06 Apr Attachment? What is it good for? Absolutely Everything!
What creates the best start to a child’s life? A strong attachment to a parent or caregiver. Many parents understand this concept, but there are a few things to help implement a secure attachment throughout a child’s upbringing. Building a strong attachment with your child will allow for healthy emotional, mental, and social development.
By no means do you have to be a “perfect parent” (it doesn’t exist!). As a parent/caregiver, your responsibilities should be to provide nourishment, responses, and comfort in times of need. In this post, I want to talk about attachment, ways to build it, and the benefits.
What is attachment?
It is the relationship between a parent and child that makes an infant or young child feel safe, secure, and protected.
In some cases, an insecure attachment might develop due to traumatic situations such as neglect or abuse. There are different types of insecure attachments, usually visible in toddlers or young children.
- Ambivalent– a child who is anxious or preoccupied when in distress and is attempted to be cared for.
- Avoidant– a child who is dismissive or resistant to caregiver attempt to comfort.
- Disorganized– a combination of above and fearful of own needs or attention.
Having a secure attachment with parental-figures benefits a child’s future because secure attachments are the foundation of trust and dependency. It helps regulate negative emotions, create social skills and empathy, and meet developmental milestones.
Attachment patterns are carried into adulthood and can be passed down through generations. A severely anxious parent might have anxious children. Disrupting patterns can be done by attempting to be self-aware and develop positive coping skills.
How to build attachment?
SENSITIVITY IS KEY! Be tuned into your child’s needs. A baby’s main form of communication is crying, therefore, being attentive and comforting during times of need can build attachment and security.
Attachment Tip: Be sensitive to yourself and your needs too!
As a child grows:
- Encourage emotional language by speaking softly, providing sufficient eye contact and offering times of uninterrupted attention. You can emotionally comfort with physical touch or items. Set up a care routine (bath time, meals, or bedtime): a set expectation of actions such as a hug, applying lotion, reading a book, or telling a story.
- Connect through play!! Play is the way a child learns about the world and communicates. It creates positive relationships, develops creativity, and soothing skills for times of distress. Plan time and do not rush. You can set up a blanket on the floor and devote 15 minutes to free playing and allow them to lead the play. Pay attention to their signs and signals.
- Set appropriate boundaries and expectations. As a child grows and becomes autonomous, take steps to communicate what they should do when they’re upset. “Express their feelings, hit a pillow, or take deep breaths.” This helps build problem-solving and executive functioning skills.
Attachment Tip: The book, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, by John Gottman encourages parents and teaches emotional coaching and secure attachment basics.
As a parent/caregiver life can be stressful! The most important piece to building a strong attachment is sensitivity to self and feeling confident in your abilities.
- Practice patience and self-care. Managing your own stress, depression, anxiety, etc. can model positive coping skills for children and provide energy to support yourself and loved ones. A related idea is “You must put on your own oxygen mask, before assisting others!”
- Share child care with partners or find your own support through parenting groups or social networks.
- Limit distractions such as smartphone usage, TVs, or work/household-related tasks during family together time. Undivided attention is a simple way to show you care and you are invested.
Attachment Tip: This blog is about stress management for parents
Mackenzie earned her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Purdue University Northwest in Hammond, IN. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Minored in Child and Family Development and Communications from Missouri State University in 2015. Mackenzie enjoys working with a variety of clients and presenting problems, she has experience with children, adolescents, families, adults, and couples.
She is skilled at finding the best methods and interventions that meet her clients’ needs because everyone is different and it is important to find a good fit. Mackenzie addresses issues from a systemic lens, which is working to understand relationship patterns and dynamics above the individual level that may influence the problem. She works to help support not just the individual, but the whole family. Mackenzie utilizes Solution-Focused Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Emotional-Focused Therapy, and play/experiential therapy to help her clients achieve their goals. She is specially trained in Gottman Method Couples Therapy.
She provides services pertaining to depression, anxiety, mood disorders, trauma, stress, gender identity/sexuality issues, and low self-esteem. Specifically, with children, she has tools to work with impulsivity, emotional regulation and expression, anger and distress tolerance. Mackenzie works to empower parents and families to adopt these skills and continuously work on them within and outside of therapy. She believes collaboration is crucial with helping make progress, so she encourages working with parents, schools/teachers, and other community aspects.
Mackenzie helps adults and couples with a variety of issues related to relationship distress or enrichment in dating, premarital, long-term and married couples as well as individuals with life stressors or issues. She assists them by understanding and advancing relationships dynamics, addressing negative interaction behaviors, and creating tools for healthy communication and advanced intimacy. Mackenzie focuses on intimacy issues, infidelity, family of origin problems, conflict resolution, and parenting conflicts.
Mackenzie is a caring and compassionate therapist that meets clients where they are at and works with them to achieve their intended goals. She believes that therapy is about self-awareness, personal growth, and creating a supportive environment for change. Mackenzie is very driven to maintain her own self-care and influences clients to do the same. When she is out of the office she enjoys bike riding, hiking, crafting, and spending time with her friends and family.