Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Day 72: What’s the Best Setup to Raise your Child? | Parenting Stigmas

In the world of parenting, everyone has their own opinion and idea of ‘what is right’ and ‘how things should be done’. There’s a tendency to impose what worked for oneself, to be ‘how things should be done’ for everyone – and to not take into consideration each individual contexts.

One of the points that gets debated a lot is the topic of ‘co-sleeping’. Co-sleeping is where the baby or child sleeps with the parents in the same bed or has a little attachment to the parents’ bed in which he/she sleeps.

The main points of concern that get brought up against this ‘practice’ (up until the 19th century, this was done pretty much all over the world) is that it is unsafe for the baby and that it will create an emotionally dependent child.

In terms of safety, sure there are some practical physical points one needs to take into consideration when co-sleeping. The main reason why it is seen as a safety is issue is because of the possibility of the parent(s) rolling over their baby and suffocating it. This is abnormal behaviour and happens when people live an extreme lifestyle in terms of drugs, drinking and over-exertion leading to exhaustion. In those cases, obviously one should not sleep with one’s child because your normal senses of awareness will be absent.

When I started sleeping with Cesar in our bed, I made the decision to fall asleep in the position I went to sleep in – and to wake up and move; if I wanted to move – and to wake up at the slightest notion of him moving/making sound.

In the past year I have not once rolled over him or suffocated him. I have however been kicked in the face by his baby legs some mornings and have him crawl and roll over myself and my partner, so parent safety is not guaranteed. We were fine after each incident lol.

In terms of the topic of emotional dependency, what is quite interesting is that most people place the focus on physical methods, practices and techniques as the source/origin point of emotional imbalance within children. So for instance with the point of co-sleeping ‘co-sleeping creates an emotionally dependent child and promotes separation anxiety’ and ‘sleeping alone creates independence’ – where ‘what you do’ determines the outcome for your child. Little attention is given to who the parents are in terms of their own inner stability, balance and well-being.

Can a child that co-sleeps become emotionally unbalanced? Yes
Can a child that co-sleeps become emotionally independent? Yes

And same goes for a child that sleeps alone.

For the greatest part, it won’t be the actual physical setting that determines how the child develops, but the mental state of the parents' minds.

A mother can insist on sleeping with her child because she’s very anxious and worried that anything might happen to her in her crib/in a separate room and that she won’t notice – and so within co-sleeping, being able to keep a very close eye on the baby, even if it means very little sleep to herself.

In such a case, it’s not unlikely for the child to develop an emotional imbalance as the mother’s starting point for co-sleeping was within emotional imbalance – and this state of mind would then transfer and imprint unto the child who then creates a connection between ‘sleeping with mom’ and ‘safety/anxiety’.

The same child could grow up with a mother who decides to co-sleep simply because it is easier to respond to the child’s need when they are close by, not because she fears that something ‘might happen’ to the child. In this case, the mother’s starting point for co-sleeping is that she wants to tend to the child’s needs as best as possible. The child is then likely to develop emotionally well-balanced because he/she knows he/she is in an environment in which her/his needs are attended to.

Another aspect is that these decisions are often looked up as having an absolute impact on one’s child – while there are actually many dimensions involved in bringing up a child. Only one’s sleeping arrangement and who one is within that will not ensure that you have an imbalanced or balanced child. A parent could be confident and hands-on within the point of sleeping, but face reactions and uncertainties with regards to food and how this may or may not impact the child’s health. If these anxieties are intense enough, your child may still develop emotionally unstable whether your sleeping arrangements are ‘in place’ or not. What will determine a child’s future is not what happens within a single aspect of life but is about the whole life experience, and this takes place within every moment, within every breath. There’s no checklist of points you can simply ‘tick off’ in terms of the things you have in place for your child that will ensure an independent, stable, confident, well-balanced child and that the rest will just take care of itself.

It takes a constant nurturing, attentiveness and responsiveness from the parent towards the child, as well as to themselves to ensure that they are the walking and living embodiment of the values and principles they want their children to live by.

So to only look at what parents do in terms of certain arrangements in their household, is a poor measure or indication of how the child is being supported in their personal development and potential; only reflecting back the limited scope in which we are trained to evaluate things in life for ourselves.

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