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A preschooler waits for his mother’s reassuring smile before joining other children on the jungle gym. A one-year-old calms instantly when her dad lifts her onto his lap, even though he’s talking on the phone. An older child manages his stage fright when he sees his mom in the audience nodding in empathy and support. All children are different, and in order to have a healthy relationship with your child, you should adapt your parenting methods to fit his specific needs.

As a parent, one of the best things you can do for your child is to help them develop what’s known as a “secure attachment style.”  You’ll know your child has a secure style if he is a confident explorer but regularly returns to you for connection and comfort.

Having a secure style makes forming and maintaining relationships easier throughout a person’s life course. This is because people with secure styles trust their “attachment figures” (whether that’s a parent, teacher, or romantic partner) to provide support when they need it. The secure child feels empowered to explore the world because they know that when they need to retreat back to Mom/Dad (or their future relationship partner), that person will be there with open arms.

Helping a child develop a secure style is about your child, not just any child.  It’s mostly about responding to their cues.  The most basic level of this is being responsive to their physical cues. Help your child learn how to accurately recognize when they’re hungry, tired etc.

Make sure your child knows they can get your attention when they’re feeling frightened, or want to share positive emotions.  The latter is especially important. Emotional support is not just about when things go wrong.  Responsiveness to their positive emotions is equally important.

Use eye contact as a way of connecting with your child. Greet your child mindfully after a separation, such as if you’ve been running errands without them.  Pay attention to when they’ve finished reconnecting with you.   If you mess up, apologize, but not excessively. Attachment is fundamentally about trust.

A child’s temperament plays a role in which attachment style they develop.  If your child is naturally anxious, they’ll need more help from you to understand their anxiety, so that they can become a confident explorer.  Once your child seems securely attachment, you can relax a bit.  Secure is the most common attachment style.

Secure family relationships are important to Free State Care in Action.  Social workers are trained to provide support and guidance to parents and family members in order to ensure strong family relationships.  A social worker can assess the attachment problems a family may experience and provide attachment therapy in order to strengthen the relationships.  For more information contact Free State Care in Action on 051-4446143.