Children who form a secure attachment with one or more adults have many advantages in life. They're more independent, relaxed, and empathetic as children and later in life as well. They also develop a greater capacity to form healthy relationships throughout their lives. They learn more easily and have fewer behavioral problems. So, how do you create this wonderful secure attachment? Here are 22 of the most important ways.
Tend To Your Own Needs
A needy parent isn't emotionally available for their child. In fact, they may not even be able to take care of the child's basic physiological needs at times. When you meet your own needs, you aren't just doing it for yourself. It benefits your child, too.
Start by getting enough sleep. That could be a tall order, especially during infancy when your child may be awake often and have needs during the night. At those times, you might have to resort to taking a nap when they nap. The rest of the time, you still need to use much of their nighttime sleep sessions for your own sleep. Waking up refreshed and rested gives you both energy and a more positive outlook.
Sometimes parents are so focused on their child, not to mention all their other duties, that they ignore their own basic physiological needs. Take time to drink water and other healthy beverages. Eat regularly throughout the day. When your child is old enough to eat the same foods you do, you can enjoy snack time with them.
Relaxation can be a difficult goal for busy parents. Sometimes it may not seem that there are enough hours in the day to get everything done. You can learn relaxation techniques and use them whenever you feel stressed. Some of these include systematic muscle relaxation, spending time outdoors, and guided imagery.
No one can be completely available for their child at every moment of the day. Your child may be frustrated at times. They may be distressed at times when you can't comfort them. Feeling guilty about it helps neither you nor your child. Instead, accept that you aren't super-parent. Give them what you can, and don't stress about impossible things. Your child needs an overall sense of security, not a perfect parent.
Positive adult relationships strengthen you emotionally. If you're a stay-at-home parent, though, it might be difficult to spend time with friends and family. If you're a working parent, you probably have less time available for other adults. Please make an effort to do it, anyway. Enjoy time with adults you care about, both with and without your child.
When you're depressed, you usually feel less energetic. It's harder to focus on what your child needs. You may neglect your physical health. You have no joy to share with your child. Anxiety can cause other problems. You tend to worry too much about your child and overprotect them. No matter how you try to hide it, your child will sense your emotional state. Talking to a therapist is a great first step in getting yourself back on track emotionally.
In two-parent homes, there's typically at least some division of responsibilities. If you're a single parent, all the responsibilities typically lie on your shoulders. Whatever is yours to manage, make sure you've taken care of it as best you can. Practical matters you need to manage may include finances, grocery shopping, housework, home maintenance, and others.
When you have a strong support system, you don't have to go it alone. Friends, family, community organizations, your church, and your counselor can help you meet your physical and emotional needs. Try to avoid having all your support coming from parents with children the age yours. They can be helpful, but they're probably just as busy as you. Build your support system from people at all stages and various walks of life.
When you're always looking for something to go wrong, that's exactly what will happen. Life isn't perfect. Eventually, something isn't going to go the way you think it should. Yet, you can shift your focus to looking for the positive in your life. When something goes wrong, take a problem-solving approach instead of dwelling on the negative.
Worry makes you tense. It can make you anxious and overprotective. But, how can you learn how not to worry? It may take some time to eliminate the worry habit. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you identify, evaluate, and change the thoughts that are behind your worries. Practicing meditation can also help you train your mind to notice negative thoughts and then let them go instead of ruminating yourself into a frenzy.
Meet Your Child's Needs
Taking care of yourself is a good starting point, but it isn't enough. You have to give your child what they need when they need it as much as possible if you want them to form a secure attachment. Here are ways to do it.
Whenever your child is in distress, they will show you signs of what they need. Infants express their needs through cries, giggles, smiles, and grunts. They might try to wriggle out of their diaper if it needs to be changed. They may pull at their ear if they have an earache.
As your child gets older, they may tell you what they need, but they might not, too. Their distress might show up as sleep problems or poor school performance, for example. You can't help them or comfort them until you find out they need you. You don't have to analyze everything they do. Just pay attention to unusual behaviors and expressions.
Children and especially infants can't meet their own physiological needs as you can. You need to make sure they have food when they need it, are hydrated properly, and have medical problems taken care of as quickly as possible. You can't ensure that they'll never feel a hunger pang or a touch of sadness. What you can do, though, is give them what they need before they struggle.
When your child is happy and playful, you have a wonderful opportunity to connect with them positively. Meet their giggle with a happy expression. Please take a few moments to relax and play with them, allowing yourself to experience the joyful interaction.
