The Most Important Thing You Never Knew About Your Baby

@thinkstock/Jupiterimages When my son was fifteen months old, my husband and I were invited to my best friend’s wedding in Jamaica. It would have been cost prohibitive to take my two kids along so I planned to leave my son and his older sister in the care of their grandparents and favorite babysitter. I was proud of myself for coming up with such a great solution.

Then I talked to my mother. A clinical psychologist for more than thirty years, my mother strongly advised me to reconsider leaving my son at this young age.

She counseled, “Generally speaking, a primary parent shouldn’t leave a child for several days in a row before the child is two years old because it could negatively affect a child’s ability to maintain relationships all the way into adulthood.”

I was shocked. “Not even for a weekend?” I asked.

She shook her head. “The first eighteen months of a child’s life are spent attaching to the primary parent. This attachment provides the foundation for a person’s self confidence, self-esteem and ability to trust others throughout their entire life.

If the attachment is disrupted early and repeatedly, the child may have trouble trusting anyone in their life.” This seemed like new information to me, and I wondered if other parents of my generation were aware that our seemingly benign parenting decisions could be setting our kids up for unhappiness as far ahead as their workplace and marriage.

What else might I not know about parenting in these early months? I felt lucky to have my mother as a resource. She has literally watched generations of children grow into adults in her office, and seen firsthand the effects parents have on their kids’ emotional wellbeing.

I quickly realized that my mother, Dr. Susan Rutherford, had a lot more to share on the topic. So much more, in fact, that we are publishing our first e-book to help parents do their best to protect their children’s emotional future during their earliest months of life. As it happened, I threw caution to the wind and went ahead on our trip to Jamaica. I paid for this decision for five long months following my return as the mother of a child who no longer slept through the night out of fear I would leave again.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to make parenting mistakes in order to learn from them?

If you’re interested in learning more about how the first Shaping a Secure Start18 months of your child’s life determines their future self-confidence, self-esteem and ability to trust others, you can read our new ebook, Shaping a Secure Start: Parenting Your Child During the First 18 Months. Not just for new parents, Shaping a Secure Start can also be used as a guide for parenting older children to help them become better adjusted kids (available on Amazon and other retailers).

ding 10 comments on “The Most Important Thing You Never Knew About Your Baby

  1. I was so excited to see this short but important article. Thank you, Molly! I am currently working on a piece of state legislation that keeps us from ripping babies from psychological foster parents to move with their siblings when the siblings’ mental health needs can’t be met in the home where the baby lives. We routinely do this now, due to the nation’s focus on siblings being together. Why haven’t we learned, with all of the literature and research and just plain damaged people, that we cannot move babies without serious consequences?

    • Thanks so much Adoree! This conversation inspired our first ebook where we look into how our parenting decisions made during the first 18 months of our child’s life set the foundation for how relationships will go for our child’s entire life. Children’s self-confidence, self-esteem and the ability to create lasting relationships as adults are all influenced during these earliest months. You can read more about it on our site (under the “Books” top navigation or just click on the image of the book itself in the sidebar). It’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others.

  2. Interesting article. I wonder how this makes parents feel? Especially those who are perhaps in the forces or similar roles. Attachment is incredibly interesting though often very emotive too.

  3. I must admit that this has scared me! My son is 2, but when he was 6 months old, I went away for a couple of days with our other child to help my sister who had just had her fourth baby. It never occurred to me that I could be doing something wrong.

    • Melissa – We certainly didn’t mean to scare you! Long term negative effects result from a pattern of leaving the child repeatedly. This is not true in your case. If your child seems fine and maturing nicely, not to worry about it.

    • Hi Melissa,
      I too was surprised about the impact we can have on our little ones by going away during those first 18 months. I had no idea about the psychology behind it. This conversation is what promoted us to write our first ebook, “Shaping a Secure Start: Parenting Your Child During the First 18 Months.” If you have a chance to read it, I would love to hear your thoughts. You can find out more info about it here:
      We’ve already gotten rave reviews on Amazon!
      p.s. You don’t need to have a kindle or ereader to read it. There’s a link for a free app (right below the book cover on our book page) that allows you to read it on any device (computer, tablet, phone…).

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