When you help to foster a secure attachment in your child, it will serve them well throughout their lifetime. Childhood attachment with your child will form the template for their relationships for their whole lifetime.
What is Attachment?
An “attachment style” refers to the bond between you and your child. When your child has a secure attachment, that means they are secure in the bond that they have with you.
Put simply, your child isn't afraid that you are going to leave them.
Attachment is crucial for young children, because they rely on their caregivers to meet all of their needs. Having a caregiver they can trust means that their needs will consistently be met.
Children have physical needs like being fed or having a diaper change, but they have emotional needs too, like the needs for safety and love.
When caregivers reliably meet the child’s needs, like responding to a small baby’s cries, then a secure attachment develops.
According to Very Well Mind,
Attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Bowlby believed that the earliest bonds formed by children with their caregivers have a tremendous impact that continues throughout life. He suggested that attachment also serves to keep the infant close to the mother, thus improving the child’s chances of survival.
In order to help form a secure attachment with your child, it is important to be responsive and predictable. One way to do this is through using a parenting style called Attachment Parenting, which is all about meeting your child's needs for love and safety.
We all want our children to form a secure attachment to us, so that they feel safe to go out into the world. But what happens if they don’t?
The Four Attachment Styles
The first research about attachment styles was done by John Bowlby. In his work Bowlby describes four different attachment styles.
According to Very Well Mind, the four attachment styles are as follows:
Ambivalent attachment: These children become very distressed when a parent leaves. Ambivalent attachment style is considered uncommon, affecting an estimated 7% to 15% of U.S. children. As a result of poor parental availability, these children cannot depend on their primary caregiver to be there when they need them.
Avoidant attachment: Children with an avoidant attachment tend to avoid parents or caregivers, showing no preference between a caregiver and a complete stranger. This attachment style might be a result of abusive or neglectful caregivers. Children who are punished for relying on a caregiver will learn to avoid seeking help in the future.
Disorganized attachment: These children display a confusing mix of behavior, seeming disoriented, dazed, or confused. They may avoid or resist the parent. Lack of a clear attachment pattern is likely linked to inconsistent caregiver behavior. In such cases, parents may serve as both a source of comfort and fear, leading to disorganized behavior.
Secure attachment: Children who can depend on their caregivers show distress when separated and joy when reunited. Although the child may be upset, they feel assured that the caregiver will return. When frightened, securely attached children are comfortable seeking reassurance from caregivers. This is the most common attachment style.
As I said before, the goal of parenting is to produce a secure attachment with your child. However, in some cases this doesn’t happen.
If you think that your child has an insecure style (any of the other three besides secure) there can be lifetime consequences to your child as an individual, to their relationship with you, as well as future relationships.
When the attachment relationship has gone awry, working to repair the attachment as quickly as possible is important for your child’s future development.
How Can You Tell if Your Child Has a Secure Attachment?
If the idea of attachment is an unfamiliar one for you, then you may be wondering if your child is securely attached.
Odds are, if you are taking the time to read parenting tips and actively trying to be a good parent, your child is probably securely attached. After all, as stated above, this is the most common attachment style.
According to Launchpad Counseling, here are 7 signs that your child is securely attached:
Your child prefers your company to that of strangers.
Your Child looks to you to be comforted.
Your child welcomes you and engages you after an absence.
Your child gives, takes and shares.
Your child delays gratification
Your child is responsive to discipline.
Your child is confidently independent.
If these things all sound like your child, then you probably don’t need to worry about any attachment issues. You most likely have a happy, secure child.
Consequences of Insecure Attachment
If your child is insecurely attached, you can work on the attachment bond between yourself and your child by showing responsiveness to your child’s needs and making them feel safe. With older children, active listening is also a good way to show that you care, and to help your child feel more secure.
However, if the attachment relationship with your child is suffering, you may also want to consider family therapy to strengthen your family bonds.
According to Very Well Mind,
Children diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently display attachment problems, possibly due to early abuse, neglect, or trauma. Children adopted after the age of 6 months may have a higher risk of attachment problems.
With the risk of additional psychological problems developing, seeking help as soon as possible is key! This is true for any potential psychological issues that your child may be experiencing.
For more information, you can read about how childhood attachment issues can effect later relationships.
Here are some Tips To Find a Therapist if you are having attachment issues with your child.
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