The amount a child has to learn in their first five years of life is incomprehensible to most adults. To learn about themselves, you, others, and their world, they need to have the freedom to explore. Yet, if there are dangers in your home, exploring can turn ugly fast. Make sure they have a play area that's clean and free of hazards. They'll be safer, and you'll be more relaxed.
Once you've made sure their play space is safe, go ahead and allow them to explore it. You may feel the need to guide their explorations and direct their learning. That's fine sometimes, but other times, they need to find the world on their terms. Stand back and allow them to do it.
As your child explores their world, there will be times when they want to reconnect with you in some way to feel safe. They may look back at you occasionally. They may be across the room from you and then come closer to you for a feeling of being supported. You don't need to jump in and take over. Just acknowledge them with a smile, a wave, or a hug if they initiate one. Then, let them go back to exploring.
No healthy parent enjoys their child's distress. The truth is, though, all children will feel upset, frustrated, vulnerable, or unhappy at one time or another. Take the time to comfort them. Hold them or hug them. Talk gently to them. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple touch for them to feel better.
Micro-cues are small gestures and behaviors you can do to remind them that you're ready to help when needed. A smile, a touch, brief eye-contact, or a few comforting words can help them feel more secure. Make these micro-cues a part of your normal interaction with them. Older children and even adults still benefit from these small cues of support.
Parents who push their children to do things they're not ready for don't help them achieve. Give them what they need to form a secure attachment, and they'll learn more easily. Certainly, please provide them with opportunities to develop. Then, have some trust that they'll do what they're capable of doing. You can encourage them and give them the tools they need to succeed. Just don't push your expectations on them.
You have to make some comparisons with other children your child's age. Otherwise, you might miss that they have developmental challenges. At the same time, you need to avoid any unnecessary comparisons. The fact that your neighbor's child had walked by ten months doesn't matter. If your child walks within the normal time frame, that's all that matters.
Every child is unique, with unique genetic makeup and a unique temperament. Rather than comparing them to others, enjoy the things about your child that make him or her different from others. Find the special beauty in your child that sets him or her apart from others the same age.
Every child has some strengths. They have to survive. Yet, too often, parents are so worried about their child's weaknesses to appreciate their strengths. You'll find yourself feeling more positive and loving your child if you notice their positive characteristics and what they're good at doing. They'll recognize your acceptance of them and feel secure that you care about them.
How to Get Parenting Help
Parenting has been called the most difficult job in the world. It certainly isn't easy for any parent all the time. If you find that you can't be the parent you would like to be, you can talk to a counselor to make positive changes in your attitudes and behaviors.
You can talk to a licensed counselor at ReGain.us right away to get the help you need through online therapy. A therapist can help you find new ways to meet your needs and the needs of your child, so you can help your child have the best start possible.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the signs of a secure attachment style?
Attachment styles have different signs in children and adults. The attachment style you form as a child impacts you into adulthood and affects your relationship with yourself and others. If you are securely attached, you tend to have success in relationships, versus if you have an insecure attachment style, you tend to have trouble.
Bowlby's attachment theory states that securely attached children become distressed when their caregiver leaves and quickly soothed when they return. Securely attached children also are comforted by their parents when anxious and tend to prefer their parents over others. Securely attached children accept affection and contact from a parent, and they often show love in return. They also typically fare well in relationships with other children and play more than children with insecure attachment.
If you were a securely attached child, usually you will be well off in your relationships with others as an adult. Signs of a securely attached adult are when we trust others, are committed, and are confident in ourselves. They tend to seek out and enjoy social relationships with others and have no issue opening up to their loved ones.
What are the different types of attachment styles?
People have different attachment styles depending on the bond that they shared with their caregiver as an infant and a child. If there was a strong and trusting bond, you have a secure attachment style; however, you have an insecure attachment style if the bond was weak.
The concept of attachment styles derives from the attachment theory. Attachment theory looks at the bond shared between humans, specifically the bond between a child and a caregiver. The attachment theory was introduced by psychologist John Bowlby who believed that children needed to form a relationship with a caregiver to develop correctly. Mary Ainsworth then proceeded to build his theory further by running a set of experiments. She determined what attachment style infants had based on how they reacted to their parents entering and leaving the room.
If there isn't a strong bond between a child and its caregiver, the child may develop insecure attachment styles. When children feel that they cannot rely on their caregiver for their physical or emotional needs, they form an anxious, insecure attachment style. The caregiver is typically unresponsive to the child's emotional and physical requirements. For example, they can be slow to react to their crying child. Anxiously attached children tend to be upset when their caregiver leaves, yet hard to comfort when they return. An anxious attachment relationship between a child and a caregiver in childhood affects their adult relationships where they have a hard time trusting others, and at the same time, are afraid of being abandoned.
