By creating a strong relationship with your child or the children in your care, you will give him the skills to build relationships with others. Attachment usually begins with a mother and a child. Dads or other caregivers can create these same loving relationships.
Everything that the adult and the baby experience with each other builds a bond – a tie between adult and baby. The more ways that a baby and an adult interact, the stronger the tie becomes. When a baby smiles up at Mom, when Dad changes his diaper, when he gazes into his caregiver’s eyes and sees a smile, attachment is furthered and the tie is made stronger. When a baby is smiling and responding and the adult is not, the tie between them will not be as secure.
What is Attachment?
- Attachment is a special relationship between a child and another person.
- Attachment begins with a child’s birth and continues throughout her childhood and lifetime.
- Attachment develops when an adult responds to a baby’s cries, snuggles with him, laughs, plays and holds him close. This special relationship grows stronger as the baby responds by snuggling close to his parents, smiling, gazing and becoming calm when held.
- Attachment does not happen magically in one moment. By having many interactions over a period of time, children and adults form attachment relationships that will last a lifetime.
Why is Attachment Important?
Attachment allows children to form a positive view of the world and of the way people relate to each other. A child who forms a secure attachment with adults learns to feels good about herself and her world and wants others to feel the same. The first attachments she develops become the example of the way she relates to other people in her life. Forming insecure attachments or no attachments may leave her feeling confused, alone and believing the world is a bad place where hurt and disappointment are expected.
A child who forms secure attachments will grow into an adult who is better able to maintain healthy and positive relationships at work, home and play.
Attachment and Development
Attachment Affects Brain Development
When babies are born, their brains are still developing. A baby’s brain comes ready to adjust to whatever type of world he finds, whether that’s a loving, secure place or a frightening or chaotic one. His brain develops based on what is usual in his world, what kind of experiences he has over and over again. His brain forms a pattern of relating to the world around him built on these experiences.
Attachments are a Baby’s Pattern for Relationships
When her new brain develops in a loving and gentle environment, it makes a pattern to be loving and gentle, and that pattern stays with her forever. She learns to relate to other people by the way she is treated when she is young and when her brain is still developing.
Attachment Affects Emotional Development
Without attachment, a child could have difficulty understanding what other people are feeling and may not be able to put himself into someone else’s place. He might find it difficult sometimes to even know his own feelings, and may have a very hard time acting appropriately on those feelings.
Attachment Affects Social Development
If a child has a poorly developed pattern for the way people treat each other, she could have problems forming or maintaining friendships. However, a child with a secure attachment that serves as her pattern for relationships is better prepared to relate to other children. How parents interact with their children is a key factor in how children develop social skills.
What Affects Attachment?
Children do better when they feel better. Encouraging children is a great way to show children the benefit of doing the right thing. When we interact with our children, we send messages that are either encouraging and build attachment or are discouraging.
Parents who smile and laugh when interacting with their children are more likely to have children who smile and show joy. Also, happy children relate more positively to other people.
Every time you respond to your child’s needs, you are teaching him to trust you. By using a positive approach, you are showing him how to act with others. If a child is cherished by his caregivers, he cherishes himself and feels secure. A child who lives in a responsive home is likely to respect others. The way a child feels about himself affects how he will behave toward others.
Attachment is affected by the way you respond to a child’s needs.
Do you go to her when she cries? Do you listen when she is speaking? Are her needs met? Being responded to helps a child feel that her needs are important and that she is worth listening to.
Attachment is affected by how consistent you are with the child.
Do you respond sometimes but not all the time? Is he able to depend on you to be part of his life regularly? Children need the stability of consistent care in order to form attachments.
Attachment is affected by the attitude of your response.
Do you meet her needs with a smile and a gentle touch, or with rough handling and harsh words? When disciplined, is she treated firmly but with kindness and compassion? A child who is dealt with kindly and with gentleness will learn to be kind and gentle toward others.
Attachment is affected by providing safe supervision and guidance for children.
Are you or another adult nearby when needed? Do you provide a safe place from which he can explore? Children need an “anchor,” a person who helps and supports while allowing them to learn and explore on their own.
All these things are important at home and at childcare, from parents and from caregivers.
Benefits of Attachment
Adults who have secure attachments to their children:
- Want to provide loving care until the babies are old enough to care for themselves.
- Are better prepared to care deeply and lovingly for their children.
- Will have more fulfilling relationships with their children throughout their lives.
Adults who were securely attached as children:
- Have a more balanced view of their parents.
- Are better able to have committed relationships.
- Have more long-term and stable romantic relationships with other adults.
- Are more likely to have secure attachments with their own children.
Children who are securely attached are more likely to:
- Do well in school and in future achievements.
- Make friends easily.
- Be flexible and resilient.
- Spend time with peers and have more positive relationships with them.
- Develop higher self-esteem.
- Be cooperative, positive and enthusiastic.
- Be comfortable with hugs and kisses.