Parents, please understand that attachment issues are not necessarily reflective of the quality of your parenting. Attachment can sometimes be disrupted or destroyed by forces beyond your control. Even so, you do have the power to respond effectively to the challenges these issues present. Here are some simple strategies to keep in mind:
Be aware. Once you’re clued in to the various developmental and relational issues connected with attachment, you’ll be in a better position to confront them. For example, if your child went through a difficult birth or had to endure a long stay in the hospital as an infant, keep an eye out for symptoms of attachment disorder and start thinking of ways to counteract them. It’s also a good idea to cultivate an awareness of your own adult attachment style and its related issues.
Be intentional. Starting in your child’s infancy, make a conscious effort to establish meaningful connections. Provide a tactile, sensory-rich environment that includes close proximity between parent and child, plenty of eye contact, making your voice a familiar sound, playful engagement, displays of affection, physical activity that allows for healthy touch, and lots of bodily movement. Hold, touch, hug, and make room for lots of skin-to-skin contact. Give your child the attention he needs and craves.
Be encouraging. Be present and patient with your child. Encourage her to verbalize her needs and respond as appropriate. Provide the support and care required to let her know she’s safe. Remember, only the person with the need can determine how much reassurance is enough to meet that need.
Model God’s love. At the heart of healthy attachment is a deep awareness of God’s love and unconditional acceptance. Reflect and express this unconditional care in all your dealings with your child.
Let enough be enough. Be content to do what you can. Don’t fall for the false thinking that you have to measure up. As we said, there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. The good news is, we don’t have to be perfect parents—just good-enough ones. Do what you can and let that be good enough.
Conclusion: Getting Off on the Right Foot
A healthy outlook on life grows out of healthy attachment. As a parent, your number-one concern is to establish your child’s life upon a firm foundation of solid relational connectedness. The best research indicates that connected kids do well in almost every area of life. The disconnected child is more likely to face serious challenges down the road.
If this discussion about attachment doesn’t apply to any of your children, great! Congratulations! They are off to a fundamentally strong start. If, on the other hand, you’re reading over this list and realize you’ve been lax with some of these things, don’t beat yourself up. Pick one or two areas and begin with small steps. It’s never too late to make changes and seek additional professional help. Taking action now helps prevent a potential crisis down the road.