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In his 1951 WHO report, John Bowlby stressed the importance of emotional bonds. He subsequently proposed a theory stating that attachment enhances survival by regulating the relationship of individuals to significant others.  The theory also stated that survival is enhanced by the proximity of individuals to significant others.  While his original work was done with infants, what is of special note is that this also holds true for relationships across the lifespan.

This concept has applications to the family system.  Let’s look at the life cycle stage of families with adolescents.  The major factor in this stage is transition.  Flexibility of family boundaries that include the adolescent’s independence is necessary.  This is often a rocky road to travel, but can be navigated successfully by incorporating some of Bowlby’s ideas.  One of the primary things that must happen is the shifting of the parent-child relationship to allow the adolescent to move in and out of the system.  This can be scary for both parties but is necessary for proper growth and development for everyone in the system, not just the teenager.  During this time, it seems essential that we follow some of the same principles we did when our children were learning to walk.  We gave them room to try this new thing, let them physically move away from us, watched and allowed them to fall sometimes, and were ever-ready to help them up when they tumbled.  We observed them move away from us with a mixture of emotions: excitement, pride, wonder, as well as some sadness.  They need this same support from us at the adolescent stage.  They need to know that we’re okay with them moving away from us, that we’re both excited and sorrowful about the event, that we’re paying attention to what’s happening to them, and that when they need us to, we’ll rush over to help them up and set them on their way again.  This is the great challenge of adolescent parenting.  This is also the great privilege of such.

There is a research-proven theory that says that when we think about past pleasures, our memories are influenced by a formula called peak-end theory (Daniel Kahneman, 1999).  This theory says that when we remember experiences, we don’t recall individual moments; rather we recollect the intensity of the experience as a whole as well as how it ended.  Furthermore, we tend to overlook how long the experience lasted be it pleasant or unpleasant.  This phenomenon is called duration neglect (Kahneman, 1999).  One last bit of research:  Landmarks have been shown to be critical in how people think about and navigate physical spaces (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1982).  Distance and time are judged by the landmarks between any two points.  If points A and B have no landmarks between them and points C and D have several, the distance between the two are judged differently even when they are exactly the same.  Which one do you think is presumed shorter?  If you said the distance between A and B you’re correct.

Now let me apply this to parenting.  I’d like to suggest that if we want our children to have positive memories of their childhood, we would do well to focus on the peak and end point of pleasure experiences.  Additionally, if we want to slow down time and savor the moments, so to speak, we should set up lots of landmarks along the way.  What those benchmarks look like will differ from family to family but they all can be called by a familiar name — traditions.

Consider being deliberate in creating experiences for your children that allow them to experience a peak of pleasure with an awesome ending!  Set them up at various points or times in their developmental lives.  Don’t worry so much about how long they last because it doesn’t matter that much anyway.  These are the things that make for favorable memories (and they make you look like a great parent too).

Some of the traditions in my family may jump start your thoughts so I’ll share a few of them with you.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   1)  When my kids were anticipating losing their first tooth, we told them that when it finally happened, they could “take us out” to eat at any place they chose.  You can imagine the excitement of losing a first tooth coupled with the ability to pick where everyone would eat.  It was a lot of fun for us.  As a result I’ve been to Prego’s, Copeland’s and Krispy Kreme.

2)  We made a big deal of learning to read and when they did each child got his/her own library card.  They spent months thinking about what book(s) they would get with their own card.  For my oldest, I even took pictures of her with the children’s librarian and her book selection.

3)  For my daughters in particular, we planned a special “Woman’s Day” to celebrate their biological entry into womanhood.  They thought about what would make for a fun day for the two of us, and I made it happen.  My son’s day is yet to come.

I am still in the business of erecting landmarks and am having a blast!

May your own creativity run wild and your landmarks abound!

Trina

Eighteen years ago I was sitting in a McDonald’s with my husband, 4-year old nephew, and an acquaintance.  The acquaintance asked my nephew what he wanted to be when he grew up.  My sweet little nephew, between bites of his cheeseburger, answered, “A man”.  Needless to say there were 3 dumbfounded grown-ups who had no response to that answer.

That moment is etched in my memory and has since provoked much thought on this question.  I have come to the conclusion that such an inquiry is misworded.  Experience tells me that when we ask this question, we are really wanting to know what occupation a young person is looking to.  Perhaps a more appropriate question is, “What work do you want to do when you grow up?”  Associating what we do for a living with who we are is, in my opinion, a mistake.

So this begs the question, what DO our kids want to be when they grow up?  Usually, the answer is predicated on our interactions with them.  When they are young, we shape their ideas about the world and themselves.  That being the case, “What do YOU want your kids to be when they grow up?”  The answers will be as varied as the number of people answering.  If you’re like me, your answers tend to run along the lines of character traits.  There are certain qualities that I want my kids to possess and have therefore worked to promote this.   I came to the attributes I did by thinking about what I admire most in others.  Those characteristics that consistently showed themselves in the people I think highly of are certainly the same things I want to appreciate in my children.  Honesty, responsibility, and thoughtfulness top my list.

What about you?  Can you list 10 features that you would like to see your children possess?  It’s a worthy pursuit to give it some thought and put some effort behind it.  What your children do for their earnings may change often over the course of their life, but who they are is likely to remain steadfast.

Trina

Hi everyone,

It’s funny how things happen in life sometimes.  You’re moving along minding your business and an idea hits you square between the eyes that you can’t ignore.  That’s how I ended up here–writing a blog when I’ve only read a handful before now.

For now I’ll let inspiration guide me regarding how often and on what I’ll post but I’m hoping this turns out to be a place of information and inspiration for parents, guardians, grandparents, or anyone who has a child in their life.

My mission in life is to increase in learning so that I may increase learning in others (a fancy way to say I learn in order to teach). 😎  The population that is close to my heart right now is parents.  I am currently a graduate student in professional counseling and am anticipating a practice that specializes in parent education/training.

As I come across ideas, theories, or trends that I find relevant to the world of parenting, I’ll talk about them and hope to hear from you on the subject as well.  I’m not an expert yet but you can count on me for an informed opinion.

I look forward to sharing with you all!  See you next time.

Trina

Hello world!

I hope you like what you’ll find here!

Love the kids in your life well,

Trina