Author Archive

Making Time for Connection

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

by Alane Atchley, M.S., LMFT, LCDC

“How much time each day do you connect with your kids?”

This is a question I ask all the parents I work with in family therapy. Most parents understand this as any interaction between them and their child. I usually have to clarify the word “connect.” When I say connect, I mean an intentional, set apart time to talk or play with your children throughout the day. After that clarification, I often hear that it’s not as nearly as consistent as they would like that time to be.

According to whitehouse.gov, more than 6 out of 10 families in the United States with children have two working parents, and 57% of working people responded that work interferes with their quality of family life. On top of working, parents are expected to take their children to Brownies, tumbling, soccer, church….. I could go on for days! At the end of the day, this leaves families feeling exhausted and disconnected.

The decrease of time and increase in responsibilities has led to families being more disconnected than ever. This lack of connection leads to heightened anxiety and withdrawal in children leading to struggles with the academic and social aspects of school.

In my years as a family therapist, family disconnection is a common, problematic theme. To get families connecting more within the home, I have them try out the 10-20-10 challenge. This means at least one parent and child connection for 10 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon/ evening, and 10 minutes at night. This is quality time spent together interacting and being present with one another. No school. No screens. No agenda. To some this seems too much or too little, but I encourage you to try it out and integrate it slowly into your family routine.

Here are some easy, playful ways to connect with your kids during your 10-20-10 challenge:

  1. Cooking together. Cooking or preparing an afternoon snack together can be a fun and connecting time for parent and child. Remember that the activity is about connection, NOT outcome!
  2. Sensory play. Explore the way things around the house or the yard sound, feel and look. When y’all are exploring together you are connecting as well. This is not just positive for your connection but your child’s sensory system as well.
  3. Playing a simple game of “I spy”. This will get y’all working and playing together. Also don’t be afraid to add an “I wonder “ to your game of “I spy”.
  4. Dancing together. This is a great one for our older elementary and junior high kids. Playing one of the popular dance songs that your kids know and having them teach you or do the dance with you will create an environment of laughter and connection between parent and child.

These are just a few ideas to get you started – for more information or for questions, please email me here. Have fun connecting!

What is Behind Attachment?”

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

By Alane Atchley, M.S., LMFT-Associate, LCDC

“Attachment” is quite a hot word these days It’s not only in the therapeutic community but in the parenting community as well. In regards to parenting, there are hundreds of blogs that come up when you Google “attachment parenting.” The blogs are full of posts about co-sleeping, baby wearing and breast-feeding; and while these components can be important, these blogs are often lacking in the research behind the techniques.

The research on attachment in parent-child relationships began with the work of John Bowlby, a famous researcher who paved the way for all the attachment researchers after him. Bowlby defines attachment as, “a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space.” While conducting his research and working with children and their parents, he observed that children, when separated from their primary attachment figures, become extremely distressed. When fed by other adults, the children’s anxiety remained elevated, and he found that the children could most effectively be soothed by their attachment figures. This observation proved true and was expanded upon with Harry Harolw’s Rhesus Monkeys experiment. In Harlow’s experiment, infant monkeys were separated from their mothers and put into a cage with two decoy mother monkeys. One decoy was made of wire and a bottle of milk attached, and the other decoy was covered in fur but did not have a bottle attached. Throughout the experiment, the monkeys would latch onto the fur decoy and would only go to the wire decoy to eat. The monkeys would then promptly go back to the fur decoy for nurture. For the infant monkeys in the experiment, nurture and warmth took precedence over being close to the source of the food.

What past research has found is that attachment plays a pivotal role in emotional regulation and relational development. When secure attachment is built in the first few years of life, the groundwork has been laid to experience and enjoy healthy relationships in the future. So the basis behind many of the techniques in attachment parenting is finding ways to attune, connect and meet your baby’s needs to form a secure attachment with parent and child.

Over the past 40 years, research and treatment of attachment issues has advanced. One effective attachment treatment modality to use with children is Theraplay®. Ann Jernburg and Phyllis Booth developed this modality in the late 1960’s. They were working in an early head start program and saw a need within their client population. They began to bring in activities that were engaging, nurturing, challenging and structured that mimicked an early attachment relationship. From that idea, Theraplay® was born and the Theraplay® Institute was developed. Modern day Theraplay® is a type of interactive, family play therapy. Its goal is to enhance and/or build attachment, self-esteem, trust in others and connection within the relationship. Theraplay® is now a treatment modality that is used worldwide and across many cultures. Theraplay® is effective in treating families of all shapes and sizes and has been found especially helpful in building attachment and relationship in foster and adoptive families. To learn more about Theraplay®, please visit theraplay.org.

Alane Atchley has been trained in Theraplay Level 1and 2, is currently a Theraplay® Level 1 Practitioner and under supervision to receive full Theraplay® certification.

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