What is healthy attachment and how is it linked to my child’s success in life?
Healthy attachment, also referred to as secure attachment, is the emotional connection formed by communication exchanges, even wordless ones, between a parent and child. That connection will have a big impact on the wellbeing of your child. A secure attachment bond teaches your baby to trust you, to feel safe to communicate her feelings to you, to build upon that trust and eventually to trust others. The strength of this bond is often a strong indication of how your child will succeed in school and life.
Healthy attachment between a child and parent is the basis for your child’s relationships as he goes through life. These relationships include attitudes toward other family members, peers, friends, teachers and partners.
Today we know that healthy attachment is also linked to brain development. With healthy attachment between you and your baby, the parts of your child’s brain responsible for social and emotional development, communication and relationships can develop in the best possible ways.
How can we support secure attachment:
- Having face-to-face interactions and making eye contact
- Being in close proximity to your child when engaging
- Promoting calm by staying calm
- Meeting your child’s upsets with a sensitive response
- Reflecting your little one’s actions, for instance, cooing back if he coos
- Having “people interactions” vs. “object/toy interactions,” so that you have more of a focus on personal connection vs. expecting a performance
- Reading to your child, if possible, with your child in your lap
- Playing games such as peek-a-boo with your child
- Singing calming songs (learn what songs tend to comfort your child)
- Forecasting what is happening next, such as telling your little one, “It’s time for bed now.”
- Narrating as you engage, saying things such as, “Now we are going to change your diaper.”
- Always saying goodbye and letting your child know before going out
- Being present while engaging (which means putting away the cellphone)
- Speaking in sing-song “motherese/parentese”
- Sticking to a routine as much as possible. Little ones are calmest when a routine is followed
The good news is that is never too late to support healthy attachment with your baby or child.
More good news: It doesn’t take a lot of time. A few minutes each day dedicated to making these connections can make a world of difference.
Even more good news: We all make mistakes, so when that happens, recognize that your action or reaction wasn’t the best, acknowledge it and try to do better next time.
Your goal is to build a strong and positive bond between parent and child. That lovely bond will pay dividends as it will lead to healthy brain development and success in building relationships through your child’s lifetime.
Your homework: Make time to connect with your little one!
Susan Rudich is a school director, mommy-and-me leader, parent educator and a fellow of the Simms/Mann Institute’s First 36 Project. Project members study the latest in child development theories and neuroscience relating to ages 0-36 months. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org