What Your Child Needs to Develop Healthy Attachments
What do you think your child needs most to develop healthy attachments in life?
If you answered “love,” you’re not alone. After all, isn’t that what all humans crave? Isn’t it what parents usually shower their babies with from the moment they’re born?
While love certainly plays an important role in raising children, what they need first and foremost is a strong relationship with their primary caregiver—you.
Interestingly, the basis for this relationship is not necessarily the quality of care or love you give, but the nonverbal emotional communication between you and your child—the attachment bond.
Why the Attachment Bond is so Critical
Researchers have found that nonverbal emotional communication greatly affects how children develop emotionally, intellectually, mentally, physically, and socially. This type of communication begins early in life—as an infant—but the relationships formed through it will have lasting effects on the child’s personality and behavior throughout his or her entire life.
A stable attachment bond provides children with a solid foundation, a feeling of safety and security that makes them eager to learn and empathize. It creates trust and a healthy self-awareness. An unstable attachment bond does exactly the opposite. It hinders emotional, mental, and physical development and often leads to learning difficulties and social/relationship issues.
How to Develop a Secure Attachment Bond With Your Child
The Correct Emotional State
It’s of the utmost importance that you’re calm, understanding, and focused when interacting with your child. Only in that emotional state, is it possible for a secure attachment bond to develop.
Picking up on the nonverbal cues your child sends and responding to them, creates a connection. Nonverbal communication includes:
- Body Language. Sit or stand with an open and relaxed posture, leaning toward your child.
- Eye contact. Signal positive emotions with an affectionate look.
- Facial expression. Express your care and approval with a calm and attentive look on your face, or a genuine smile.
- Tone of voice. Use a tone that conveys concern, interest, tenderness, and understanding.
- Touch. Give a warm hug, a gentle touch on the arm, or maybe a reassuring pat on the back.
While nonverbal communication is the primary way you begin interacting with your child as an infant, it never ends, continuing throughout your lives.
Being in the Moment
Focus on the present experience and simply enjoy connecting with your child. Just listen, talk, or play. Give your full, focused attention to your child, putting distractions to the side that could cause you to miss out on engaging in the attachment process.
Adapting Your Method
Children don’t come in “one-size-fits-all” versions—they’re individuals. When trying to develop an attachment bond between you and your child, follow your child’s pace—not your own—and adapt your parenting methods to fit each individual child.
Rules and Boundaries
While an infant might not understand social rules, the older your child gets, the more important it is to establish boundaries and stick to them. Set clear rules and be disciplined, but not rigid.
Depending on the age of your child, how responsible they show themselves to be, and the specific situation, you might want to compromise with them whenever possible. This will help your older child learn self-discipline and eventually set goals for themselves.
While you might be worried that helping your child develop healthy attachments seems daunting, consider this word of encouragement: you don’t have to be a perfect parent to give them the best start!
Neither do you have to fret over missing a certain “window,” within which to accomplish it. Although it’s easiest to form a secure attachment bond with an infant, you can begin helping your child feel safe and secure at any age. It’s never too late!
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