take some time away from our infants and toddlers, without realizing that ample presence with our children may be exactly what gives us balance. […]

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Screentime and Attachment Parenting

March 25, 2015
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There are issues that Attachment Parenting International (API) does not take a stance on — circumcision, vaccinations, cloth diapering and elimination communication, to name a few — and instead advocates for all parents to be informed when making parenting decisions that work best for their families. The same applies to choices about media access for […]

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