One of the reasons I wanted to homeschool my children was attachment. At the time, I didn’t really understand the importance of attachment as much as I do today, but it still felt important to me. While, I didn’t manage to homeschool full time, I learnt that attachment can happen even when the children are not home all the time.
What I would like to talk about really though is how the development of independence is intertwined with attachment. Being attached does not mean children will not develop independence and remain enmeshed in the family. On the contrary, attachment is what helps us to make adults that have meaningful roles in their families and in society.
A healthy attachment starts with connection, a lot of it of course when they are babies. This connection is strengthened through term breastfeeding and co-sleeping. It is further encouraged and increased through kindness and firmness (or in other words boundaries). Now boundaries, I need to add a bit on this; HEALTHY boundaries, help children grow into separate individuals. It is not about being strict, but about GUIDING them, showing them how to create balance and know the limits with love.
Now to go back on attachment, children, start to separate from us from around 3 years of age – when they become self-aware and are most likely to start using the “I”. It continues at 6/7 years – or what in Waldorf Education is called the 6 year change. Children here can be difficult and are likely at some point to say that you are not the boss of them! Children start feeling the need to be valued for what they are at home and at school. This individualization can be quite a difficult transition for them but by keeping the attachment strong, we can help our children find their footing, help them separate, yet keep them close.
The next change comes around 9/10 years. A time where children can feel really alone and misunderstood. It is a feeling of being so aware of yourself as a separate being, that you feel without family, apart from the rest of the human race. As these children start becoming individuals, it helps immensely to have again kindness and firmness. To strengthen further attachment through connection. A strong family connection and/or community can really help make this transition easier!
And as they grow older this individualization keeps growing and changing but the need for attachment is as strong and as needed. Attachment to us adults, keeps the children close to us despite their increased separateness. Letting us help them through boundaries and kindness to make the correct choices OR just showing them love when they do not.
So throughout childhood, whether babies or teens, attachment keeps children close to us, their parents, so they can listen to us and give them a better grounding to make right choices with the help of connection through boundaries and loving authority. It is only than that they can completely become independent.