What is “attachment” and why is it important for our children’s self-esteem?
When parents consistently respond in a nurturing way to their baby and child’s emotional needs the child develops a “secure” attachment to the parent. (Don’t worry, consistently doesn’t mean always getting it right, it just means regularly enough!)
This safe, reliable connection gives the child an internal sense of security in the world. This is the foundation for them developing a healthy sense of their self-worth or self-esteem.
When we tune in and respond to babies’ and children’s emotional needs we help the child to feel secure and loveable.
With babies, secure attachment is promoted by non-verbal communication that communicates love and acceptance. Picking up a distressed baby, using a soothing voice, gentle touch and holding help the baby feel loved and accepted.
These interactions between parent and baby teach them BIG and EARLY lessons about their worth.
When we respond to a distressed baby by picking them up and comforting them, they learn:
· “I am important
· “My needs matter”
· “I am cared about and loved”
· “I am lovable”
· “The world is a safe place”
Of course they’re not thinking these thoughts consciously! But these early learnings are deeply wired into the brain and can affect the child’s self-image for life. Through their early experiences with their parents, babies develop a sense of who they are and begin to form core beliefs about their worth.
Secure attachment also continues throughout life.
Secure attachment is important in the early years of life, because of the enormous growth of the brain in the first few years. How parents respond to their babies literally shapes their brains and lays down patterns for their future relationships and lifelong mental and emotional health.
However, secure attachment also continues throughout the child’s whole childhood. An emotionally attuned relationship is always important for a child’s healthy emotional development. (And it’s important for us adults too!)
We are always responding to children in a way that teaches them something about who they are.
Staying connected to your child when they are expressing upset feelings teaches your child that, “someone is here with me when I am in difficulty and pain” and “I am loved, even when I am sad or mad”.
Playing and having fun with your child teaches them that, “I am fun to be around” and “life is good, because my parent enjoys life when they are with me”.
There are plenty of ways we can continue to help our child feel secure and loved throughout their childhood. I will be sharing more ways parents can build their child’s self-esteem in the next post!