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Top Tips to Increase Parent-Child Attachment

Top Tips to Increase Parent-Child Attachment

Experts often point to early secure attachment as one of the key reasons why babies thrive. Babies who are securely attached to their parents show gains in all areas of development—physical, cognitive, social/emotional and so on. Children who show early secure attachments also later show higher IQ scores and more positive, pro-social peer interactions overall. Indeed, how a parent interacts with their young baby is often seen as setting the stage for how their child will then interact with persons in all of their current and future environments. Additionally, insecure attachments are consistently linked with factors such as poor school performance, unemployment, divorce, financial difficulties and a myriad of other negative outcomes. ž

Psychologists report that humans have a fundamental need to feel socially connected to, loved and respected by other people. This need starts early on and attachment is often thought of as the child’s first emotional bond to one or more caregivers. Furthermore, the quality of infant attachment is considered to have far-reaching effects on a child’s development. Even in cultures where extremely communal rearing arrangements are present (e.g., a pygmy group called ‘the Efe’ in Zaire), there are some signs of a central attachment from abyeah out 6 months of age, when infants begin to insist on being with their own mother or show preference for their own mothers when previously they showed no single central attachment (Tronick et al,1992). Clearly attachment is a central feature of strong parent child relationships and is of critical importance in both the physical and mental well being of children. So how can we ensure that secure attachments are formed? The following article will outline key ways a parent can foster secure attachments with their little ones thus giving them the best head start to having healthy interpersonal relationships in adulthood.

1. Change diapers.

Interestingly, the strength of a child’s attachment to his/her father can be predicted by how many diapers a dad changed in a typical week (Ross, Kagan, Zelazo , & Kotelchuk, 1975). The more diapers changed, the stronger the attachment. So, for those of you fathers who still haven’t ventured into the 21st century when it comes to childcare, it’s time to step up. There’s more at stake here than how annoyed your partner will be if you don’t do your fair share in this department.

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    2. Be in close physical proximity to your new baby.

    This may sound obvious to most of us, but as soon as your child is born, he or she uses social signals (e.g., looking at caregiver, crying) to elicit care. In the first couple of months, a newborn will respond to all adults in much the same way, but the foundations of attachment are being formed. Even at this very young age, infants learn to recognize familiar people through faces, voices, smells and characteristic behaviors. Physical closeness will aid the newborn’s ability to recognize the key caregivers in his/her life. This physical closeness and responding to these early social cues by making eye contact with your baby and responding to his/her cues by providing necessary care strengthens the bonds between parent and child. The more often you are physically close to your child, the quicker you will be to recognize and respond to his or her cues.

    3. Smile at your baby.

    Between the ages of two and six months, infants can recognize and smile selectively at people they know best. Smile back! This will strengthen the intimate relationship you have with your little one. Babies at this age will continue to accept comfort from unfamiliar adults, but they start to show a preference for those that are involved in their day to day life. Smiling at your baby also reinforces this highly pro-social behavior and makes it very likely that your baby will smile at lots of people and those people will in turn respond very favorably to your child.

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    4. Be sensitive when your baby shows signs of anxiety.

    Between the ages of 7 months and 2 years, babies will show special preference for a small number of familiar caregivers. They will also demonstrate unmistakable attachment behaviors (reaching out, cooing, smiling, protesting when separated). This is also about the time when stranger anxiety or “making strange” first appears.

    Be sensitive when your child displays anxious behavior when separated from you. This does not mean that you cannot ever leave your child, but do recognize “stranger anxiety” as a necessary safety behavior which is entirely appropriate for your child’s developmental stage. It is thus a good idea to never leave your child with complete strangers. It is also a good idea when making changes to your child’s normal routine—particularly if a new person is going to be caring for them—to plan that the new person will be present during their normal routine for a couple of occasions before you leave your little one with the new person.

