By Taylor Dore, Youth First Social Work Intern – 04/28/2022
Building a secure attachment between you and your child begins when they are born. Your baby cries to express a need and you, as the caregiver, respond by meeting that need. By doing this consistently, your child learns that they can trust you to meet their needs and keep them safe.
This is essential to healthy mental, physical, social, and emotional development. Having a secure attachment with a caregiver increases a child’s self-awareness, self-soothing skills, empathy, and creative problem-solving skills.
The secure attachment that begins at birth continues to develop throughout childhood. Below are four ways that you can work to promote a secure attachment with your child.
- Use touch and eye contact. The “love hormone” is released in both a parent and child’s brain while you are holding them and looking into their eyes. This builds a strong connection in your child’s brain and generates feelings of safety. This can be done through hugging, reading a book together in a rocking chair, or by gently touching your child’s shoulder while you walk past them.
- Practice emotional attunement. This refers to reassuring and comforting your child during tough times. Children learn how to handle their emotions through observation. When they come to you with a problem, make sure to remain calm and reassuring while you listen. This helps them better understand their own emotions and gives them an opportunity to internalize reassuring words. Sometimes it can be hard to come up with the perfect advice for your young ones, but simply listening and showing you care about your child’s feelings can be enough.
- Create a secure environment. Children should not have to worry about adult matters like bills, whether they are going to eat, or relationship problems between their parents. For healthy development, they need to feel safe with their caregivers and trust that their needs are going to be met. When exposed to a chaotic and turbulent lifestyle, children become anxious and struggle with a sense of security. While these life issues can be stressful and unavoidable, be mindful of what it is age-appropriate to share with your children.
- Share play and fun with your child. Just like touch and eye contact, shared play and fun release opioids in both you and your child’s brain, which brings you closer together. Children who play with their parents are happier and more securely attached. As an adult, you may not want to play with Barbies or Legos for hours after a long day at work, which is understandable. Instead, strive to find a mutually enjoyable activity that you can genuinely enjoy, such as going on a nature walk, playing a sport, or watching a favorite movie. Sometimes even chores or cooking a meal can turn into a shared pleasure, so get creative!