What is Honest Secure Attachment and Bonding?
The attachment bond is the emotional connection formed by wordless communication between an infant and you, their parent or primary caretaker. A landmark report, published in 2000 by The Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development, identified how crucial the attachment bond is to a child’s development.
Quality of the Attachment Bond
This form of communication affects the way your child develops mentally, physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially. In fact, the strength of this relationship is the main predictor of how well your child will do both in school and in life.
The attachment bond is not founded on the quality of your care or parental love, but on the nonverbal emotional communication you develop with your child. While attachment occurs naturally as you, the parent or caretaker, care for your baby’s needs, the quality of the attachment bond varies.
- A secure attachment bond ensures that your child will feel secure, understood, and calm enough to experience optimal development of his or her nervous system. Your child’s developing brain organizes itself to provide your child with the best foundation for life: a feeling of safety that results in eagerness to learn, healthy self-awareness, trust, and empathy.
- An insecure attachment bond fails to meet your child’s need for security, understanding, and calm, preventing the child’s developing brain from organizing itself in the best ways. This can inhibit emotional, mental, and even physical development, leading to difficulties in learning and forming relationships in later life.
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How secure attachment is created
Developing a secure attachment bond between you and your child, and giving your child the best start in life, does not require you to be a perfect parent. In fact, the 2000 study found that the critical aspect of the child–primary caretaker relationship is NOT based on quality of care, educational input, or even the bond of love that develops between parent and infant. Rather, it is based on the quality of the nonverbal communication that takes place between you and your child.
While it’s easiest to form a secure attachment bond when your child is still an infant—and reliant upon nonverbal means of communicating—you can begin to make your child feel understood and secure at any age. Children’s brains continue maturing well into adulthood (until their mid-20s). Moreover, because the brain continues to change throughout life, it’s never too late to start engaging in a nonverbal emotional exchange with your child. In fact, developing your nonverbal communication skills can help improve and deepen your relationships with other people of any age.
The attachment bond differs from the bond of love
As a parent or primary caretaker for your infant, you can follow all the traditional parenting guidelines, provide doting, around-the-clock care for your baby, and yet still not achieve a secure attachment bond.
You can tend to your child’s every physical need, provide the most comfortable home, the highest quality nourishment, the best education, and all the material goods a child could wish for. You can hold, cuddle, and adore your child without creating the kind of attachment that fosters the best development for your child. How is this possible? Importantly, creating a secure attachment bond differs from creating a bond of love.
Children need something more than love and caregiving in order for their brains and nervous systems to develop in the best way possible. Children need to be able to engage in a nonverbal emotional exchange with their primary caretaker in a way that communicates their needs and makes them feel understood, secure, and balanced. Children who feel emotionally disconnected from their primary caregiver are likely to feel confused, misunderstood, and insecure, no matter how much they’re loved.
Obstacles to creating a secure attachment bond
Obstacles to creating a secure attachment may first appear when your child is an infant. You may deeply love your baby, yet be ill-equipped to meet the needs of your infant’s immature nervous system.
Since infants cannot calm and soothe themselves, they rely on you to do so for them. However, if you’re unable to manage your own stress, to quickly regain your calm and focus in the face of life’s daily stressors, you’ll be unable to calm and soothe your baby.
safety and connection
Even an older child will look to you, the parent, as a source of safety and connection and, ultimately, secure attachment. If, however, you are frequently depressed, anxious, angry, grieving, pre-occupied, or otherwise unable to be calm and present for your child, their physical, emotional, and/or intellectual development may suffer.
The new field of infant mental health, with its emphasis on brain research and the developmental role of parents, provides a clearer understanding of factors that may compromise the secure attachment bond. If either the primary caretaker or the child has a health problem, nonverbal communication between the two may be affected, which in turn can affect the secure attachment bond.