Avoidant insecure attachment starts when the caregiver cannot meet the child's needs, similar to anxious, insecure attachment. The difference is, instead of feeling worried like children with anxious, insecure attachment, they repress their emotional displays because they know their caregiver will reject them. In adulthood, those with avoidant insecure attachment tend to have trouble in forming relationships. They don't like to depend on others and prefer to be independent because of the early attachment relationship they developed with their parents.
Disorganized attachment, on the other hand, is developed by inconsistent parenting patterns. The child is unsure of the attachment relationship between them and their caregiver. The child is untrusting of their relationship with their caregiver, yet still seeks them for comfort. Their caregiver is overbearing in certain situations but is neglectful in others. In Ainsworth's experiment on attachment theory, children with a disorganized attachment style were ambivalent towards their parents when reunited with them. The children with disorganized attachment wanted to seek comfort in their parents at first but soon became anxious about their presence. This attachment style negatively impacts the child into adulthood, where they continue to develop a disorganized attachment relationship with others. To learn more about the different attachment styles and attachment theory, check out this article by Psychology Today.
What causes secure attachment?
Your attachment style shapes during your early developmental phases based on the relationship you have with your attachment figure or your caregiver. Bowlby's attachment theory states that an infant's first relationship influences their mental development and future relationships. Suppose the early attachment between an infant and their attachment figure is securely attached. In that case, the child will likely have good relationships with others and be confident in themselves.
Bowlby's attachment theory states that a secure attachment style forms when the infant has a secure base. Having a secure base means that they can rely on and trust their attachment figure. Based on the attachment theory, a secure base can be formed during the early attachment phase if the infant's caregiver meets their needs. Infants with this attachment style have the best mental development conditions, building a solid foundation for their future.
Nonverbal communication between a caregiver and their child is critical in ensuring that the child is securely attached. The caregiver must take their child's non-verbal cues and appropriately respond to them. For example, if a child is sad or unhappy, its parent would respond by hugging them. Nonverbal communication allows for a bond to form between them. The child knows that they can rely on the parent and that they are a secure base.
How does secure attachment affect adults?
Out of all the attachment styles, adults with a secure attachment style form the healthiest relationships with themselves and others. They have high self-esteem and confidence in themselves and those around them. They can easily trust others, leading to strong attachment relationships with others that tend to be healthy and long-lasting. According to the attachment theory, secure attachment develops during early attachment between a child and their caregiver. However, even if you formed an insecure attachment style, seeking help from a mental health professional can allow you to become more securely attached.
In relationships, securely attached adults can confide in others about their feelings and emotions and seek positive connections with others. In intimate relationships, they understand their partners and give their partner space while also fulfilling their needs. Securely attached adults are comfortable in intimate relationships and can healthily rely on their partner and have their partner depend on them.
What are the signs of attachment disorder in adults?
Although adults aren't diagnosed with an attachment disorder, attachment issues can still be apparent. Signs of attachment issues in adults include difficulty trusting others, unstable relationships, low self-esteem, and emotional impairment. If left untreated, an adult may develop depression, anxiety, dissociation, and substance use issues.
Two attachment disorders may affect someone in adulthood if left untreated. Both stem from an insecurely attached relationship between a child and a caregiver. Reactive attachment disorder is caused by neglect from a caregiver, resulting in avoidance in relationships with others. Disinhibited social engagement disorder develops when a child experiences neglect as well. However, instead of avoiding relationships, they become overly dependent on them.
Adults experiencing attachment disorder issues can benefit from seeking attachment therapy. Attachment therapy helps adults overcome insecure attachment styles that formed in their childhood. Adults who seek treatment and become more securely attached tend to become more successful in relationships and create a better self-image. To learn more about attachment disorder and attachment issues, visit medical News Today.
What does insecure attachment look like in adults?
The attachment theory states that insecure attachment formed at an early age will harm adult relationships. Adults with insecure attachment styles tend to fall on one of the spectrum's ends; they are either overly independent or overly dependent. Adults with an insecure attachment style have difficulty maintaining their relationships and typically have low self-esteem. Mental health professionals can help insecure attachment styles with therapy, which allows the individual to reevaluate the way they perceive relationships. Insecure attachment styles in adults typically stem from early attachment formed as a child. With therapy, adults with insecure attachment styles from childhood can become securely attached in their adult relations.