I just checked on Julian who is sleeping. I do this several times a night until I lie down next to him to sleep. I hear him breathing. I stroke his back. I kiss his cheek and let it linger there. I feel as though I’ve won the jackpot and it’s Christmas morning all rolled into one. The joyful chills shoot through my body like jolts of electricity that I am his mother. I get to nurture him with every sense. What an incredible opportunity!
That opportunity comes with a heavy dose of responsibility. We take on managing that responsibility differently, both on an individual level as well as how societies are governed, and norms set. I’m just a first-time mama doing my utmost to give my son the best of conditions to lead a fulfilling life. With those changing norms and trends that come and go, the intuitive mother’s heart is no longer relied upon, at least not to its full extent.
Understanding the development of a child is crucial to the relationships we shape with our children. The relationships we shape with our children are crucial to the development of who they will grow up to be. This will in turn impact the society we live in; it’s all interconnected. It is imperative to gain a deeper understanding of the impact familial relationships are to society at large. That is especially true for those who advocate for mothers to get back into the workforce as swiftly as possible after having a child.
Our availability as parents during our children’s formative years is crucial. Unfortunately, it is increasingly lacking due to the standards set on family policy at a central level in many countries worldwide. As a side note, the notion that the choice to stay at home when the children are young is made only by people who are submissive to a male figure head and have no intelligence or mind of their own is extremely frustrating. That frustration grows the more I learn about the grave consequences of early separation – and how accepted it is to overlook them – and the positive impact secure attachment has on a child.
To learn more about the concept of attachment, I’m currently taking an online course on the subject by renowned Dr. Gordon Neufeld – a developmental psychologist with over 40 years of experience and an authority on child development. Dr. Neufeld has developed a comprehensive theory that includes six stages of attachment that children progress through in the first six years of life, which create the foundation for every relationship our children will develop. A safe place of attachment is a cornerstone of parenting, from which we can act to influence and guide our children.
It all begins with an understanding of how emotion governs brain development. Science has shown that the most important task of the limbic system involves moving children to attach to those responsible for them. A well-developed attachment forms a foundation in empowering the significant adult of a child to do that which they (we) are meant to do. A crucial step that must eventually occur in order for children to become well-attached, is the giving of the heart. It is only after the heart of a child is given that their minds are open to the recipient’s influence.
Unfortunately, rather than recognizing the impact of emotion and vulnerability on children’s ability to learn, we focus instead on consequences and behavior. Too often our attempts to modify behavior actually harden hearts, reducing our influence and consequently making matters worse. The focus needs to shift from reactive to proactive. By adapting that mindset, the potential grows to win, keep, protect and soften the hearts of our children. Dr. Neufeld explains:
“When a child’s heart is in the right place and there is enough softness to be easily moved, learning and behavior will not be a problem. When we have the heart of a child, we also have their loyalty and their attention, their desire to be good for us and their willingness to work for us, their eagerness to win our favor and measure up to our expectations.”
It is the responsibility of us as parents to create an environment and solid foundation where attachment can abide. By doing so, we help our children be resilient, strong, and naturally inclined to cooperate with us. So, what are some practical applications on how to accomplish safe attachment? Here are some suggestions:
- Invite your child into your presence by being close and doing things together, be it cuddling, reading, baking or playing. The activity matters less than the connection and message that you convey through the activity (wanting to be close). When a child resists connection, stay nearby. Be available and present. It will make a difference.
- Illustrate the delight with which you see them by making eye contact, smiling, nodding in agreement, expressing appreciation and love.
Dr. Neufeld explains further: “When we respond to a child’s invitation to exist in their presence with a smile, warmth, touch and nurturing behavior, we illustrate to them the invitation to exist in our presence.”
- Invite dependence.This is such an enlightening concept, which is often misconstrued. Inviting dependence is to create a safe environment and build trust. Independence only emerges after dependency needs are met.
- Collect before you direct! When we let our role (whether that be as parent, teacher or other authoritative figure) steer our behavior, we tend to command rather than collect attention. We need to follow our heart and intuition rather than the role by which we function. Make a connection with your child first. Once the connection is established, they will be much more open to direction.
Interesting, isn’t it? This is but a snippet on the subject of attachment, its grand importance and how to establish it. It isn’t a quick fix solution but a mindset that requires a deeper understanding to implement. There are complexities to life, to child rearing, to understanding the human psyche. Yet, coming to understand the concept of attachment can break down and make those complexities manageable.