    You may also then wish to bring your child to visit the location where the new caregiver will be minding your child so that the location will not be distressing. So this means that your child will have some time to adjust to this new person, when you are still present, and will know that this new person is not a stranger. If you visit the location also, then the new location will have some familiarity for your child and should minimize the distress that your child may have. On the first occasion that you are leaving your child with a new person, only stay away for a short period (i.e., an hour or two) and then you can increase the time from there.

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    Your child may still fuss and cry the first time you leave them. You should always respond sensitively with hugs and kisses and reassurance, but you will need to still leave, even if it is just for a short period. Otherwise, your child may not learn to tolerate the upset and frustration of you leaving, which, naturally enough, you will eventually have to do. However, if you baby step this process in a slow and steady manner, your child will feel securely attached to you and will be confident tackling new situations, new transitions and new people in their lives.

    5. Maintain a consistent routine.

    The formation of attachment has been likened to a dance, in which both partners practice their routine to build a reciprocal relationship of understanding (Isabella, 1993). These synchronized routines are formed during vital everyday interactions between infant and caregiver. This routine should include sensitivity to an infant’s emotional & physical state (e.g., not over stimulating when baby is tired). It does not take long before you and your baby will learn how to interpret each other’s signals. This process happens more quickly when you maintain a consistent routine. There are, of course, always things which interrupt your routine. However, research shows that babies and young children do best (in school, in physical health, in mental health and even in brain development) when they know what to expect and what is expected of them.

    6. Be aware of characteristics that may affect the quality of the attachment relationship.

    Infants who have early physical difficulties (e.g., colic, reflux, low birth weight, visual difficulties, chronic ear infections or any other condition which makes them uncomfortable or less responsive than other babies) will likely be harder to soothe or engage with. These babies may not always respond to the caregiver in a positive or typical manner. This may elicit frustration, anger and negativity on the part of the caregiver. So try to get to the bottom of these issues early on to minimize the baby’s discomfort and allow more positive interactions between parent and child. Try also to be sensitive to a baby’s individual needs by, for example, allowing your infant an active role in determining the onset, pacing, and end of feeding. (Yes people, I mean feeding on demand!). This will help your baby identify a mother as being generally responsive to her babies needs even under difficult circumstances.

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    Similarly, if parents are having difficulties with physical or emotional illness or if depression, alcoholism, financial difficulties are present, these issues will naturally affect how parents feel about their babies. If any of these issues are present, try to get support early on so as to avoid damaging your relationship with your child. A new baby can place a great strain on any situation and sleep deprivation is a consistent problem when there are young babies in a home. This may compound any physical or emotional stressors parents are already facing. Be aware too that if one parent is suffering with physical or emotional difficulties, having a sensitive and responsive other parent can mitigate the effects of one parent being unavailable, whether that be for physical, mental, financial or any other reason. So while two heads are better than one in most situations, one head is better than none in this situation.

    7. Be flexible.

    While on the one hand, babies respond best when they know what to expect, it is also important to model a flexible style of parenting too. Recognize that your baby may need you more than usual during difficult times like illness, teething, adjusting to new situations, etc. Modelling flexibility will help your child learn how to adjust to the ever changing world around them. When your baby sees you responding flexibly to new or unexpected situations, he or she will pick up your cues and follow suit. ž

    In summary, attachment theorists suggest that early attachment sets the stage for later relationships. A baby’s experiences with primary caregivers provides a mental representation of what relationships with other people are like. This unconscious understanding influences how children relate to other individuals, including teachers, friends, cousins, siblings, bosses and many others. Furthermore, studies repeatedly show correlations between early attachment and cognitive and social adjustment. So securely attached kids do better in school, work and in social circles. This means that they are stronger in terms of social, emotional and intellectual development. žChildren who make strong attachments in very early childhood, typically are: more popular with peers and adults; —are less likely to be bullied, demonstrate less aggression, are more persistent in problem-solving situations, demonstrate autonomy and are better able to regulate their emotions. On the flip side, Carlson et al., 2004 have noted that those with insecure attachments, particularly avoidant attachments; have less positive and less secure friendships in adolescence, are more likely to become sexually active earlier and even to engage in riskier sex. In 2005, žSroufe et al noted that children with histories of insecure attachment showed some kind of deviant behavior pattern (e.g., —Isolation from peers, passivity, hyperactivity, aggressiveness). Only a few of those with secure attachments showed any of these patterns.

