Secure attachment is associated with a positive developmental outcome for children in many areas, including social, emotional, and cognitive. Daniel Siegel has done pioneering work in attachment theory and parenting, and in his work has demonstrated how attachment lays a foundation for how a child comes to approach the world, and how a healthy attachment in the early years provides a secure base from which children can learn about themselves and others.
Siegel writes that “Secure attachments are thought to occur when children have consistent, emotionally attuned, contingent communication with their parent or other primary caregiver. Relationships that provide contingency, especially at times of emotional need, offer children repeated experiences of feeling connected, understood, and protected. This way of communicating with our children enables them to feel seen, safe, soothed, and secure. We see their internal world beneath their behaviors; we keep them safe from harm and a sense of threat; we tune in to them and soothe their distress, and these experiences enable them to develop a model of security.”
If you recognize that there were times in your child’s young life that you wish you could have helped develop a more secure attachment, perhaps you had two children very close together with others in the recipe, or you might have been absent in the child’s life due to work, or divorce, take ?. There is good news! The research shows that relationships with parents can change and as they do the child’s attachment changes. This means that it’s never too late to create positive change in a child’s life!
Siegel posits that secure attachments are thought to occur when children have consistent, emotionally attuned, contingent communication with their parent or other primary caregiver.
He show how secure attachments are formed by looking at the process he calls the ABC’s of attachment: Attunement, Balance, and Coherence.
- Attunement— attunement happens when you align your own internal state with those of your children. Having a constant subtle awareness of where your kids are at emotionally and letting them know. This is most often accomplished by sharing nonverbal signals. Eye contact is primary. (Reserach shows that eye contact is one of the most primal ways of connecting.) A look of sympathy when your child trips, a smile when you see their enjoying an activity, a gental tousle of hair when their sitting quietly, etc. This lets them know, “I’m aware of you and where your at.”
- Balance—Your children attain balance of their body, emotions, and states of mind through healthy attunement with you.
- Coherence—The sense of integration that is acquired by your children through your relationship with them in which they are able to come to feel both internally integrated (in their thoughts, feelings and other mental states) and interpersonally connected to others. They are aware of the signals given by others, and to what degree those signals have to do with them.
Learning our ABC’s starts at home, and if our parents didn’t teach them well, i.e., if they had an unhealthy attachment with us, then we will tend to repeat these same styles with our children.
Self-awareness is half the battle. Reading some good titles in attachment theory is a must for every parent. I make some recommendations in the resources page on this site.