Alexis Ainscough

How to Develop a Secure Attachment with Your Child

Hi mamas! My name is Alexis and I’m a mom of three who is currently in school studying Family Life and Human Development. I love baking and reading with my children, and laughing over parenting memes that sometimes hit a little too close to home. :)

Parenting is so rewarding but it can also be incredibly challenging at times, and that makes it easy to fall into the trap of mom guilt. Research shows that kids actually need relatively little from parents in order to be happy and establish a warm, intimate relationship, or secure attachment style. Those needs include security, warmth, and routine. The critical period for this relationship to develop is from birth to two years of age, and these early attachment patterns we create can have lasting effects and consequences for better or for worse. However, it’s important to note that you can develop or improve your parent-child relationship at any point. Here are a few practical ways to create a secure attachment with your child:

For Babies:
- Learn their cues and respond to them quickly
- Comfort them when they cry
- Hold and snuggle them
- Talk, sing, and read to them throughout the day
- Make eye contact

For example, your baby wakes up from their nap and cries. You pick them up and soothe them with soft words while they cue that they are hungry. You hold them and make eye contact as they eat. Within 20 minutes you’ve provided them with a burst of intense connection and added another layer to the secure attachment style you’re building.

For Toddlers:
- Comfort them when they’re processing difficult emotions
- Be a safe place for them when they’re exploring and discovering new things
- Play games, do activities, read, and talk together
- Create consistent routines
- Set loving boundaries and follow through

For example, you take your toddler outside to play in the yard like you do every morning. You explain to them that the road a few feet away is not a safe place to be and set the expectation that they stay on the grass. Your toddler pushes the boundary and runs into the road. You quickly lead them over to the grass, calmly repeat the rules, and warn them that if they run into the road again they will have to go inside. Unfortunately, they do it again a few minutes later to see how you’ll react. At this point, you collect your child and head inside where they have an epic meltdown because they weren’t done playing outside. You hold your child as they cry and kick and feel disappointed. Once they’ve calmed down, you are able to explain why playtime outside came to an abrupt end and what can be learned from the experience. Again, within 20 minutes you’ve provided them with a burst of intense connection and added another layer to the secure attachment style you’re building, which at this point is getting pretty strong.

So why do secure attachments matter? It’s how your baby learns to communicate their needs to you and trust that you’ll meet them, and it’s how they learn to trust others eventually, too. As the attachment grows stronger they’re able to learn how loving, empathetic relationships work. Throughout their life your child will be better able to develop close relationships, develop emotional maturity, feel confident, express their feelings, and rely on support as needed.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a secure attachment style certainly wasn’t either. It’s an ongoing process between your child and yourself, and some days will be better than others. Children are resilient, forgive easily, and love unconditionally. Be patient with yourself and your child on the hard days, and celebrate wins both big and small. You’ve got this, mama!

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