The Importance of Bonding & Attacment
The following article is a summary of an interview with Linda Maxwell-Mack, an Intervention Specialist with the Early Intervention program. Maxwell-Mack worked in the preschool sector for nine years before joining the Child Guidance Clinic team sixteen years ago. She specializes in Theraplay, a therapy technique focused on enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and joyful engagements.
Bonding and attachment begins at conception between mother and child and continues throughout their lives, it works on a continuum, and we hope we make those connections in a safe way. We can get attached to things, our cars, our clothes, our homes, or food, but ultimately we want to be attached to someone, not something. For some people creating this attachment with their child can be difficult, especially if they themselves have never been safely connected. For those parents, it is important to know that making a safe connection is simple, and involves basic parenting skills.
It is almost unheard of for someone to be completely unattached. It is much more likely that the attachments are just not safe ones. Some attachments are anxious, where a child needs to be near the parent and has difficulty with separation. Sometimes attachments are made too easily and a child may feel too comfortable creating bonds with strangers, which can be a danger if the child is to be approached by a predator. A safe attachment is a balanced one. A child should feel sad when you leave, feel joy when you return, and look to you for comfort when scare or unhappy.
It is important for both mother and father to realize that bonding and attachment begins right away. Look at your child, make eye contact, sing lullabies, and make those little noises that moms and dads make when they see their baby. Keep the bonding simple and focus on making the child feel safe. It is important to tend to their needs, when they cry, feed them, burp them, change them, bathe them, or wrap them to keep them warm. Reading a child’s nonverbal cues also shows you understand which helps create safe attachments.
As children grow, it is important to create structure and order for them. Simple rules and tasks that are achievable are important in continuing the growth of the relationship. Picking up toys or making a bed can be achievable for most preschool children assuming they are not being held to adult standards. Parents should recognize their children’s accomplishments and be consistent with praise. As children grow older and are able to accomplish more, give them more responsibilities and raise expectations appropriately. This creates a continuous bond where children are able to grow within the security of their parent’s care.
The benefits of a secure attachment with a parent continue through the child’s life. Studies show that safely attached children are more empathetic, less disruptive, less aggressive, and more mature than children with ambivalent attachments. Most important to understand is that it is never too late to create a safe connection with your child. The process may be more difficult, it may take more work and time to establish that bond, but it is never too late.