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You can’t love too much: How secure attachment helps kids thrive

When our children aren’t worried about if they’re loved, they can focus on the important work of growing.

You can’t love  too much: How secure attachment helps kids thrive

One of the most common questions I am asked about relationships is whether a child can be too attached to his or her parents. There is a general fear and persistent myth that if we focus on building relationships with our kids, we may hinder their grow as independent and self-sufficient beings. There is a paradoxical relationship between attachment and separation, which is often misunderstood.


The short story is this: Attachment doesn’t slow down growth, it fuels it.

When you consider the big picture, the ultimate goal in raising a child is to help them become their own separate person. We should want them to have their own mind, set their own goals, form their own reasons, make their own decisions, think for themselves, know their boundaries and create their own intentions. What we really need to be asking is: What do we need to do to make sure our kids grow like this?

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Children younger than three routinely cling to their parents. They may chase after them, cry when they are not near and be unhappy when they have to share their parent’s attention with others.

Young children are hungry for attachment because they lack self-sufficiency and are highly dependent on us for caretaking. By the time they reach 5 to 7 years of age, they should be able to play more freely on their own, take responsibility for simple things like getting dressed and even start to do chores such as cleaning up their toys.

Children can’t be too attached, they can only be not deeply attached. Attachment is meant to make our kids dependent on us so that we can lead them. It is our invitation for relationship that frees them to stop looking for love and to start focusing on growing.

When kids can take for granted that their attachment needs will be met, they are freed to play, discover, imagine, move freely and pay attention. It is paradoxical but when we fulfill their dependency needs, they are pushed forward towards independence. As a child matures they should become more capable of taking the steering wheel in their own life and we will be able to retreat into a more consulting role.

Whenever children can take for granted their attachment needs will be met, they will no longer be preoccupied with pursuing us. In other words, when you can count on your caretaker, you no longer need to cling to them. Kids who are clinging to us when they are no longer preschoolers may be doing so out of insecurity. It is security in the attachment relationship that frees children and allows them to let go of us; attachment isn’t the enemy of maturity but insecure relationships will be.

Other ways children may seek attachment

The prerequisite for growth is resting in the care of an adult. In other words, a child shouldn’t have to work for love. There are many ways kids can work at getting their relational needs met, such as...

A child works at trying hard to fit in, to belong, to be good enough and to measure up.

When a child is self-deprecating or tries to be favorable towards others so that they will be liked.

If a child works at getting attention—such as by being the class clown—and works to matter, be loved, recognized or be deemed special in some way.

Sometimes the child works at being pretty, smart or avoiding trouble in order to be liked or loved.

Bragging, boasting and being overly competitive in order to gain superiority can reveal a child’s inherent insecurity.

For a child to rest in someone’s care it means they need to be able to take this person’s relationship for granted. When kids feel they matter just as they are, they don’t have to alter themself in order to work for love.

How can adults foster attachment?

We need to take the lead to keep our kids close, to show them affection as appropriate, to pay attention to them and to provide an invitation for relationship that is unconditional. When we let them know their behavior is not okay, we can also make sure they understand that the relationship still is.

The biggest thing we need to do is to make sure their hunger for relationship is always outmatched by their faith in us to provide for them. They must trust in our capacity as a provider and not feel like they have to pursue us in order to make sure their needs are met.

The goal is to be both caring but firm while inviting our kids to depend on us. There are a few things we can do that make a significant difference this way...

Make it safe for them to depend on us by not using what they care about against them (e.g., sanctions and withdrawing privileges) or forms of separation-based discipline, such as time-outs.

We need to earn their trust by being consistent in our caretaking, as well as being generous with our attention and signs of warmth, delight and enjoyment

Take the lead in conveying we can handle them and whatever comes with this, including tantrums, resistance and opposition.

Be the one to comfort, guide, protect and hold onto them.

Don’t meet their demands, but meet their needs instead.

Arrange scenarios where they have to depend on you, including outings or if you teach them a hobby or skill.

At the end of the day, the most important lesson is this: Children don’t need to be pushed to separate or to grow up. What kids need most are deep relationships and to be freed from their hunger for connection.

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Tenth & Pine: Gender-neutral and butter-soft basics for littles + bigs

In 2016, after a stage four endometriosis diagnosis and a 10 year battle with infertility, Tenth & Pine founder Kerynn got her miracle baby, Ezra Jade. As a SAHM with a Masters in Business, she wanted to create a brand that focused on premium quality, function, comfort, and simplicity.

She sought out premium, all natural fabrics and factories that shared her core values, practicing environmentally friendly manufacturing methods with fair and safe working conditions for employees. As a result, her made in the USA, gender-neutral designs check all the boxes. The sustainable, organic basics are perfect for everyday wear, family photos and any adventure in between.

Lucy Lue Organics: Sustainably and ethically-produced modern baby clothes

This family-owned and operated business was started by a mama who wanted out of corporate America after the birth of her son. Thoughtfully designed to mix-and-match, Lucy Lue's sustainably and ethically produced collection of modern organic baby clothes only uses fabrics that are "environmentally friendly from seed to seam." Their gorgeous, earthy tones and comfy, minimalist styles make the perfect addition to first wardrobes from birth through the first years.

Sontakey: Simple bracelets that speak your mind

Sontakey has been such a hit in the Motherly Shop that we knew it was time to expand the line. And since these beautiful mantra bands look so stunning stacked, more options = more fun.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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