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
North Shore Family Services is a team of skilled and approachable therapists that help parents, children, teens, adults, and couples reduce anxiety and stress, learn effective problem-solving techniques, and manage emotions and behaviors that inhibit personal, school, family, and relationship success. We make therapy a productive, engaging and relaxing place for everyone to work hard and make the improvements they desire. To find the right-fit therapist for you and your family, visit our clinician’s page.