|Children benefit the most from secure relationships with moms, dads, and a daytime caregiver / Photo by Evgeny Atamanenko via Shutterstock|
Studies have shown that a secure relationship is the most important foundation of parenting. The vital feature of the child-parent relationship is based on the merits of the nonverbal interactions between parents and child. Children who formed secure attachments are more socially competent and trusting, kinder, happier, and have fulfilling relationships with people. They keep themselves healthy and perform better in school.
Evidence-based research has shown that the brain and nervous system develop the best way possible through nonverbal emotional exchanges with primary caregivers. The brain responds to emotional cues like touch, scent, and facial expressions that let the child gain joy from the positive human interactions. It is this very attribute that helps in shaping children’s pro-social and social behaviors. Emotionally connected children feel secure, understood, and stable.
Research data documented huge benefits of secure attachment to children. Securely attached children are:
- More physically healthy
- More confident to explore and handle challenges
- More independent, steadfast problem-solvers and efficient achievers
- More inclined to seek help and comfort in times of disappointments
- Better behaved in school and require less guidance thus well-liked by teachers and peers.
- Less to be bullies and less likely to be bullied
Attachment Bond vis-à-vis Bond of Love
Attachment is defined as the ability to form and sustain healthy emotional bonds with another person. Attachment bond starts as the child interacts with their caring primary caregiver at infancy. However, aside from love and care, children need to communicate their needs to feel secure and stable. Creating a secure attachment is different from creating bonding. Helpguide.org differentiates the two bonds as follows:
Bond of Love
- Refers to feelings for and sense of connection to the child from birth and quickly develops in the first weeks of life.
- Is task-oriented. Caregiver pays attention to the needs of a child like feeding, bathing, changing diapers, etc.
- The regular adult pace of doing a task is maintained. For example, feeding the child hurriedly to watch a favorite show or cutting playing time to tweet or text.
- Interactions with the child are initiated by the caregiver. For example, you initiate play to take their cute picture.
- Caregiver’s focus is on a future goal. For example, doing everything you can to raise the smartest child.
Secure Attachment Bond
- Refers to the emotional connection between child and primary caregiver from birth. The connection quickly develops in the next two years and throughout life.
- The caregiver needs to pay attention to what is taking place at the moment between child and caregiver. The child’s body language tells how they feel and the caregiver responds by copying the child’s nonverbal cue to show they understand.
- Caregiver follows the child’s slower pace to make sense and respond appropriately to the child’s body language.
- Interactions are initiated and ended by the child. Caregiver works out the child’s body language. For example, the taking of the picture is put on hold if the child’s nonverbal cue expresses their need to rest.
- Caregiver’s only focus is on the current experience while enjoying relating with the child. Full attention is bestowed on the child.
Creating Secure Attachment Bond
1. Be sensitive to children's needs. Pay attention and learn to understand their unique cues to respond to them accordingly. The baby communicates in many different ways using sound and movement. A caregiver should find out what they are trying to convey to respond effectively.
- Watch facial expressions and body movements for signs on sensory needs. For example, a baby may move their arms or use facial expression to convey the need to be cuddled.
- Familiarize yourself with the sounds the baby makes. For example, the “I’m hungry” sound may be a high-pitched cry while the “I’m tired” sound may be a jerky scream.
- Bear in mind the kind of touch and pressure the baby enjoys. The more tender the touch, the more comfortable the baby will feel.
- Learn the sounds, movements, and atmosphere the baby enjoys. Some likes rocking motions while others want petting while lying down. Most like soft music but a few likes upbeat sounds.
2. Be responsive and consistent. As children get older, their needs become more intricate. Do not make the mistake of giving in to whatever they want. Be fair but firm and consistent with your responses. John Bowlby, psychologist and psychoanalyst, notable for his pioneering work in attachment theory, says: "The more stable and predictable the regimen, the more secure a child's attachment tends to be; the more discontinuous and unpredictable…the more anxious."
3. Be emotionally and physically available and accessible to children. Do not be occupied with your smartphone or engrossed in your worries when with them. Be 100% nearby and on hand on the most significant occasions of their lives.
4. Talk, laugh, play, and have fun with infants. Sharing happiness is important to baby’s development. Communicate through gestures, tone of voice, and other nonverbal cues. A simple peek-a-boo or a playful kiss can start an interaction. Be careful not to over-stimulate the baby, as their underdeveloped nervous system rapidly gets tired.
|Attachment is defined as the ability to form and sustain healthy emotional bonds with another person / Photo by XiXinXing via Shutterstock|
5. Encourage multiple attachments. Research shows that children benefit the most from secure relationships with moms, dads, and a daytime caregiver. Dads can share activities like bottle feeding the baby while looking into their eyes, reading a story with a calm, reassuring voice, playing peek-a-boo or cooing, and holding and touching them tenderly.
6. As parents, you may not be able to understand the baby’s cues all the time, but the important thing to remember is the quality responses you provide during the interactions. Parents need not be perfect to establish a secure attachment with infants. Always be willing to notice and repair missed cues.