When we think of attachment in regards to parenting, we typically think of babies, but children don’t outgrow the need for secure attachment by toddlerhood. Whether your child is 2 weeks, 2 years, or 12 years old, feeling securely attached to you will help her have a better emotional life and a positive self-concept.
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Secure attachments are formed by being lovingly responsive to your child’s needs. Below are my tips for developing a secure attachment based from my book Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide.
- Respond promptly and lovingly to cries and emotional upsets. Parents often do this naturally for babies but are more hesitant to do so with a toddler or teen. You might want to tell them to “toughen up” or that it’s “not a big deal,” and you may be even be tempted to ignore their cries or tantrums because you don’t want to reinforce such behavior. However, big emotions are not bad behavior; they are just part of the human experience, and while it is important to teach children to handle them appropriately, it is also crucial to our bond that we continue to respond lovingly. The bond is jeopardized when we ignore or minimize how our children feel.
- Understand your child’s cues for food, rest, play, and comfort, and attend to them accordingly. Learning our baby’s cues is a stepping stone to understanding the more complex needs of a toddler, preschooler, and beyond. Learning to read cues involves getting to know and understand our child’s personality, likes and dislikes, tendencies, love language, facial expressions, and more. In fact, understanding cues helps tremendously when they move beyond the baby years as we assess the need behind the behavior. A toddler’s tantrum may be a cue for rest or down-time. A preschooler’s aggression may be a cue for connection or comfort. A teen’s withdrawal may be a cue of stress or overwhelm. By learning to understand our child’s cues, we are able to provide them with what they need but cannot or will not ask for.