09 February 2014

Developing Secure, Trusting Relationships with Children

 
Most people agree that it’s important for children to develop secure, trusting relationships with their caregivers, but not everyone agrees on how to do it.  There are so many theories that it boggles the mind.  How is a parent to choose? 
 
One term that’s become increasing popular is attachment parenting.  The phrase is often associated with babywearing, co-sleeping and breastfeeding, but there’s a lot more to it than that and plenty of parents feel they’re doing a good job without those things.  And they’re right.  In fact, many parents are probably using attachment parenting without knowing that they are.
 
The phrase “attachment parenting” was coined by pediatrician William Sears, and is based on attachment theory in developmental psychology.  Attachment theory says that children develop strong bonds with caregivers and that the nature of these bonds has lifelong consequences.  The goal of attachment parenting is to create positive bonds, to be attuned to the needs of your child and to respond with sensitivity and emotional availability so that children develop secure, trusting relationships.  These kinds of “secure attachment” relationships help children feel safe, and feeling safe is what allows a child to explore the world with confidence.
 
Attachment Parenting International lists 8 Principles of attachment parenting:
 
  • Prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting
  • Feed with love and respect
  • Respond with sensitivity
  • Use nurturing touch
  • Ensure safe sleep, both physically and emotionally
  • Provide consistent and loving care
  • Practice positive discipline
  • Strive for balance in your personal and family life
 
You can read about each of these in depth at their website: www.attachmentparenting.org
 
There are many ways to use nurturing touch that don't involve a sling, such as snuggling, skin-to-skin time and hugs and kisses.  If co-sleeping worries you, how about moving the crib into your bedroom?  That way you don't have to travel as far to respond to your baby's needs during the night.  And finally, you can still follow the cues of your baby when bottle feeding. 
 
Being attuned and responding with sensitivity can be hard work, but one thing that can make it easier is to share the responsibility.
 
Research shows that children can have as many as five attachment figures.  Babies form strong attachments to adults who respond accurately to their needs, even if those adults aren't around all the time.1   Moms are important, but so are dads, partners, and relatives.  Children don't have a bank of attachment that depletes as they form bonds with more than one caregiver.  In fact, having several strong attachment relationships can help baby feel even more secure. 
 
Secure relationships often lead to increased self-esteem, emotional intelligence and better social skills.  Who wouldn’t want that for their child?  So head on over to the Attachment Parenting International website to learn more about attachment, and stay tuned for my more tips on positive parenting!
 
 
1 Schaffer,H.R.& Emerson,P.E.(1964). The Development of Social Attachments in Infancy.  Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 29,94.

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