Pin It
Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Buddhism and Parenting Attachment

parenting-attachment/ © Alena Ozerova -

At the core of Buddhist practice is the notion that we can release ourselves from the three mental poisons–anger, attachment and ignorance.

Each of these has a multitude of practices within the myriad forms of Buddhism, aimed at reducing their harmful effects.

With the problem of attachment, we have to learn to let go.

Never has the concept of attachment and the idea of letting go come more sharply into focus than when thinking about our children. They are so intricately woven into the fabric of our lives in the early years that it seems impossible that, one day, the task at hand will be allowing them to leave home as they begin to make independent steps in the world.

This issue was recently raised when our eldest daughter, Amber, went on a school journey for five days.

She was very keen to go and while I was aware that our homely eight-year-old girl would undoubtedly feel homesick at some point, we allowed her to make the choice and supported her decision. A week before the trip, we had tears at bedtime as she was worried that she would miss her Mum, Dad and younger sister. We gave her the option of missing the journey and staying at home, but she had set in her mind that she was going and wanted to stick with this.

Encouraged by her school, we agreed it would be good for her to establish some independence from us. The trip went well–she thoroughly enjoyed days packed with team building games and seaside visits. However she struggled with the nights. Sharing a room with eight chatty girls was fun for the first night but quickly deteriorated into accumulated lack of sleep, which we all know leaves adults and children alike tired and emotional.

As her Mum, I had to tackle the idea of attachment–hers to mine and vice versa. Somewhere in my mind she is still my baby and I had to practice that hardest of parenting skills: letting go.

In Buddhism, attachment is one of the main causes of suffering. The failure to understand that we must eventually let go of everything– those around us, possessions, and ultimately our own being and identity–is the root cause of all grasping, clinging, sorrow and grief. Attachment is described as having a clingy, tight, sticky quality.

Buddhism teaches us to recognise and then unpick the attachment from our relationships and develop the love and compassion aspect. Love as defined by Buddhism is the wish for that person to be happy. Compassion is the wish for that person to be free from suffering. It is very tricky to differentiate the attachment from the love and compassion aspects of our relationships, especially our parental relationships.

On Amber’s return from the school trip she told us it was one of the hardest things she had done and she had real moments of loneliness. However I have noticed that she has been more loving, thoughtful and, dare I say it, helpful both to me and her younger sister. Perhaps this difficult event for all of us has forced us to confront our attachment levels and encouraged us to be thankful for the love and compassion in our relationships. One thing is for sure–there will be a lot more letting go for me to practice in the years to come.

© 2011, Jack and Helen Hamilton. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:

How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband

And why this is the number one fight in our household

6 Favorite Children’s Books about Ramadan

Our top picks for Muslim and non-Muslim kids alike

Overheard on the Beijing Subway When People Don't Think I Speak Mandarin

The awesome stuff I overhear like what these two Chinese women think of foreigners.

How I Made My Forgotten Native Language My Child’s Strongest

I started off by speaking dodgy Cantonese. No word for remote control? No problem! ‘Pressy thingy.’


Jack and Helen Hamilton have been married for ten years and have two daughters, Amber, aged 8 and Clover, 4. Jack is a freelance photographer and Helen is an actress and writer. Born and raised in South London, they continue to live and raise their own family there. They have been practising Tibetan Buddhists for around a decade, but both come from Christian backgrounds.

Leave us a comment!

  1. Commentsana-milkmommymilk   |  Friday, 14 October 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I really like the idea of bringing Buddhism into our relationship with our children, as it encourages us to embrace our loving essence – a wonderful way to live.
    I am not sure the idea of attachment parenting can be related with the detachment in the Buddhism. Attachment parenting has as a goal the natural detachment of the child from the parent in due time. It is believed that children brought up under the attachment parenting philosophy tends to be more secure, and therefore, more ready and eager to let go and walk their own paths. And I am sure any Buddhist can appreciate that.
    Great article, nonetheless. I can only imagine how I will feel when my child is ready to let go…

  2. CommentsBen   |  Monday, 21 December 2015 at 5:32 am

    I love the idea of Jose at storytime with the girls. That is great. You will be a great Grandma sodemay!Summer,I haven’t read piggies , but I’ve seen it, so I will get that one next time. Love the Laura Numberoff. I have only read a couple of the Mem Fox books, so I will definitely check more of those out!Katrina,I would also love to be a librarian, but I really don’t want to get my masters in library science . I love love the Llama Llama books! Richard Scarry is great. My kids just love looking at the pictures by themselves. Yes, I agree about Angelina being kind of bratty, and sometimes those books have words like dumb and stupid. Aren’t they writing these for little kids??Wendy,I love the Pigeon books ,but I haven’t read any others by Mo Willems, so I am going to check them out. I like Dr. Seuss a lot, but my kids haven’t been as into them as me. I will keep trying .Robyn,We have read Bedtime for Francis and the kids loved it, so I will get the other ones. Have you seen the Francis show?? It is so cute!Adrienne,I haven’t read very many Bill Peet books,so I will check those out! Sofia loves Fancy Nancy.Kim,Mouse paint is great!

Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!

What Cultural Norms Around Bare Feet Taught This Mother in Guatemala

Her baby's bare feet ended up being a lesson on poverty and privilege.
[…] the breastfeeding culture in Mongolia compared to America. Did you have any idea that something as simple as breastfeeding attitudes can […...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
My mother born in the 1930's is originally from the northern part of Germany. I am in my mid fifties and have a terrible relationship with my mother. She is domineering and hurts those where it hurt...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
[…] JC Niala, InCultureParent […...
From Why African Babies Don’t Cry
[…] […...
From Breastfeeding Around the World
Although humanity is one Man (in a generic sense, including woman)has identified himself endless groups, religious, nationalistic, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, etc. Once you separate ME from YOU on...
From What’s an Asian? Race and Identity for a New Generation
[…] […...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
Some great tips here but not many working mothers could feed baby every hour especially if you work in a major multi-nationa...
From Why African Babies Don’t Cry
So true!!! Thanks for being so honest and self reflective. It's a proof of true characte...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
As a first-time mom I've spent the last two months of my four-month-old's life stressed out about her sleep and I recognize how crazy this is. It's clearly not working for me! I'm wondering how non-...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep

More The Religious Life of Children