The first attachment theorist, psychologist John Bowlby, first described attachment as the “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings”. Basically, attachment refers to the strong emotional bonds that human beings form with each other, across time and space.
Why is attachment important? The early experience that infants have with their caregivers, stimulates growth in the brain and can have an influence on the ability of the infant to form stable relationships with others. However, attachment not only affects the ways that we relate to others. It also affects the way that we relate to ourselves – our worthiness. The truth is, we are all worthy. We all deserve to be loved, respected and cared for. So why do some people feel worthy while others don’t? This can be determined by our experience of attachment, as it is our relational experiences with our caregivers which set the tone of how we see ourselves and the world.
So much so, that research confirms that children who are securely attached to their caregivers tend to develop positive self-esteem and better self-reliance as they grow older. These children turn into adults who are independent, perform well in their careers, have successful social relationships and have a less chance to experience depression and anxiety.
So how can we form a secure attachment with our children? To form a secure attachment, you need to be emotionally available and responsive to your children’s needs. Moreover, children need to grow up in an environment which is perceived as safe, knowing that they can reach out to their caregiver when they feel in distress. Therefore, emotional availability is vital for the development of a secure attachment. Children can develop a strong attachment bond with a number of people – such as the mother, father or even grandparents, depending on their availability and emotional responsiveness.
Delight in your child – make sure that you light up every time you see your them. Make them feel special and important, just because of who they are. Some parents mistake this with praise. While praise is valuable, it is generally about something that the child has achieved. Delight is more about enjoying and loving your child exactly the way they are. This inevitably makes them feel worthy just for who they are.
Validate your child’s emotions. What does this mean exactly? Validation refers to the recognition that what your child is thinking or feeling is valid and worthy. This can be done by the parents noticing how their child is feeling and helping their child name the emotions they are experiencing while providing the wisdom that all emotions are natural, welcome and serve a purpose. This gives the child the freedom to feel wholeheartedly accepted, with all the emotions they carry within them – yet again, making them feel worthy just for being who they are.
At the end of the day, a healthy attachment is all about a healthy relationship that you are naturally meant to create with your child. Whenever in doubt, ask yourself: how is this serving my child? What message am I giving them? These simple questions can serve as your guide.