Forming ‘attachments’ is a basic human biological instinct that enables us to create lasting psychological connectedness with ourselves, and other human beings. The ability for a child to connect with themselves, each other, and their environment is affected by the way they develop their attachments. This, in turn, affects their social, emotional, spiritual and cognitive development, and will continue to impact the form of attachments that they develop as they move through adolescence and into adulthood.
There is an evolutionary benefit for attachment that ensures a child’s survival. Attachments motivate children to stay close to their parents, which allows the parent to provide protection, security and care. When a child is stressed, they look to their primary caregiver to help them feel safe and organise their feelings.
How we communicate with a child during these stressful moments shapes their attachment style.
Before we start with our tips to ensure your child develops healthy attachments – it’s important you understand that no parent is perfect.
In fact, there is no ‘perfect’, and no parent can be attuned to their child 100% of the time. At most, we are attuned to our children about 30% of the time – however as a parent, we have a choice
about how we want to parent.
5 Tips to ensure your child develops healthy attachments
1. Recognise that it’s the care-givers responsibility to repair a rupture with a child
When arguments and upsets occur between a parent and child it’s how the parent ‘repairs the rupture’ that will impact the way that child develops.
So how do you repair a rupture?
a) Notice your own emotion and behaviour, and step outside of it.
b) Tune into the child’s experience and emotion.
c) Find a way to communicate with your child that supports the development of your relationship.
2. Be Dependable - Your child needs to see you as a safe place
Provide comfort whenever he or she is sick, hurt, or upset. Be physically available as often as possible. When your child feels safe, they can explore the world on their own, knowing they can return to you for security and comfort when they need it. Encourage your child to try new things
by showing you believe they can do it on their own, but be nearby in case they need to return to you for comfort.
3. Be Attentive
Interact with your child one-on-one. Discover activities you can both enjoy, play games together, talk and listen to their interests. Take your child’s lead on what they need; do not force a specific type of interaction based on your needs. These activities do not need to take up a great deal of time, but it is the affection and undivided attention that is important. Eye contact, warmth and touch, and smiles will help build attachment during these interactions.
4. Be Predictable
Children need routines to feel secure. Having a routine for meals, bedtime, and any other regular activity helps your child establish self-discipline and security. Knowing what comes next allows
children to start the next step in the routine on their own, encouraging their independence.
5. Be Understanding During Separation
Having your child spend time with another caregiver does not impact your attachment. Your child may create a bond with another person in addition to you. When leaving your child with someone
else, establish a goodbye routine. This predictability helps your child feel secure. It is understandable for your child to be unsure, but they will likely mimic your behaviour.
Be confident and show your child it is not upsetting. If possible, gradually introduce your child to spending time away from you, slowly increasing the amount of time you are gone.