Creative Child

Building Great Relationships in Middle Childhood

(Strong Attachment Series Part Two)
by Rebecca Eanes

Strong attachment is the key factor in raising emotionally healthy and happy children. In part one of this series, I discussed building a strong attachment in early childhood and why that connection is so vital. Here, the focus is on middle childhood, ages 6-12 years. Of course it’s optimal to build that strong foundation from the beginning, but if, for some reason, that attachment was compromised in early childhood, it is possible to begin here in middle childhood to build trust and form a heart-to-heart connection. Whether you are looking to build a better relationship or to simply keep the connection strong, loving responsiveness to needs is still the path forward.

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As discussed in Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide and its companion workbook, middle childhood is the when the parts of the brain that mediate social learning and emotional regulation are primed. Self-concept is still developing, and while they are more independent in this stage, connection with you is still vital. Here’s how to build trust and connection in these important years.

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  • Reading and responding to cues is still an important part of parenting. Even though kids can express themselves better in middle childhood, their brains still have a lot of maturing to do. This can sometimes make expression difficult.
  • Show interest in what interests your child. Life is often very busy when you have kids in this stage. Friendships are budding, school is demanding, extracurricular activities are time-consuming, and kids gravitate toward their peers and test the waters of independence. All of this combined can make it difficult to stay emotionally connected, but one way we can ensure we are still an important part of their world is join them in it. Listen to the music, learn the latest dance craze, play the video game – when you care about what they care about, they feel cared for.
  • Don’t overreact. Making mountains out of molehills will only result in you tiring yourself out climbing unnecessary mountains. This is the time to model emotional maturity and appropriate responses.
  • Keep confidences. If your daughter tells you a secret, keep it. Don’t betray her trust by blurting her secret to another family member or friend, unless, of course, there is danger. Children need someone they can trust, and you want that person to be you.
  • Show faith. Let your child know that you trust him and believe in him, even if you secretly have fears and worries. If he makes a bad decision or mistake, make sure he knows that the choice was bad but he is still good. As the self-concept is still forming in these years, we must take great care what messages we give our kids about who they are because this is what they will come to believe about themselves.
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