Attachment was/is my first Psychology love (how cheesy is that?). I remember hearing about the concept and being just enthralled and reading everything I could get my hands on regarding this fabulous phenomenon.
So what is it? Well, attachment in this case refers to the special bond between a parent and child. As researchers, we think of a child’s attachment to his parent on a semi-continuum of secure/insecure. Secure, of course, is the kind you want. It’s linked with lots of good things like better social skills and closer parent-child relationships. A secure attachment relationship provides a child with feelings of safety, love, and support
Before I tell you more about attachment, listen to me and repeat to yourself: Most children are securely attached to their parents. (Often when I explain attachment to others, they become quite worried that their own child is insecurely attached and doomed for life. 1. Your child is probably not insecure and 2. Even if she is, she would NOT be doomed for life).
1. Attachment first starts to develop at around 8-9 months. Ever notice how, at just about this age, your baby starts crying when you leave the room? That’s the attachment system kicking in. J It’s a good thing, I promise.
2. Secure attachment is thought to result from parents who consistently respond to their child’s needs. Does this mean that if you sometimes don’t hear your baby cry or are slow to respond because you are cooking dinner/in the shower/living your life that he will somehow realize that you are the worst mother ever and develop an insecure attachment? Probably. Just kidding. Of course not! Consistent responding just means that you have developed a pattern with your baby and he knows that you will sooth him when he is upset. MOST PARENTS DO THIS NATURALLY.
3. A securely attached child may look like this:
- Cries/becomes upset when you leave the room
- Easily calms when you return
- Looks to you/runs to you when in the presence of a stranger (Ever said ‘hi’ to a kiddo in the grocery store and he immediately looks at mom and puts a hand on her? Attachment system J)
- Easily able to play at a distance from you in new places (mall play area, classroom, friend’s house)
- Calmed more easily by mom/dad (not other adults or strangers) when upset
4. Important: Securely attached children don’t all fit this mold. Securely attached kids come in all varieties- shy, outgoing, vocal, reserved, easily upset, mellow, you name it.
5. Simple ways to foster a secure attachment relationship with your child:
- Respond to your child in a gentle, caring way. Research shows that sensitive responsiveness is associated with the development of secure attachments.
- Use emotion words. Describing how you feel in terms of emotions (happy, sad, frustrated, etc.) helps your child learn to build emotional bonds with others by connecting on a deeper level.
- Spend quality time together. Share a book, play dress up, or make up a story rather than watch television of play video games together. Experiences that require both people to be engaged encourage bonding and learning about each other.
- Practice ‘trust’ activities. Feeding each other or rub lotion on each other’s hands. Such activities encourage trust and help parent and child be ‘in-tune’ with the other.
This is, of course, a very basic introduction to attachment. More information can be found here:
Note: Attachment theory, while similar to, is different from attachment parenting. That’s another post for another day.