    The research paints a picture of children with secure attachments growing up as balanced sensitive confident and trusting individuals; but for those whose early attachment was not as secure, the outcomes look much less positive. žSecurely attached children expect people to be trustworthy, because this is what they have experienced. In contrast, insecurely attached children expect the opposite based on what their experiences have taught them. So while the early years of establishing secure attachments may seem like only brief fleeting moments, these early moments may account for how your child behaves throughout his or her lifetime. So by all means, you should enjoy these moments, but whatever you do—make them count!

    Liam and Mac

      Featured photo credit: Shannon O’Brien via shannonrosephotography.weebly.com

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      Last Updated on March 25, 2020

      How to Crush Your Lack of Motivation and Always Stay Motivated

      How to Crush Your Lack of Motivation and Always Stay Motivated

      How many times have you not achieved your goals and let yourself down due to your lack of motivation? When you’re not wallowing in sadness and self-pity, you are too busy procrastinating till you can’t anymore and before you know it, you are part of vicious cycle of anxiety and stress.

      Whether it’s losing weight or bringing your business to fruition – motivation is essential for growth and success in every sphere of our lives.

      That said, it is not easy staying motivated. In order to constantly stay motivated, you need to take ownership of your life and consciously make efforts in that direction.

      Well, it’s never too late to take matters in your hands and change the course of your life. Here are 11 effective ways to crush your lack of motivation and always stay motivated:

      1. Write Your Goals

      The power of writing goals down has always been underestimated. Why write when you can remember, right? Wrong.

      Our thoughts are all over the place and the first step to achieve your goals is to organize your thoughts. So, write your goals down, however big or small they might be. Make them as specific as possible and assign deadlines to each of them.

      As you write them down and revisit them regularly, they get further drilled in your head, taking you closer to your goals. Doing this small exercise helps you to remain focused, motivated and lets you track your progress with ease.

      Start today – take to your laptop or a diary and get down to writing what you wish to achieve in life.

      2. Beat Procrastination

      Your lack of motivation and procrastination go hand in hand. Every time you procrastinate, your motivation levels take a greater hit. The only way to bring an end to this loop is to stop procrastinating.

      Next time you find yourself putting off something for ‘later’, stop and assess the reasons behind it. Get to the root of the cause and eliminate it in order to overcome this poor habit of procrastinating which is sabotaging your life and mental health.

      Take a look at this guide and learn how to beat procrastination:

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      What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

      When you finally overcome procrastination, you will realize the positive impact it has on your mood and motivation levels.

      3. Celebrate Small Wins

      In the quest to achieve the bigger goals in life, we often forget to celebrate the smaller wins along the way. An achievement is an achievement – be it big or small, it deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated.

      Finished a project on time? Reward yourself. Managed to run on the treadmill for a good one hour? Pat yourself on the back. Found time to meditate? Celebrate it.

      It is these small achievements that reinstate that we are on the right path and take us one step closer to the bigger goals.

      So, get into the habit of recognizing and appreciating small wins. You will be surprised to see how this practice helps you stay motivated.

      4. Practice Gratitude

      It’s easier to whine about what we don’t have rather than counting our blessings. Isn’t it?

      Making gratefulness a part of your life is a very important step to retain high motivational levels. It revitalizes our spirits and renews our enthusiasm for life.

      So, how do you practice gratitude? For starters, keep a gratitude journal to jot down what you are grateful for, express your gratitude to people you love and spread positivity wherever you go. If you need some inspiration to be thankful for, here it is:

      60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

      By doing so, you begin to focus more on what you have rather than what you don’t and that is a great start to stay motivated.

