Attachment Parenting with Older Children

My oldest daughter Tannah is almost 6. One of her teeth is threatening to fall out and she can get herself a glass of water when she is thirsty. I look at her sometimes and wonder where those long legs came from and how was it that she was ever so tiny that she fit all curled up in me belly.

She also sleeps in her own room, hasn’t had a breastfeed for over 3 years and she is too big to be carried, even in an ergo.I used to wonder how I was going to stay connected with her when so much of who I am as a parent seemed defined by those early days when I was a poster girl for Attachment Parenting.

But eventually she grew more interested in walking and didn’t want to be carried anymore, she decided that my breasts were not the be all and end all and words gradually replaced cries — making her needs more easily met. I would like to say that I didn’t cry the first night when Tannah, at a few months after her 5th birthday, took herself off to bed in her own room, but I can’t. I felt like I’d lost the last of the things that defined us as “attached”.

But can l tell you a secret? That stuff is just the tip of the iceberg.

All the groundwork laid as babies, all those nights and days I held her, listened to her, tried to meet her needs and treated her as a small human being who was not an inconvenience on my life has paid off.

Sure, just like babies, it’s not always easy. Tannah tells me, in no uncertain terms, if she feels I’ve been too cranky or upset her which is hard to hear. And she does all the age appropriate stuff and gets cross with her sisters and storms off and whines and does things that downright annoy me at times. It can feel hard to stay connected to a person who is slamming the door in my face.

I find that the relationship we have is what makes staying connected easier. That relationship is based on trust. She trusts me to always be there for her, just like I was when she called out to me as a baby and I always came. I trust that she is always doing the best that she can at the time. And there are further ways to stay “attached”:

  • Physical Touch. This is still very important for children. While they may not be in a sling or full time cosleeping anymore they still need lots of physical touch. Lots of cuddles and having them sit on your lap to read a book or holding their hand when you are out walking.
  • Listening. Your child will have lots to say and lots of questions about everything. Listen and answer honestly. Hear what they are telling you and don’t make light of their hopes and fears.
  • Relax. Don’t put timelines on things. Remember how there was no pressure on your baby to walk or talk by a certain age? Magic ages for milestones don’t suddenly happen when your child hits school age. They are still an individual.
  • Connect. Lots of parents sit on the floor and play games like peek-a-boo with their babies but never ever play a big kid game. Find an activity you both like doing and share it. It could be as simple as watching the clouds roll by or as complicated as Dungeons and Dragons. Make the time to connect.

And lastly enjoy that beautiful creature that is your child. Appreciate their wonder and awe, delight with them in their achievements, and be amazed at their thirst for knowing the world. Watch a movie together, push them on a swing, and savor the time that they are young. And when you tuck them in at night (maybe in their own bed!) tell them you love them.


Shae is a stay-at-home, homebirthing, home-cooking, unschooling crunchy Mama to 3 amazing girls. She tries her best to parent, eat and consume consciously. She blogs over at Yay For Home!

Update: Tannah did lose her tooth . . . and I did cry!

7 Responses to Attachment Parenting with Older Children

  1. Jayne

    awww so nice. I hadnt considered how attachment parenting applied to older children, and I am glad that you have shared. I know it will be hard on me when my baby girl asserts her own independence (she’s starting already at 10 months :S) but one of the reasons I feel AP is for me is that it lets children do that (as opposed to me asserting their independence for them).
    Thank you for the insight into the years ahead 🙂

  2. Regina  

    I totally just blogged about this very topic too! It’s sooooo true!

  3. Laura

    The benefits continue through the middle years and beyond. Having a trusting relationship w/DS12 and DS9 is worth more than I can say.
    Kids need parents who listen and are there for them. That begins at (or before) birth and continues for life. From that, they learn to grow, take risks, and become independent and confident teens and adults.

  4. Emily @ Crunchy(ish) Mama  

    Very happy you posted this! As my son gets older I wonder what our AP relationship will turn into and how AP will shape big kid issues like academics and discipline. I very much appreciate your advise to stay physical, listen, relax and connect.

  5. katepickle  

    Back when they were little it seemed so easy to tick all the boxes that made sure we were ‘attached’… then they started to grow bigger and need those things less, and now not at all. But they still need us to be attached and just as our big kids have grown up so have we as parents…

  6. kelly @kellynaturally  

    My eldest is 6 and her brother is 3, and wow, I really connected with this post!

    My two littles co-sleep together now, and have for the last two years… but I still lie down in the evening with them before they drift off to sleep – it’s our daily reconnecting ritual.

    Wonderful post, thank you.

  7. Kate Wicker @ Momopoly  

    Loved this post. As a mom to two “babies” and one 6-year-old, I’ve found AP isn’t as straightforward with older children. Tending to babies can be physically exhausting, but their needs and wants are one in the same. As they grow older, however, the path to continued attachment may not be as obvious. Yet, I’m learning that if I don’t complicate things and am just present for my 6-year-old, that trust (as you mentioned) will remain. As my daughters grow, it will continue to be important for me to be there for them, to pick up on their cues, and to offer unconditional love and support while providing boundaries.

    Thanks for a great post geared to AP moms of older kids. There’s not as much info out there on AP and the older child.