The research in the field of attachment opens up a whole new world for all of us in understanding the problems of parents and kids. Attachment is the emotional connection between any two people. However, life's first attachments are by far the most important, as they set a template for all later relationships. Attachment between young ones and parents evolved naturally eons ago, as the infants and kids who developed a strong need to remain near their moms & dads were the ones who were most likely to survive - both physically and psychologically. Kids who feel the most secure in their early relationships with moms & dads have tremendous advantages in life. They tend to grow up feeling good about themselves and others. They cope well with life's ups and downs, and they have a strong capacity for empathy. These young ones naturally form other healthy, close relationships as they go out into the world. Young ones who have not developed a healthy, secure attachment with moms & dads tend to grow up feeling more insecure, disconnected, and angry.
Three Ingredients of Attachment—
There are three main ingredients to a secure attachment relationship. The first is physical connection, which means plenty of touch and eye contact. Such things as cradling an infant while feeding, cuddling with a toddler before bedtime, and hugging a teenager increase the sense of physical connection, especially if touch and eye contact take place on a daily basis throughout the childhood years.
The second ingredient is emotional connection. Kids sense their moms & dads are connected on an emotional level when their parents are tuned into their feelings. Infants feel their parents' attunement when moms & dads respond accurately to their infants' cries or when they share their infants' delight in new discoveries. Kids sense the emotional connection when their parents empathize with their feelings or provide them with comfort or reassurance. Even discipline, when carried out with empathy, can increase the emotional connection.
Finally, kids need an environment that is consistent, predictable, and safe in order to develop a quality attachment. Kids need to know that if their feelings or behaviors get out of control, their moms & dads will remain steady and calm. They need to be able to depend on a consistent schedule, consistent limits, and consistent parental responses. Without this kind of safe, dependable environment a child will develop emotional walls which will prevent a secure attachment.
Obstacles to a Secure Attachment—
All babies and kids are biologically programmed to attach to their moms & dads, but not all kids develop quality attachments. There are several situations that can interfere with a good attachment. For example, kids with a difficult temperament may be so highly active or so extreme in their emotions that their parents naturally have difficulty connecting with them either physically or emotionally. Kids who endured an abusive or chaotic early life and who are later placed with an adoptive family may have emotional walls that are difficult to penetrate.
Moms & dads who live in stressful circumstances may have difficulty creating secure attachments. Out of necessity they may be so preoccupied with solving the problems of living and coping that they are unable to tune into their kid's feelings and needs. Moms & dads with addictions are unable to stay attuned to their kids or provide a consistent, safe environment because they are preoccupied with the addictive substance or behavior, and the whole family may be on the addictions roller coaster together.
Finally, parents who grew up without secure attachment relationships themselves often have difficulty providing the ingredients of a secure attachment relationship with their own kids. Moms & dads who did not experience nurturing and closeness growing up may feel uncomfortable with closeness, and may subsequently distance themselves from their young ones. Parents who were mistreated as kids may have a strong need to be in control in order to avoid feeling vulnerable, and may therefore become excessively controlling with their kids. Moms & dads who were mistreated may perceive normal child misbehaviors as attempts to mistreat or hurt them, and may overreact in these situations. Moms & dads who feel unlovable may fear their kids don't love them, and may attempt to placate their kids or give them things to get them to love them more. Parents who were not securely attached in childhood may be disconnected from their own painful feelings, or they may be overwhelmed by painful feelings. Parents who experienced poor attachments are also more vulnerable to the use of addictive substances or behaviors to cope.
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