Healthy attachment is key to how well a child will develop socially, emotionally, and mentally. In order for a parent to have a strong and secure attachment to his/her child he/she first needs to be in touch with his/herself and must understand his/her own baggage from the past.
For example if a mother had an uncomfortable feeding experience as a baby she may not be able to comfortably feed her own child.
Research shows that parents who are in touch with their own pain and traumas are able to create a closer bond with their children. From the early pre-natal stage the mother needs to be connected to the baby. The moment the baby comes into the world the parents need to receive him or her with warmth and welcoming.
In my years of practice I have observed patterns where parents, especially mothers, who are confident, loving and safe while holding the baby for the first time have a great positive impact on the child’s development.
(Still Face Experiment by Dr. Edward Tronick)
Here are some guidelines for parents on how to create healthy parent-child attachments.
Listen and respond. Show the child that he or she is understood. Demonstrate reflective communication. Repeat and echo the child’s sounds and words. “What I hear you saying is this…”
Accept the child’s feelings for what they are, positive or negative. Otherwise the child gets confused about what they truly feel.
Own your own feelings as a parent and be responsible for any mistakes or wrong behavior. Don’t worry about being perfect! But if you have been wrong just admit it and apologize.
Be consistent and reliable in your routines. When the child can expect and rely upon regular caretaking and interaction he/she feels safe and secure. This security is essential to positive attachment and healthy development.
Use nonverbal communication. Smile, gesture, laugh and interact! Touch and play are valuable tools to help convey positive feelings and strengthen attachment.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself! For optimal attachment to occur, parents must respect and nurture themselves. Sleep, eat, relax and develop a support network with family and friends.
Enjoy your bond with your child! All babies are born with the capacity to experience joy and having a joyful experience with your child helps him/her to internalize a sense of safety and happiness. Expressing and sharing your delight in being together with your child will increase lasting attachment and reap positive benefits at any stage of childhood.