The Importance of Creating a Secure Attachment
Welcome back to Part 2 on the importance of creating a secure attachment. In this blog, we will elaborate on the critical components required in the facilitation of a healthy attachment bond between infant and primary caregivers. (For further information, please visit the following post on Hub Pages)
- S Showing up
- E Empathy
- C Coping strategies / Consistency
- U (YOU) as the parent modeling the behavior you want to see in your child
- R Resilience / Optimism
- E Emotional intelligence
Showing up for your child looks like stopping what you are doing when they want to tell you something or participating in their excitement when something is providing them joy. It is kneeling to their eye level when speaking with them and it is lighting up when they enter the room. It is being an attuned responder to the child based on their need at the moment and watching for their response to how we are choosing to respond and if we need to scale it back or turn it up.
Empathy can be offered through mirroring the baby’s facial features or vocalizations, or repeating back what they said when they tell you something upset them when they are older. It is also labeling emotions that you can see on their faces and trying to connect what might be the stimulus to that emotion. The baby’s right side of the brain is stimulated when the caregiver visually engages with the baby and holds the baby for increased skin-to-skin contact. “Social-emotional development needs to be seen as the PRIMARY developmental domain upon which all future development rests.” – The Attachment Connection by Ruth P. Newton Ph.D.
Coping strategies include picking up a crying child to help them calm when upset or scared and giving hugs in a soothing tone of voice. As adults, we are the child’s external emotional regulator. They depend on us to strengthen their “calming muscle” because they need practice moving between a dysregulated state to a calmer/content state. Healthy dependence leads to healthy independence. We are not spoiling a child when we go to soothe them. Coping strategies must also be provided in a relatively consistent manner. When we respond generally consistently, the child learns to trust and dependability. They learn that their needs will be met and that the world, at large, is safe. It is a service and returns dance. The baby expresses a need through crying, or cooing, or reaching for the caregiver, and the sensitive and attuned caregiver responds to the request. The baby then expresses itself in response to the caregiver’s response, and the dance continues. This builds communication, trust, and a secure attachment bond.
“U”, YOU, is the modeling of behaviors that you want your child to possess. For example, if you want your child to be grateful, are you grateful? Do you show gratitude for things in front of your child or to your child? If you want your child to be respectful, are you respectful to your child or to people that you interact with, in front of your child? You must be the change that you wish to see in the world – Gandhi. Children will be more likely to imitate the way that you behave and not take your armchair quarterback advice. Also, how confusing is it if you reprimand your child FOR hitting with hitting or yell at your child to stop yelling?
Resilience is not hard-wired into children. Resilience is learned. They must learn how to cope with the stressors of life in a graded fashion and an age-appropriate manner. The good-enough mother concept, allows the baby to tolerate occasional disappointments, as it is not possible for a baby’s needs to be addressed at the exact moment that it experiences them. It is ok if there is a brief delay, as long as the caregiver makes every effort to satiate the need, as soon as possible and repair any disconnect that might have inadvertently occurred. I get frustrated with the false belief that “children are so resilient”, which can be used as a means to justify the poor behavior choices of the adults which consequently affects the children. If children are so resilient, why do so many “adults” need therapy? Optimism is also a concept that needs to be taught to the child. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, wrote a book called, The Optimistic Child. It is a must-read and it explains the importance of the way parents speak in front of or to the child and how to be aware of the way things are phrased which could cause global pessimism. Instead of looking at unfortunate events as global and occurring indefinitely, you can look at negative events as specific to time and space. For example, if you fail a test, you are not a failure, you simply failed the math test, this time and you will study harder for the next one. It is about creating a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset, (Mindset by Carol Dweck).
Finally, it is very important to teach our children emotional intelligence. Validating the child’s emotions and feelings, labeling emotions and facial expressions, reading stories about feelings, watching the movie, Inside Out by Disney, and connecting emotions to situations, like feeling sad when a pet dies or feeling angry if a toy breaks. EQ, emotional intelligence, is being shown to be more impactful than IQ, intelligence quotient.
So, in conclusion, to minimize the toxic patterns of emotional and physical abuse AND neglect, manipulation, depression, anxiety, domestic violence, divorce, addiction, personality disorders, CPTSD, and more, I believe that if we can educate our parents, pediatric professionals, and caregivers, on the importance of creating a healthy and robust secure attachment bond, we can create a healthy template for our children, in future relationships including romantic, parental, business, friendships, and even the relationship that we have with ourselves. “The way adults speak to their children becomes their inner voice.” – Peggy O’Mara. This becomes their superego, their internal voice that either supports them in their personal endeavors or sabotages their efforts towards achieving their life goals. The quote at the beginning of this blog references that inner voice or inner critic. The stressors of life will tell the child that it is weak or worthless if it is shaped by abusive and/or neglectful caregivers. A secure attachment bond will build up the child, so when it needs a supportive voice, it will look directly into the “eyes” of a stressful situation and confidently say, “I am the storm”, I can do this, and if I fall, I will get back up every time.
It is important, now, more than ever to raise secure children. I believe, that it can change the trajectory of the human race, as the world needs more empathy, and as Brene Brown states, “Empathy is the antidote to toxic shame.” Abused and neglected children marinate in toxic shame.
This blog will be a source of empowerment and education for all who want to improve the way they interact with the children in their lives or the children they provide care or services for. Blogs will touch on topics such as physical development, mental and emotional development, cognitive development and play, toy suggestions, sensory development and issues that arise, care for the caregivers, strategies to steady the adults, so they can co-regulate the emotions of our children, to name a few. It takes a village and I want to create that space for all of us. I hope you will join me and add to the dialogue. All and any topic suggestions welcome.
“Raising secure, emotionally competent, cooperative children who have free access to their creativity and expression is desperately needed for the health of the human race and the health of the planet. Raising secure children matters.”
Excerpt from The Attachment Connection by Ruth Newton, Ph.D.