By Hana Kone

As a family and couples’ therapist I can see relationship’s struggles daily. While we’ve likely read extensively about how relationships are formed and influenced by our attachment styles (based on John Bowlby’s theory), today, I’d like to focus on how we can support and create a secure attachment style in our children, thereby positively influencing their future relationships.
In the journey of parenthood, one of the most profound and enduring bonds we can cultivate with our children is secure attachment. This deep emotional connection serves as a foundation for healthy development, shaping a child’s sense of security, self-worth, and ability to form meaningful relationships throughout their lives. Understanding the dynamics and practices that contribute to building secure attachment is essential for parents who aspire to foster resilience and emotional well-being in their children.

What is Secure Attachment?

Secure attachment refers to the emotional bond between a child and their primary caregiver, “typically a parent”. It is characterized by feelings of safety, trust, and comfort, allowing the child to explore the world with confidence, knowing that their caregiver is available and responsive when needed. The attachment process is interactive and dynamic. Both a parent and a child participate in an exchange of nonverbal emotional cues. 

Why is secure attachment so important? 

A secure attachment bond teaches your child to trust you, to communicate their feelings to you and eventually to trust others as well. As you and your child connect with one another, your child learns how to have a healthy sense of self and how to be in a loving, empathetic relationship. This relationship becomes the foundation of your child’s ability to connect with others in a healthy way. Securely attached children tend to develop higher levels of self-esteem, so they feel good about themselves. They show better emotional regulation and balance. They enjoy being with others and maintain more satisfying interpersonal relationships later in life.

Tips for creating a secure attachment:

  1. Secure attachment starts with taking care of yourself. Children communicate most effectively when they are in a quiet state, and so do you. Try to get enough sleep, ask for support if you need it, schedule some time away, find ways to calm yourself down in stressful times (stressful caregivers can add to the child’s stress). You don’t need to be a perfect parent. You just need to notice and respond to the child’s needs and cues  half of the time (at least) and you need to be in a calm state to do so. 
  2. Responsive Caregiving: Responsiveness lies at the heart of secure attachment. Tuning into your child’s cues and promptly meeting their needs communicates a profound sense of security. Whether it’s responding to cries for comfort, offering cuddles, or engaging in playful interactions, consistently attending to your child’s emotional and physical needs fosters trust and reassurance.
  3. Emotional Availability: Being emotionally available involves not only being physically present but also attuned to your child’s emotional states. This means validating their feelings, empathizing with their experiences, and offering comfort and support during times of distress. By providing a safe listening for your child’s emotions, you help them develop a sense of security and confidence in expressing themselves. Everyday, I see parents struggling with their children’s emotional state. Remember, the child is not here to run you crazy, the child goes through some difficulty, and you want to try to tune into their emotional state to understand, help them express and regulate what they’re going through. 
  4. Establishing Routine and Predictability: Children thrive on routine and predictability as it provides a sense of stability in their environment. Establishing consistent daily routines, such as regular mealtimes, bedtime rituals, and playtime, helps children feel secure and grounded. Predictable routines also create opportunities for bonding and connection, strengthening the parent-child relationship.
  5. Foster Trust through Reliability: Building trust is essential for secure attachment. Consistently following through on promises, being reliable in your caregiving duties, and maintaining a predictable environment all contribute to a child’s sense of trust in their caregiver. 
  6. Encourage Exploration and Independence: Securely attached children feel confident to explore their surroundings and develop independence, knowing that their caregiver is a secure base to return to if needed. Encourage your child’s curiosity, support their efforts to explore and learn, and provide a safe environment for them to test their limits. Celebrate their achievements and offer encouragement as they navigate new experiences, fostering a sense of competence and autonomy.
  7. Cultivate Open Communication: Communication is key to building a strong parent-child bond. Encourage open dialogue, active listening, and validation of your child’s thoughts and feelings. Create a supportive environment where your child feels comfortable expressing themselves without fear of judgment. By fostering open communication, you strengthen trust and deepen your connection with your child.
  8. Practice Mindful Parenting: Mindful parenting involves being present in the moment, attuned to your child’s needs, and responding with compassion and non-judgment. Take time to pause and connect with your child throughout the day, savouring moments of joy and offering support during challenges. Mindful parenting promotes emotional attunement and strengthens the parent-child relationship.
Nurturing secure attachment with your child is a journey that requires patience, empathy, and commitment. As a parent, your role is pivotal in laying the groundwork for your child’s emotional well-being and future relationships. Remember, each interaction, each moment of connection, contributes to the fabric of your child’s emotional world. Investing in secure attachment early in your child’s life sets the stage for a lifetime of emotional fulfillment and meaningful connections. Embrace the journey, cherish the moments, and celebrate the profound impact of secure attachment on your child’s flourishing.