In this age of computers and cell phone, Facebook and Instagram, and eating more fruits and vegetables, a healthy bond with your child may prove to be the best way to stimulate him or her to have success in four main areas of life: educational, financial, relational and physical health. The basis for this remarkable discovery comes from the research being conducted in neurobiology. In the 21stcentury, brain scans can show what “lights up” in the brain during various tests. There is a significant difference between the brain scans in relationally healthy adults compared to those who struggle with emotional blocks. I will leave any further talk to the technical people because what I want to focus on in this blog is achieving a healthy bond with your child.
The first thing to consider is that the first 18 months are the most critical as the child is developing his sense of who he/she is with you, the most important person in their life. However, if your little one is outside that time frame, do not despair. You can work on the attachment bond at any stage of life with your children, it just may take more time to undo the ideas they already formed about who they are. Yes, a young child gets his/her long term sense of worth or value from how you initially interact or bond with them.
There are four part to consider about forming a healthy bond with your child. The first is creating a Secure Base. A secure base means that the child has a secure place from which he/she can venture out to explore the world. You have already been responsive to the child’s facial expressions. You have already given the child confidence and trust by your face to face interaction them either imitating what is on the child’s face or if the child is in distress that he/she sees you are concerned. They have confidence to go into their environment from the secure base of how you interacted with them before they had the ability venture out of your arms.
The second part of a healthy bond is that you are a Safe Haven. Safe Haven means that your child knows that you are available as a place of safety when or if the child needs you. At the tender age of 0-18 months there are many opportunities for a child to need their parent. It is very important that your child knows they can come to you if they need food, are afraid, got hurt, need help using the toilet, or found something pretty or interesting to share with you. It mean that when they come in contact with you that they feel welcome, loved and even enjoyed. You are safe!
The next part of a healthy bond is Proximity Maintenance. Proximity maintenance is all about the child’s desire to be close to his/her caregiver. Children and especially toddlers like to be close to their primary adult figure. If you are not paying attention to them, they are interested in what you are doing. Toy manufacturers have capitalized on this with all the toys that look and even sound like adult appliances or tools. Babies and toddlers really love a children’s remote control or cell phone, but there are also toddler size kitchens, tool benches, vacuums, lawn mowers and musical instruments to entertain them as they imitate the adult in their life.
Lastly is Separation Distress or Anxiety. The young baby or child needs to know that when they cry you will come. They need that anxiety and the resolution to understand they are not alone; when they call they will be heard and responded to in a consistent and loving way. When my son was a toddler, we lived in a tri-level home and he put his head through the railing that separated the split levels. I could not get his head out and eventually had to call the Fire Department because he was panicking and honestly so was I! The firemen were able to instantly free him, as if they had done it many times before. But, I was the Safe Haven he called for when he got stuck and called out in separation distress.
Consistency and responsiveness is very important to the dynamic of creating a healthy bond for your child. Every parent has days that are stressful or days when they are extra tired. Don’t get down on yourself for the times when you are not consistent or respond in a less than understanding way. Children pick up on their parent’s mood when they are having off days very easily. But letting the majority of the interactions be responsive and consistent to their needs will set them free to excel at school, work, in relationships and in their own physical health as they grow.