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A few thoughts on bonding and attachment with children

A few thoughts on bonding and attachment with children

As a therapist who is passionate about attachment and all the wonderful benefits children gain from a secure attachment, I wanted to share some of this information with parents and parents-to-be. Happy reading, and may this information be the beginning of a beautiful journey for you and your little one.

What is attachment?

Attachment can be defined as “the deep and enduring connection established between a caregiver and a child in the first several years of life. It profoundly influences every component of the human condition – mind, body, emotions, relationships and values.” (Levy & Orlans, 1998) Research shows that certain aspects of attachment start as early as in utero. A baby’s natural instinct to attach is characterized by a need to seek and maintain proximity to a specific person, usually their primary caregiver, especially during times of stress, such as when hungry or tired. For infants, basic needs such as hunger and thirst can be overwhelming, as they are completely dependent on their caregivers for survival. When a caregiver is emotionally and physically available, and infants’ needs are consistently met, their bodies and minds learn to relax and internalize the message that the world is a safe place, their caregivers are dependable, and that they are worthy of being cared for. In this process, they also learn to regulate and soothe themselves eventually. This process of internalization of their very first relationship with a caregiver, is an unconscious process, and lays the groundwork for their world view, their view of themselves and others, and consequently, for all future relationships.

Why is attachment important?

Attachment forms the basis of healthy development, and influences a child’s developmental trajectory across the board. Secure attachment is associated with optimal functioning later in life with regards to social interaction, emotional regulation, empathy, confidence, ability to develop and sustain healthy relationships, and ability to learn and be successful. Research has demonstrated that secure attachments lead to better mental and physical health. In addition, secure attachments can buffer against the effects of trauma and stress, with better outcomes, coping skills and emotional regulation skills.

How is a secure attachment formed?

The most important factor in the formation of a secure attachment, is responding to your child’s cues as frequently and as effectively as possible. Remember, it is the strongest experience that counts – no parent is perfect, and there will be times when you are not able to respond immediately or even effectively, and that is okay.

Learn to recognize your baby’s specific cues and needs, and try to respond accordingly. Become a ‘sensory detective’ and be attentive of your baby’s movements, sounds, and facial expressions to assess what she needs, likes and dislikes in terms of touch, tastes, environments, sounds, etc.

Make sure that your baby’s primary needs for food and enough rest are met as far as possible. Hungry, tired babies cannot use their internal resources for connecting.

Do not underestimate the importance of laughing, playing with and talking to your baby. Pay attention to your tone of voice, make plenty of eye-contact, and bring in plenty of soothing touch, as these things strengthen your bond and soothe your baby.

To learn more about attachment, of if you have questions about attachment, bonding breaks, and how to go about mending them, be sure to contact a therapist specializing in attachment in your area. Even limited therapeutic intervention can make a world of difference to your and your child’s quality of life. In the event of your child having experienced trauma, specific therapeutic intervention might be necessary to strengthen the attachment relationship and to restore a sense of safety in the world and in relational contexts. 

Attachment services offered by my practice:

With attachment-centered therapy, parents are given a chance to gain insight into their baby, toddler or child’s behaviour, and the needs that drive the behaviour. Sessions can be structured to involve both parents, or a single parent and the child. Sessions focus on attachment enhancing interactions between parents/caregivers and their child, and activities are gently guided by me.

During sessions you will learn:

  • More about attachment
  • How to be nurturing towards your child
  • Awareness and mindfulness of your child’s thoughts and emotions
  • How to regulate your own and your child’s emotions

Contact me for more information, or to schedule a session.

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