The Importance of Building Attachment
From the moment babies are born it is clear they are able to communicate their needs. As parents the more we understand how to respond and meet those needs appropriately and efficiently the more are children will begin to understand the world around them. Attachment can be described as an establishment of an emotionally positive and mutually rewarding relationship between an infant and its parent or other caretaker (Gander and Gardiner, 1981). This concept is a 2-way street. It takes intentional effort by both the parent and child. Bonding is the process whereby parents and child determine that they are special to each other. It's important to note that this is not something that just happens, it's a process. And this process begins with understanding the importance of the parent child relationship.
Please note, this doesn't require you to have a 2 parent household, or the child to be yours biologically. Research tells us that children who have an secure attachment to at least one caregiver in the first year of life has a greater ability to handle stress, build healthy relationships, perform better in schools, higher self-worth, and helps build childhood resiliency. In summary, the way children receive love, is the same way they will project it. This is primary to promoting childhood development.
What is challenging for some parents is the idea that you can spoil your children with too much love. Parents have been told to allow their children to cry it out, or they shouldn't be held too much. I've even heard parents tell me that they don't want their sons to be soft. I am a true believer that there is no limit to loving or giving positive attention. Think how much of a tool this could be to building a child's self-esteem. Or how much greater of a world we would live in if we teach concepts of empathy, and love early on. Love has no gender, and love has no limits. There is a fine balance of love/discipline that should be offered. This is a great time to think about your own parenting style. Are you super passive, or too authoritative? Children need a balance of both love and limits. Setting limits doesn't mean you don't love your child, it means that you are teaching them tools of staying safe and having the ability to follow rules. What is not effective is if we only show children how to follow rules and/or create too many boundaries, without giving them rewards or being responsive (love). Not only is this harmful to development, it's not a reflection of the reality we live in.
As I could spend tons of time explaining what attachment theory encompasses. I thought a visual would be a great way to sum up what attachment looks like and it's implications on adulthood. Click on the charts below to get a better idea of attachment.
Okay now let's do it....
1. Special Handshake- Make up a special handshake together, taking turns adding new gestures. For example, you can do a five high, clasp hands, tickle palms, etc.
2. Co-Sleeping- IDK IDK IDK…Some will say this is dangerous, some say it’s necessary. I love the concept of co-sleeping. What I like to do is set up a “sleepover” night in our house. I allow the children to sleep as a reward or just a special night we create. They are able to understand that regularly they sleep in their own rooms, but it’s super special when I get to sleep with mom and dad.
3. Mirror-This activity does not necessarily require any physical items or toys. All it takes is having the parent and child both present and ready to interact with each other. The basic idea for this activity is to have the parent playfully copy what the child is doing, such as by having the child begin by clapping his hands together and having the parent clap their hands in the same volume and speed as the child. When the child changes his style of clapping (such as louder or softer), the parent should imitate the child. Eye contact, smiles, and laughs are also helpful to promote a healthy relationship and repair or enhance attachment. Mirroring can also be done with other activities, such as jumping, playing with toys, or facial expressions.
4. Piggy Back Rides- Piggy-back rides can help to strengthen parent-child relationships and repair or enhance attachment because they involve fun and physical closeness. When children are babies, they need plenty of physical contact with their parents. Babies thrive not only from being fed and kept physically safe, but also from feeling the comfort and security of having their parent close to them.
5. Brushing Hair- Sometimes girls can be fussy about getting their hair brushed, especially if they have experienced pain from well-meaning parents brushing their hair too hard. However, allowing a daughter to gently brush her mother’s hair and having a mother gently brush her daughter’s hair can be an activity that can promote connection. This can be a calming activity that includes a sense of nurturing which connects to a person’s internal experience of attachment and bonding.
6. Taco Girl- She lays in the blanket aka taco shell. Then we put all of the toppings with different sounds for each. Hamburger, lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, salsa, then we wrap her up in the blanket. Next, we pretend to “eat” the taco. Tickling and saying, “this is one very yummy taco” the whole time.
7. Cuddles-Have you ever tried to hug someone who doesn’t like physical touch? Awkward. Physical touch doesn’t have to be your love language for you to appreciate the connection and thought it implies. If parents never touch their children they will be deprived affection. If your kids are deprived affection they will seek it elsewhere. Believe me, you will not like where else they seek it.
This quote sums of the idea of attachment perfectly. Love on your children, love on the children around you (being aware of stranger danger of course). The point is that teaching concepts of love and bonding are learned behaviors. Be comfortable with touch, and step out of your comfort zone. No one should or will love on your children as genuinely as a parent and vice versa. Love heals all, feels all, and has no bias. Love on your children, for when they are lost, the memories of love will lead them back to you.