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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 December 10, 2019

      5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

      5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

      Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

      Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

      But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

      Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

      But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

      Journal writing.

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      Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

      Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

      Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

      1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

      By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

      Consider this:

      Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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      But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

      The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

      2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

      If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

      How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

      Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

      You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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      3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

      As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

      Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

      All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

      4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

      Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

      Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

      The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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      5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

      The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

      It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

      Kickstart Journaling

      How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

      Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

      Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

      Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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