Monday, November 14, 2011

Take Away Advice to Help You Foster Secure Attachment in a Child of any Age

The contents of this post are also available in a one page document that you can download from here.


Attachment Theory is concerned with the way people interact with each other. It begins in infanthood when a child forms an attachment relationship with its primary carer. It continues through childhood and into adulthood. The best form of attachment relationship is termed a Secure Attachment. This document contains some practical advice on how to help foster a Secure Attachment in your child. It applies to children from infanthood through to early teens. Further information on Attachment Theory can be found on my website

A secure attachment relationship is typically associated with a child who :-

  • Has a positive self-image and believes they are worthy of love.
  • Is capable of giving and receiving in social relationships and of forming trusting relationships.
  • Is sociable and empathic.
  • Has generally positive expectations regarding relationships and can negotiate the social world.
  • Can negotiate separations and reunions relatively smoothly.
  • Is capable of forming intimate relationships later in life.

Parental behaviours and a home environment that help foster this sense include:
  • Providing a secure base that the child can feel comfortable in leaving, as he knows it will be there when he wishes to return.
  • Providing a safe haven where a child can return to its parents safe in the knowledge that everything will be ok.
  • Being comfortable with Separation distress manifesting itself in the child. Separation Distress refers to the anxieties  and feelings that the child may have when he is away from his parents.
  • Responding positively to proximity seeking which is the desire of the child to be comforted by his parents.
  • Supporting exploratory behaviour, which is the desire of the child to move away from his parents and to discover his world.
  • Structure in daily life.

A parent can foster the above by :-
  • Having the child carry a photograph of their parents with them at all times.
  • Anticipating anxiety provoking situations and taking steps to prevent them
  • Understanding the links between the child’s behaviours and emotions and proactively addressing them.
    • EG by saying “ I know that you are angry with me because I did not arrive on time and I am sorry, but I am here now.”
  • Helping the  child to make sense of his/her world
    • E.g. by saying “I know that you find it difficult to be without me but I will be back as soon as I can.”
  • By telling the child that you are thinking of them and have been  in the course of the day

In this way, the child develops a sense of their parents as people who can cope with the child’s emotions and can help him make sense of them. The child understands as well that he or she can trust and depend on their parents to help him when he is in trouble.

(c) Sheila Hayes 2011

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