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What is Attachment ?

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What is Attachment?

Attachment refers to the critical bond that children develop to their parents or primary caregivers during the first years of life.

From the moment babies are born, they seek security and love from responsive parents and caregivers. In an ideal world, new parents would get all the time, support, and resources they need to think about parenting styles and skills and how to care for their new baby. In reality, life goes on and we must manage and learn as we go. The good news is that a lot of instincts come with parenting, and kids are extremely resilient. But understanding the basics about how babies form attachments can help significantly in this most important journey.

Types of attachment

The attachments that children develop to their parents and caregivers can be described as secure or insecure.

Secure attachments
Secure attachments form when a parent or caregiver responds sensitively and consistently to a child’s needs. This leads to the child being able to:

  • Gain confidence that his needs will be recognized and responded to
  • Develop healthy relationships
  • Regulate or manage her emotions
  • More easily comfort himself
  • Feel safe exploring the world around her
  • Cooperate and help others
  • View himself and others positively

Insecure attachments
Insecure attachments can form when a parent or caregiver responds inconsistently or not at all to a child’s needs. This can result in the child:

  • Lacking confidence in the predictability of the world around her
  • Having difficulty developing healthy relationships
  • Struggling to manage his emotions
  • Lacking the skills to comfort herself
  • Feeling unsafe and unwilling to explore the world around him
  • Being aggressive or withdrawn
  • Viewing herself and others negatively

Parenting skills

Parents know that parenting can’t be reduced to a simple formula and that every child is unique. When we parent, we draw on instincts and our best judgment even as we lack sleep and manage competing priorities. Years of parenting wisdom and research do agree on some basic approaches or parenting styles that seem to best help children develop coping skills, strong relationships, and tools for navigating their world.

Approaches or parenting styles:

  • Being sensitive: Reading and responding quickly and appropriately to your child’s needs
  • Being available: Expressing and sharing feelings appropriately
  • Being open: Accepting your child’s right to his feelings
  • Being consistent: Establishing a routine and responding with a balance of consistency and flexibility to your child’s needs
  • Being affectionate: Having warm interactions with your child and developing a feeling of connectedness
  • Being calm: Regulating your emotions to avoid extremes in behavior or being reactive
  • Being rooted: Seeking to understand how your own childhood experiences influence your parenting

Common misconceptions

It’s too late for my child to build a secure attachment to me.
It's never too late to build a secure attachment. While building a secure attachment with your child is critical in the early stage of your child's life, it is not too late to start trying to build a secure attachment with your child or teen now. Creating a connection between parents and their children does not happen instantly. Attachment develops over time. Focus on:

  • Accepting your child’s feelings
  • Understanding your child’s cues and style of communication
  • Creating a foundation of security and trust
  • Providing consistent and responsive parenting
  • Connecting with your child through laughter and play, physical comfort, and touch

Crying doesn’t always mean something is wrong. I should let my baby “cry it out” sometimes so that she learns to be independent.
When a baby cries, it is clearly a cue that something is wrong. Picking your child up or tending to a need reassures your baby that you are available and responsive. This step reinforces to your baby that you are emotionally attuned and available, which leads to a secure attachment.

It is impossible to communicate with my baby until he learns how to talk.
Newborns communicate right from birth. Babies signal their willingness to interact and engage as well as indicate that they need a break from ongoing stimulation. Body language, sounds, early words, and facial expressions serve as theig. Picking your child up or tending to a need reassures your baby that you are available r communication tools.

If I hold my baby or respond to his cries too much, I will spoil him.

Because an infant’s brain and body systems are relatively immature at birth, a baby has very little capacity to be on his own and needs your loving touch and support. Studies spanning the last several decades demonstrate substantial lifelong advantages in physical, mental, social, and emotional health for children who receive consistent, warm, positive, and developmentally appropriate attention and care.

The more time I spend with my child and the more close contact we have, the more attached she will be to me.
For babies and children to develop secure attachments, they need to know that the adults in their lives are available, reliable, and responsive. Children form attachments to multiple adults in their lives, and it doesn’t require 24/7 attention or constant physical contact. There is some evidence that the quality of interactions is more important than the quantity of time spent. For example, one study found that babies whose mothers worked at home had lower than expected attachment compared to mothers who went back to work after a six-week maternity leave.

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