Infant and toddler attachment is given great attention in the early years of parenting. But what about attachment with older children? What does a healthy attachment between parent and child look like during adolescence?
Childhood is a very slow and gradual (and sometimes painful) process of pulling away. When children are small, their needs can feel overwhelming and all-consuming. But as they get older, if everything is proceeding as it should, they begin to become more competent and confident in doing things on their own. In early adolescence, which can start as early as nine, kids start becoming more outwardly focused, more interested in peers, and more challenging of their parents‘ authority. This is totally normal, although it can feel frustrating to parents when their sweet and compliant child suddenly starts slamming doors and sassing back.
Adolescents can be a bit like toddlers (although I wouldn’t recommend telling them that). Toddlers are exploring their world, finding out what they can and can’t do on their own. It can be both charming and confounding to watch a little person struggling to put on their pants by themselves, feed themselves yogurt, or brush their own teeth. Adolescents are also exploring their world, and part of that exploration is trying on new personas and ways of interacting. This is why it can feel like you are getting whiplash as you watch your kid try out new clothing, new music, new friends, and new ways to get under your skin. It can feel as if our older kids and teenagers are deliberately pushing us away. But even amidst all the storms, we can’t let them succeed in doing so.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about ways to connect with your tweens and teens, as well as ways for parents to stay calm and centered amidst the storms of adolescence. I’ll also write about parenting in the age of the internet, which for most of us is uncharted territory. It can be a balancing act to provide structure and limits while maintaining a supportive and loving relationship with our kids, but investing in this relationship will have lasting benefits for both them and for us.