Home Child development What is a secure attachment?

What is a secure attachment?

by Ines Wurbs

A secure attachment is important for almost all areas of our children’s development. It’s a question that many of us are probably asking ourselves. 

Your child is securely bound if it:

  • Uses you as a safe base.
  • Is still allowed to cry briefly when you separate.
  • Seeks physical closeness and comfort when you return to you.
  • Calms down after a short while and continues playing.

How do we bond with our children?

From birth, our babies send innate signals. Grab, cry, smile, or look into the eyes. This helps our babies to establish close contact with their parents, especially in the first six weeks. Acting on these signals encourages our babies to act even more in that direction. This strengthens the affection and closeness of both of them. Babies are reassured by our closeness because they recognize that we are responding to their cues. They recognize their mothers by voice and smell. However, this is only a preliminary phase. Our babies don’t mind being held by someone else.

From the sixth week of life until the sixth or eighth month of life, our babies already react specifically to those they know. So, mainly on mom and dad. Now, our babies also notice that something is happening when they do something. So, when it cries, mom or dad comes. When it laughs, they laugh back. Our babies learn to rely on us, and the first sense of trust develops during this time. But even now, it’s not so bad if mom or dad is out of sight.

However, this changes at the latest after the eighth month of life. Until our children are about two years old, the secure bond develops. Our children are now showing separation anxiety for the first time. That means it gets restless when we leave the room. Fear of strangers is also common at this time. Both are possible but do not have to be. This is somewhat temperament-dependent. So, don’t worry if your child isn’t crying because you’re walking out of the room or because someone you know tries to pick them up. 

Children who are already crawling or walking then often try to run after mom or dad and scurry after them instead of crying.

In any case, your child now uses you, or anyone else they trust, as a safe base from which to explore and discover new things.

From the end of the second year of life, children find it increasingly easier to understand what happens when we walk away. They also know that we will be back and that there are some influences on all the comings and goings. They begin to understand connections. Now that our children have a better command of the language, they begin to negotiate, ask and convince us. Just when they realize we’re about to leave. They understand if we tell them: “I have to go to my office.”, or “I’ll be back when it gets dark.”

Depending on what experiences our children have in these phases, the intimate, secure bond develops. In addition, it is now possible for our children to accept another caregiver as a safe haven in addition to us parents. The start of kindergarten is therefore not chosen at random but is geared towards this developmental step.

Our children now have expectations about who will help them and why. However, this inner concept is not rigid and is constantly being supplemented. After all, our children are gaining more and more experience, more people are accepted into the circle of trust and come into your life, such as siblings.

How to develop a secure attachment with my child?

  1. Your child needs the opportunity to bond! 
    Especially in the first weeks of life, the presence of the future caregiver is important. So, normally mom and dad.
  2. The quality of care! 
    It is important that a child can rely on us to act quickly, reliably, and correctly. Body contact in particular is an essential point. The closeness and being held weakens many other needs and calms babies. But also how we react to our babies. Of course, it’s best if we react appropriately. So, we must try to “guess” what is so urgent right now.
  3. Think about your own relationship with your parents! 
    Of course, everyone brings their own experiences to the family. Think about how your relationship with your parents and other caregivers was or is.
  4. Accept support! 
    We, humans, are social beings. That means we need contact with others. This is also the case after the birth of our child. The exchange, conversations, or even entrusting our baby to someone else helps our well-being. It is vital for our babies that we are balanced. This makes us more attentive and makes it easier for us to respond to them.

This chart shows how parents of securely attached children deal with their own experiences.

Autonomous Parents: 
Recall positive and negative childhood experiences 

Rejecting Parents: 
Insist that they have no childhood memory or are inconsistent 

Entangled Parents: 
Confused and Angry Childhood Memories, Incoherent Accounts 

Unresolved Parents: 
Suffering from Trauma (Loss or Abuse) 

What are the signs of a secure attachment in the child?

Securely bound children find it easier to:

  • Self-regulate their feelings
  • They dare more
  • They have more positive experiences
  • They are more self-confident as a result
  • They are more resilient, so they can handle stress better
  • They have more and happier relationships with their peers
  • They have more social skills
  • They understand the emotions of others faster and easier
  • They more often exhibit prosocial behaviors, such as sharing, helping others
  • They show less aggressive behavior
  • They have closer friendships
  • They are often more popular and
  • actually, show more success in school.

Of course, building a secure bond within your profession as an educator is also important. You can find more about this in this work

Conclusion about secure attachment

Be there for your child. Deal with him/ her. If you can cuddle with him/ her, play with him/ her, and make sure he/she feels safe, gets food, changes diapers, and sleeps when he/ she needs it, you’re definitely on the right track. We must be the safe haven that is reliably there for our children. Even if we don’t react immediately or don’t know right away where the shoe pinches, it’s not a catastrophe. But our child should know that we are there and acting. In the majority of cases, we are right, and this gives our children the experience that they can rely on us. And that is undoubtedly what secure attachment means.

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