A child is an eager observer and is particularly attracted by the actions of the adults and wants to imitate them. In this regard, an adult can have a kind of mission. He can be an inspiration for the child’s actions, a kind of open book, wherein a child can learn how to direct his own movements. – Maria Montessori
Parenting is hard work. Raising a child to be a productive citizen requires a lot of time and effort. Thankfully, the natural bond between a parent and a child can serve as a conduit of nurturing love. This natural bond is susceptible to erosion; as the second law of thermodynamics dictates, it requires ongoing energy to sustain the natural bond. Here are some tips for nurturing parent-child attachment.
In the book Hold On To Your Kids, Dr. Gordon Neufeld identifies six primary methods of attachment. In order to understand how to nurture attachment, it’s important to first understand how attachment works.
6 Primary Methods of Attachment
1) Senses: Based on physical proximity.
2) Sameness: Rooted in identification.
3) Belonging and Loyalty: Acting on an internalized identity.
4) Significance: Feeling that we matter to someone.
5) Feeling: Warm affection and expressed love.
6) Being Known: Rooted in intimate relationship.
Much of the above is fairly intuitive. The good news is that parenting is not rocket science and a family filled with love will naturally strengthen the familial bonds.
4 Tips for Healthy Parent-Child Attachments
1) Get in Your Child’s Face in a Friendly Way
Spending time together, enjoying each other’s company is foundational in establishing, maintaining, and cultivating an attachment bond. As kids grow older, a natural tendency is for them to want to spend time with peers. This is okay provided that peer-time doesn’t replace family time.
2) Provide Something for the Child to Hold On To
The young infant who seeks his mother’s hand and who grabs hold of her fingers serves as a metaphor for parenting in general. Children need to be able to “hold on” to their parents. Dr. Neufeld points out that attention and interest are powerful primers for connection. He also reminds us of the power of expressing affection (such as through hugs.) Providing children with ways to connect leads to strong attachment.
3) Invite Dependence
While children need room to grow and to exercise the amount of autonomy appropriate for their age and maturity, it is equally important that children be able to fall back on their parents as a safety net and to look to their parents for help, advice, and support. Independence is the ultimate goal when a parent raises a child but the journey to independence (like maturity) is one of slow, meaningful transformation. Parents provide the scaffolding that helps their children climb through the stages of development to reach adulthood.
4) Act as the Child’s Compass Point
Parents need to embrace the role of:
Introducing them [children] to those around them, of familiarizing them with their world, of informing them of what is going to happen, and of interpreting what things mean. (Hold On to Your Kids)
Cultivating a healthy attachment bond empowers to be parents. In its natural design, the family becomes a safe place for children to develop while mom and dad function as coach, sage, cheerleader, mentor, and teacher. Parents, make loving relationship a priority in your home, provide structure, and be encouraged that your love is the water and sunlight that will foster growth in your children.