What is Attachment and how do we build a secure attachment in our children?
Time and focus given to our children is one way we build a secure attachment… It is as easy as loving them and playing with them.
Winnicott wrote about the ‘good enough in terms of parents and attachment which develops a secure attachment in children. My favorite therapist and considered the father of Attachment therapy is John Bowlby. Most therapists follow a path of therapy that they make as their base- kinda like a foundation of what they believe and work from. Attachment theory is mine. I love the idea of using psychodynamic theory as the foundation which allows me to pull on some of what I consider great minds in therapy: it allows me to use Adler and his birth order, early memories, and overcoming struggles-feeling inferior. Erik Erikson addresses life stages and where a person is at in that stage. Meaning: what is the baseline we are looking at and how do we help people reach or overcome what his holding them back. Carl Jung and his therapy on personality- dreams, collective unconscious, and archetypes.
But my personal favorite is John Bowlby and attachment theory. When we decide on how we will raise our children we do not necessarily think “I want to build a secure attachment or how do I build an attachment that will carry my child into adulthood and their adult relationships”.
These may not be on our top 10 list of important items for our child’s life. We may not even know what secure or healthy attachment is. I did not know what that meant when my children were young. I had so many other things to think about- food, housing, health while they were little. Each has special needs for me to navagate through– Understanding attachment was not on my list.
All I knew was that I loved them, played with them, and was attuned to them. I never realized I was building a healthy and secure attachment. A healthy attachment will look strange to some because they want to be with you when you are away from your child. Some may call this spoiled, but it is actually a healthy, secure attachment. As the child will instantly stop crying or fussing when you look at him or pick him up.
When a child knows they are safe with you and you will attune to their needs (know what they need or want and when to give it to them) they become secure in their abilities and begin to pull away to explore their world with confidence. Some parents struggle with giving children the freedom to go out and explore while others may push the child out to early.
When we are attuned to our children we know the right time to let them spread their wings and fly. In a daycare setting the young child who has no emotion when their parent or guardian leaves them may seem to be ‘fine’ or the child who ‘never cried or never had a problem’ making the daycare staff feel good about themselves and the child may be the child who needed attention the most.
The child who cries after their parent may seem to be spoiled and hard to handle. Once the parent comes back the child stops crying and runs to their mother. As strange as this seems it is a secure attachment. While I worked in daycare centers I had children attached to me and be happy when the parents leave but once the parent comes back the child will cry or run to the parent making it seem as if the child was unhappy all day. When in fact the child was fine after the initial change in adult -parenting figure. I have had others form a strong attachment to me and when the parent came for the child they would cry for me and cling to me. This could be a sign of some trouble at home but also could be just the initial change in the adult attachment figure. What is interesting with a healthy secure attachment is a child at any age can begin to learn this attachment if the parent figure is attuned, fair, focused on the child’s needs, and open -unconditionally to the child.
While working with Theraplay; an attachment-based therapy, the parent or caregiver learns to address the child at the need and emotional age. This may be hard because the child may be 11 but emotionally is only a toddler- needing constant reassurance, direction, and unconditional love to explore their world.
A secure attachment will follow the child into adulthood and their adult relationships. A secure child will eventually grow to a secure adult. A few bumps and bruises follow growing up but if a child believes in themselves and has the support they need. That child will make it through the hard years with confidence.Building a secure attachment is as simple as really being there for your child.
When the baby cries attune to their needs in a reasonable time. When they fall let them know you are there to help them get up. Giving them the space to make mistakes but helping when they need it. Listening to them when they talk- not listen with a phone in one ear or while doing something else (multitasking is not genuine unconditional listening in a way you can give honest and positive feedback).
Being with your children and helping them to make decisions, listening to them, and letting them make mistakes is part of attuning to your child as it builds strong, secure attachment bonds. This bond will not make the child soft, spoiled, or indecisive; it will actually make them stronger and more creative with self-reliance and flexibility.
Hearing what the child needs at any age- is important in the growth of the relationship. acknowledging their struggles and watching them overcome builds strength in the child. Attachment is not manipulation or intrusive it is allowing the other person to know you are there.
Children go through many stages while growing up. Giving them a healthy secure form of attachment will help them to understand who they are and find out what they want while giving them to confidence to speak to their parents if their goal is different than the parent figures’ goal/dreams for them.
Attachment can be healthy and strong moving forward pulling us to achieve the desires of our hearts. It can also be insecure which may cause us to pull away from loved ones (avoidant), or not actually be present in the relationship (ambivalent).
Attachment: healthy attachment is always possible and can be passed on from one adult to another which is the amazing attribute of attachment. My therapist may build a strong attachment which allows my teacher to build on that attachment which allows the parents and or siblings to learn how to build a strong bond with their child.
In turn, it can allow the child to develop the confidence to move on a positive path toward building a strong attachment in their own children one day.
Secure Attachment the amazing ability to grow with others in a healthy way!