The Importance Of Attachment
“Attachment” is something that parents, particularly of babies, think about. How do we help our kids develop healthy attachment, and how do we know if we’re doing it right?
Attachment essentially refers to the bond between an individual (your child) and an attachment figure (you). A child’s attachment to a parent is based on the need for protection and safety, so it’s not a balanced bond. But that’s the way it should be. Problems arise when parents rely too heavily on their children for their own emotional support. While it’s important to be emotionally connected to your children, they should not be the ones taking care of you.
So how do we develop a healthy attachment in our kids? In reality, nothing fancy is needed. The things that you probably want to do and are already doing naturally are the cornerstones: being attentive to your baby. Making eye contact. Being responsive, such as laughing when your baby laughs and responding when she is upset. Talking to your baby, even if all you’re doing is providing a play-by-play of your actions. Singing to your baby. Maintaining consistent routines. These are all the most important things you can do to foster that great relationship with your baby. No fancy equipment or lessons required.
But don’t panic if you can’t do all these things all the time. If you’ve got a toddler about to throw himself down the stairs or a stomach bug that has you crouched over the toilet, and you can’t be as responsive as you’d like to be, that’s ok. Parenting, and attachment, aren’t about being perfect, they’re about being good enough. If you are able to be appropriately responsive most of the time, that’s good enough. And as mentioned earlier, you’re probably doing most of these things without even really realizing that you are. So most of the time you are doing exactly what you should and could be doing, even without having to make a special point of doing it.
But what if your kids aren’t babies anymore? How important is attachment then? It’s still very important. And the same stuff that you were doing when your child was a baby, is the exact stuff you can do now to maintain that bond. Spend one-on-one time together. Solicit her opinion about things that affect her. Let her know that you value her as an individual person. These are all ways that we keep the attachment strong. Remaining calm and focused on the issue at hand with an eye to problem solving (not punishment) become more critical as children age and gain more responsibility. Regardless of how strong the bond is to start with, if kids start to feel that they’ll be judged, misunderstood or dismissed, they’ll drift away. Remind yourself that this is all part of that “marathon” of parenting, and prioritize maintaining that connection every day.
Toni Morrison said a true test of maternal love is whether your eyes light up each time your child enters the room. That’s the crux of attachment right there in a nutshell. But if we’re honest with ourselves, there are probably times when our eyes light up when we know they’re finally asleep. And that in a nutshell, is the crux of being good enough.
Here are some other thoughts on How To Raise Great Kids.
Train yourself to look for the positive and Catch Them Being Good.