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      5. Be Optimistic

      Life is not always hunky dory. There will be bad days when things aren’t going in your favor, when you feel lost and all you want to do is give up.

      At such times, instead of letting negativity take over your life, adopt an optimistic approach to life. Quit overthinking, ask the right questions and focus on finding solutions.

      Yes, there will be hurdles along the way but if you hang on to positive affirmations and hopes, the journey will be a lot smoother. So, with every passing day, sow the seeds of positivity and you are sure to build a positive environment around you.

      6. Don’t Dwell on the Past

      A lot of times, our lack of motivation stems from the habit of dwelling on the past. This gives rise to fear and regrets, preventing us from making progress in the present day.

      Dwelling on the past is nothing but a waste of time. Understand that the past is long gone, and you cannot do anything to change that.

      What you can do is make your present day worthwhile. Instead of looking back and having regrets, learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself and move on.

      So, the next time you find your mind wandering off to the past, be determined to change the way you think and consciously concentrate on living in the present. This guide can help you:

      10 Simple Steps To Let Go Of The Past

      7. Face your Fears

      You can never find motivation where there is fear. Identify the fear that is pulling you back and tackle it.

      If you don’t face your fear head on, you cannot expect to conquer it and renew your motivation.

      Ask yourself: What is stopping you? What are you scared of?

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      Once you accept your fear, you can work on an action plan and think of solutions to overcome it. This article will give you some effective tips on conquering your fears:

      How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)

      Seek external help if required but don’t choose to turn a blind eye over your fears – it will only aggravate matters.

      8. Visualize your Success

      You must have heard the famous quote, ‘see it to believe it’. That is exactly what visualization is about.

      One of the most effective self-motivation techniques, visualizing the process to your desired outcome helps you move in a positive direction and achieve your goal.

      Close your eyes and focus all your energies on the minutest of details that will take you where you want to reach. Doing this exercise everyday inspires you to keep going and not lose hope. The vision of attaining success will drive you to do better while instilling belief and confidence.

      9. Find Inspiration

      Can’t seem to find inspiration inwards? Don’t panic. There are plenty of external sources to gain inspiration from.

      From motivational books and quotes to speeches, films and apps – it is a good idea to take help from motivational material to rekindle your spirits and regain your motivation.

      Everyone is wired differently. For instance, a self-help book might work for your friend, but it might do nothing to move you. So, find what inspires you and turn to it when you are in desperate need for motivation.

      Finding inspiration externally fills you with hope and sometimes that is all you need.

      10. Enjoy Downtime

      You are clearly exhausted with all the running you’re doing in life. So much, that you don’t even have time to stop and think what’s causing you so much unhappiness. All you know is that you are lacking motivation and everyday seems to have become a struggle.

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      Now, that’s certainly not how you should live the rest of your life.

      You need to schedule downtime for yourself, relax and give your mind and body some rest. Take a vacation, indulge in hobbies, meet some friends, put your hair down and stop with all the overthinking. It is important to do things that make you happy in order to think clearly and stay motivated.

      11. Meditate Regularly

      Meditation lets you take control of your mind. It improves focus and concentration while helping you relax.

      Whenever you have had a tough day or find your thoughts going places, the best way to calm yourself down is by closing your eyes and meditating. It helps you to remove all the unnecessary frills in life and keeps you on the right track.

      Include meditation in your daily schedule and you are sure to see an improvement in your productivity and motivation.

      The Bottom Line

      Practicing these simple exercises isn’t the tough part, what’s tough is religiously doing them every day.

      However, don’t expect to get rid of your lack of motivation overnight. There will still be days when you will be low on energy but by making these conscious efforts to stay motivated, you are sure to see a vast change in your perspective and your response to bad days.

      So, start today and be committed to making a positive change in your life.

      More Tips About Staying Motivated

      Featured photo credit: Sonnie Hiles via unsplash.com

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