Research teaches us that securely attached children will get the most out of life and thrive to their fullest potential. It is important to understand how you can achieve this as a parent. Our attachment styles shape the way we approach, communicate in, and effect our relationships. It might even predict the quality and duration of those relationships.
The influence of attachment even goes beyond relationships. It impacts the way we interact in various social contexts (even at work) and most importantly, the way we feel about ourselves. To understand attachment styles better, you can read last month’s article: Identifying Your Attachment Style
The research of Rudolph Schaffer and Peggy Emerson in the 1960’s identified that human social connections start at birth, and that the bond between an infant and caregiver only grows stronger over time.
Mary Ainsworth, considered to be the second founder of the field of attachment research, developed the following stages:
- Asocial Stage: 0-6 weeks. Babies don’t distinguish between humans, although there is a clear preference for humans over non-humans. The infants form attachment with anyone who comes their way.
- Indiscriminate Stage: 6 weeks – 6 months. The bonds with their caregivers start to grow stronger. Infants begin to distinguish people from one another, and they do not have a fear of strangers.
- Specific Attachment Stage: 7+ months. This is when separation anxiety becomes prevalent, particularly from their main caregivers or close adults. At this point, infants develop a feeling of distress when surrounded by strangers.
- Multiple Attachments Stage: 10+ months. Attachment with the infant’s primary caregiver grows even stronger. The infant is increasingly interested in creating bonds with others that are not their caregivers.
The unique influence of attachments.
The Attachment Project cites that our main attachment relationships, especially those in our earliest stages of life, have a unique influence on how we handle other relationships later on. An important role that these attachment relationships have is to teach us healthy emotional regulation.
Emotion regulation is especially important when we encounter negative experiences. As infants, these negative experiences are a key opportunity to cultivate this skill. It is also in these moments that we learn how, or to what extent, we can rely on our caregivers to support us. If we don’t feel protected or understood by our caregivers, this can teach us that they are not reliable sources of safety or love.
We learn emotion regulation and relationship skills directly through our caregivers’ behaviors.
Basically, we mirror our caregivers’ actions; for instance, if we notice that our cries bring about distress in our caregiver, we feel greater distress in return. Thus, an infant develops a sense of self by assessing their impact on their surroundings. If their caregivers consistently react to the child negatively or neglect them in some way, the child will develop a distorted version of themselves and their capacity to interact with their environment.
How to help our kids create secure attachments.
A lucky 60% of us have a secure attachment style. For these people, it’s a walk in the park to show emotion and affection in a relationship while simultaneously maintaining a sense of autonomy and independence, not letting the relationship become all-consuming. These people are balanced and don’t walk around with a chip on their shoulders – taking things personally or unnecessary fear of abandonment. They also tend to build deep, meaningful, and long-lasting relationships.
In order to nurture a secure attachment style in your child:
- Plan for Consistent Caregiving. Build safety and security.
- Make Affection a Common Occurrence. Loving care is vital.
- Make Eating, Sleeping, and Connection Time Positive, Routine Experiences. Use this early time to restore your energy and nurture your child.
- Respond to Distress Kindly, Capably, and Consistently. Availability is important.
- Repair Ruptures with Compassion. Put Yourself in Your child’s Shoes.
- Engage in a Deep Relationship. Interact, rather than direct.
The securely attached child will gain the most positive experiences in their life journey because of their early life interactions with their caregivers.
Ideally, that is the outcome you want for your child: to make healthy contributions to society, to have strong self-esteem and successful long-term relationships, and ultimately to raise equally engaging and well-balanced children of their own.
Raising healthy kids can sometimes take a village. If you are struggling right now, let’s talk. You can book an in-person or virtual visit.
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CRT, CCDC, CACC | Counselor & Life Coach
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