Attachment: Connecting & Building Relationships

Attachment and bonding has been a subject I have long been interested in. The techniques of attachment have been employed in various forms of therapy, specifically when working with adoption. I believe if parents understood how attachment occurs they would understand better why their role is so vital in the lives of their children.

Attachment occurs when we feel safe with each other. As illustrated in the cycle, when our needs our met and we can relax, we attach. In infancy a child attaches to their parents through making requests, crying or fussing, indicating to the parent that the child has a need. The parent meets that need through feeding, changing a diaper, and interacting with the child. The parent attaches as they see that their work is met by their ability to sooth their child. So how does attachment occur as a child ages and what do we tend to do to disrupt this process? Let’s explore this more deeply.

We all have needs and when we are exposed to stress we have the need to work through that stress so we can return to the peaceful, relaxed place we like to enjoy. We all react differently to how we get our needs met and very often we look to others to help meet our needs by approaching them, relating our concern, and asking for enlightenment. Through a warm and loving conversation with a parent, a child can then feel that the tasks that they are responsible for in their life are attainable and they will receive the love and reassurance as well as mentoring they need from their parent. They will then relax and be able to move forward. By coming to their parent with their need and having their parent meet that need, the child is able to relax and attachment occurs. The child realizes that their parent can help them, they are not facing the world alone, life is good!

But what happens when the child does not turn to the parent with their need? Usually that occurs because a child does not feel safe in that relationship, they don’t feel that their parent will be able to meet their need and they will be able to receive the relaxation they are seeking. Maybe the child has tried but the parent is too busy and distracted to listen to the needs of the child? We all have a desire to be heard and very often if we are not heard and soothed, we will look elsewhere for comfort.

Our goal then becomes to create a safe place for communication to occur. Parents need to work hard to normalize feelings and not judge their children for their errors or take unnecessary responsibility for their child’s actions. Parents need to temper their reactions and create clear and predictable consequences if the communication received warrants a consequence. Parents can help by listening to their child rather than dismissing them and help them turn to them and provide them with comfort when needed.

The process of attachment happens every day as we make sacrifices to meet the needs of other people and as we seek to have our own needs met. Attachment is a gift. It’s a way of saying, I trust you. I trust you with my thoughts and feelings and I know you will help me. Let us all be diligent in working towards safe and healthy attachments with our children. If you feel you would like more help with this process, please seek out professional assistance.

- Loni Kennington Harmon

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