Friday, January 14, 2011

Making Secure Attachments with Young Children

In recent years, brain research has focused a great deal on the importance of attachment between young children and their caregivers. If a child does not feel safe or secure in his early years, he will likely have difficulty learning and more problems in school. Also the relationships children form as infants and toddlers shape their success for future relationships as adults and their ability to eventually raise their own healthy, happy children. This early positive interaction with caregivers also affects the child’s ability to regulate his or her emotions and stress later in life, and to enjoy being with others. People who have experienced strong attachments as babies have a better ability to bounce back when problems occur.

One point of discussion related to attachment that often comes up with parents is how to respond to a crying child. It is not unusual to hear an adult say something like, “children need to learn to comfort themselves – it is better to let them cry.” Or “responding to a crying child just rewards that behavior and teaches the child to cry to get what he wants.” And of course we have all heard people say that if we respond to a crying child that the parent is no longer the boss and is being manipulated by the child. Unfortunately all of these opinions are very detrimental to the task of forming a secure attachment to a child. Crying is the way that a young child communicates. Adults should respond quickly to try to make sure that child’s needs are met. By doing so, the child will understand that the adult considers him to be important and wants to meet his needs.

Research shows that a child’s relationship with a parent is most important and ideally a child will form secure relationships one or two people. It’s also important for a child to form secondary relationships with other caring adults like relatives, grandparents and close friends. These secure relationships are also critical to a child’s growth and development.

So keep this in mind when you have an opportunity to spend time with a young child. Your nurturing and caring actions today may lay the foundation for that child’s future success in life. Don’t take this opportunity lightly!

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