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Getting Off to a Great Start with Your Baby – Fostering Attachment

Getting Off to a Great Start with Your Baby – Fostering Attachment  6/1/18

 

My family recently camped at Grahams Island State Park near Devils Lake, ND.  While there, I overhead a lively and animated conversation between a mom and her daughter, whom I presume was 4-5 years old.  They were recalling the fun they’d had the day before and making plans for the day ahead.  Their conversation made me smile and reminded me of a volleyball game or tennis match – a lot of back and forth.  

That back and forth brought to mind the idea of “serve and return” as it applies to parenting and child development. 

“Serve and return” interactions between parents and their children have their foundation in infancy and the infant’s secure pattern of attachment. 

During infancy, a secure pattern of attachment is healthy, desirable and something to strive for.  By definition, “attachment” refers to the quality of the relationship a child feels toward a particular person, most often a parent or caregiver. 

The promptness and effectiveness with which a parent/caregiver responds to and interacts with a young child is the key factor in how an attachment develops. 

As a parent, it is important to be attentive and attuned to the cues a baby gives, and to respond appropriately.  The goal is to be “in sync” with the child, mirroring him/her, but not overstimulating.  Through this the infant gains a sense of predictability.  Having a sense of predictability enhances the infant’s sense of security.

The flip side of this is the parent or caregiver who is disengaged, preoccupied or distracted, and therefore not tuned in, not making eye contact with or not attuned to his/her baby.  I witnessed the traumatizing effects of this during the “Still Face” experiment that was presented during a recent training update for NDSU Extension agents.  It was upsetting and made me very uncomfortable.

To foster strong, secure attachment, it is important to respond immediately and consistently to the infant’s cries, especially during the first six months.  Providing immediate, consistent attention and comfort will not “spoil” the child, but rather it will help the child develop strong, secure attachment.

Attachment matters.  It is important because children’s well-being is often based on it.  Secure attachments are associated with these benefits for the child as he/she grows up:

-          Appropriate/acceptable expression of emotions

-          Positive social skills and peer relations

-          Less aggressive and antisocial behavior

-          Being well liked by others and enjoying closer friendships

-          Higher grades

A strong, secure attachment relationship actually helps shape trillions of connections in the baby’s brain, and those connections relate to language, thinking, motor control and emotions.  Yes, attachment is a big deal.

To learn more about attachment and its importance, read “Understanding Attachment in Young Children,” written by Dr. Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension Family Science Specialist.  It is available online at https://www.ucy.ac.cy/nursery/documents/attachement_3.pdf

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/family-newborn-baby-child-infant-2610205/ (downloaded 6/5/18)

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