Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hold on to your kids -- until they let go

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WHEN it comes to parenting advice, this is some that seems instinctive -- hold on to your kids.

After all, that's what we do right from the minute they're born, carrying them from car seat to stroller, from high chair to crib, or walking the floor at night to soothe a colicky baby.

But developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld urges we hang on to that sentiment -- and our kids -- for the rest of our lives.

"We tend to think in very superficial ways, that children need to leave us to find their own individual ways," says the Vancouver-based author of the bestselling Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Matter. "But they need to be more deeply attached."

Neufeld presents his perspectives in a public lecture sponsored by the Family Centre at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Admission is $10 or $5 for low income.

Neufeld acknowledges his gospel of attachment flies in the face of the cultural trend toward independence in North America. He maintains that when children know they can depend on parents for emotional support and stability, it's easier for them to become their own person.

"The more we assume responsibility, the more they can let go," he says. "It's their responsibility to let go, not yours. It's their responsibility to venture forth."

Neufeld says that without this strong attachment to parents or other significant adults, children turn to their friends and peers for direction, something other children don't have the maturity or power to provide. A child who has a strong peer orientation won't turn to parents for advice or guidance, and can become sullen and withdrawn except when they're with their friends.

And don't think this is just a teenage problem, Neufeld warns, since it can happen as early as the preschool years.

No matter what age your kids, there's still time to reconnect and re-establish that attachment, says Neufeld, father of five and granddad of three.

He says by holding sacred that family bond and nurturing our children instead of finding ways to change their behaviour, the relationship deepens and develops, prompting children to "be good" for their parents because of the love connection.

"What it is conveying to the children is two things: 'It's my job to hold on to you' and 'I'm not going to let anything sever the connection,' " says Neufeld.

Again, Neufeld reinforces our parental intuition -- hug your kids, show them they are wanted and significant, and guide and orient them to the world.

These are things we do instinctively for toddlers and preschoolers, but Neufeld encourages us to carry those parental responsibilities throughout our children's lives. And those actions result in some other advice we also already knew deep down in our hearts -- nurturing children also helps parents mature as well.

"When we provide what children truly need, we grow up as adults," says Neufeld, 58. "It forces us to deal with our unfinished business."

* * *

It's party time at the corner of Graham and Donald all next week when the Millennium Library opens its doors at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8, for its grand opening, featuring performances by Fred Penner and the Sister MacNamara School choir.

The redesigned main-floor children's area will be dedicated at 10:45 a.m. in a special smudge ceremony. Family entertainer Jake Chenier performs in a free opening day one-hour concert at 1:30 p.m. Karlheinz the Bubbleman blows his special solution of soap and magic at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, and writer Margaret Shaw-Mackinnon reads from her book Tiktala at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, in the Mona Gray program room.

Weekly family storytime events resume at the redesigned downtown library next week: Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 12, at 11 a.m.

More events continue in the children's area throughout November. Check out www.winnipeg.ca for more information.

* * *

Get a clear view of Mars next week and save a few bucks the next time you visit the Manitoba Museum, by attending the free telescope sessions at Oodena, behind Johnson Terminal at the Forks. Planetarium director Scott Young and other astronomers will be training their telescopes on the red planet from 7:30 to 11 p.m. Nov. 8-10, weather permitting. Call the museum's star line at 988-0605 for details on that night's viewing before heading out. The museum is offering a buy-two, get-one-free coupon for use at the Science Centre and Planetarium.

brenda@suderman.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 5, 2005 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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