By Yasmine Farouk
The positive power of parental attachment on child development
It is somehow impossible to talk about physical health without including mental and emotional health. It is a known fact now that experiences early in life, when infants are highly dependent on their parents or caregivers can have insightful effects on their brains and on their behavior in general.
For infants to have a secure foundation from which to explore the world, be resilient to stress, and form meaningful relationships with themselves and others, they need a primary adult who cares for them in sensitive ways and who perceives, makes sense of and responds to their needs. The more the child feels cared for the more attached he/she becomes. This attachment experience directly influences the development of the child and is directly responsible for activating or not activating their genetic potential.
What is it exactly that we mean by attachment?
Attachment is an inborn system in the brain that is built to ensure infant safety and survival. Each attachment occurs in a unique manner. Infants differ in what it takes to calm and soothe them or what they find most pleasing, however what is needed is a form of “communication” that forms a bond of trust that makes the infant feel that he/she is felt, known and respected. This could be in form of facial gestures, hugs, gentle touch, rocking, physical play or even a loving smile.
This bond is the primary means by which an infant regulates stress. As a result, the comfort, pleasure, and empathy of the attuned interaction creates a sense of safety within the infant and inspires interpersonal connection to others as well. An insensitive parent actually causes a child to suffer and experience stress, which in turn becomes toxic to their health, and often result in frequent visits to their pediatricians. In addition to the above, secure attachments shield the child from having to express those needs in rather aggressive or violent means to get them fulfilled when it comes to social interaction with others outside the circle of mom and dad.
The renowned anthropologist, Margaret Mead, studied tribes all over the world, and noted that the most violent tribes were those that withheld touch in infancy.
What are the symptoms of insecure attachment?
Intervention of mental health problems starts with prevention, and this is where parenting plays a vital role. Insecure attachments between parents/caregivers and their children influence the developing brain, which in turn affects future interactions with others, self-esteem, self-control, and the ability to learn and to achieve optimum mental and physical health.
Symptoms or Signs of insecure attachment can include the following:
• low self-esteem
• needy, clingy behavior
• inability to deal with stress and adversity
• lack of self-control
• inability to develop and maintain friendships
• alienation from and opposition to parents, caregivers, and other authority figures
• antisocial attitudes and behaviors
• indifference aggression and violence
• difficulty with genuine trust, intimacy, and affection
• negative, hopeless, pessimistic view of self, family and society
• lack of empathy, compassion and remorse
• behavioral and academic difficulties at school
• speech and language problems
• never-ending chatter and questions
• difficulty learning
• vulnerability to chronic illness
• obsession with food
Do I have to do it perfectly?
Attachment is not fate, because the brain remains flexible throughout life. Relationships with parents can and do change. When attachment/communication with the infant is secure at least a third of the time or more, that is enough to support a secure relationship.
What if I mess up?
Restore & Repair….. No caretaker will interpret a child’s needs correctly all the time. And, as the child grows, there will be times of disagreement between the pair. The caretaker, who sets limits initiates repair as soon as the child indicates a desire for reconnection, strengthens the child’s feeling of safety within the relationship. A wise parent educator always says Connect before and after you Correct…
What causes attachment to be insecure?
Irregularity…..If the attachment bond doesn’t occur with adequate regularity, then the necessary safe and secure experiences do not occur as they ought. All insecure attachments arise from repeated experiences of failed emotional or expressive communication. The more the experience of parental connection is frequent with regularity the more it is regarded rather more secure.
My child is not an infant anymore, is it too late?
Recent studies show that it’s never too late to create positive change in a child’s life, or in an adult’s, for that matter. The learning that accompanies new experiences can adjust neural connections in the brain. Every day we lose two million brain cells which are automatically replaced by new ones!
Recommendations for securing attachment with children
- Respond to their emotional cues.
- Maintain a safe environment for them to express their feelings.
- Make sure each child receives his own special time at least twice a week.
- Make story time before bed time a routine not to be missed.
- Avoid lecturing, create a routine chart so it becomes the boss.
- Give them their space if you feel they need it.
- Make sure you have 10 minutes of daily conversations with your children and teens about world matters that create an opportunity for respectful sharing of opinions.
- Practice loving phrases such as I love you..I appreciate your help..I love being around you…You mean a lot to me.
- It can be written, letters could be a creative way of expressing positive emotions. Imagine how your child would feel, if he/she opened his lunch bag to find mommy’s hand written letter !
- Respect..Respect..Respect..Remember that children are little adults and should be treated as such.
In conclusion, the need for attachment is wired with in each and every human, fulfilling such a need helps restore harmony in the family and allows children and adults to excel in their social life and become a productive individual. The capacity to love and trust, once established with in a child, can transfer down through the generations.
Jan Hunt author of “The natural child” has eloquently summed up what this article is intending to represent: A happy childhood, lasts for ever
About the Author
Yasmine Farouk is a passionate trainer, educator and motivational speaker, Yasmine is focused on developing ideas in helping people explore their potential capabilities and ultimately attain their purpose in life.
ILM Certified Trainer
Certified EFT Practitioner
Certified Professional Coach
Certified Family Counselor
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