Attachment. One single word, with big impact.
When we talk about children and their parents, we can’t get away from attachment process. For those who are familiar with this issue, you must know John Bowlby and his attachment books or Mary Ainsworth and her Strange Situation research. In short, attachment pictures on how children and parental figures (their primary caregiver) build bonding between them, which started on the first nine months of life and activated until near the end of the third year (Bowlby, 1977), because by the age of 3, children will start to explore outside their home. Attachment usually seen as merely a way for children to get attention from their parents, but Bowlby argued that this process is biological and can be found in all species of mammals, and it has survival values.
Through interactions with their parents, children learn to see what kind of strategies that work and won’t work – to bring back their parents into the interaction (Steele, 2003). This process is very important for children to build sense of confidence and secured attachment with their parents, and also to serve the first function of attachment figure, as a secure base (Eagle & Waters, 2013). Once the first function is served, the second function of attachment figures can be activated, to contribute to the long-term knowledge and skills mastery – which is necessary for children to be able to function well in their adulthood (Eagle & Waters, 2013). The second function is made possible when children are feeling secured, in which the attachment system is deactivated and the explanatory system is activated.
Knowing the importance of attachment parenting, what can parents do for their children?
- Be available. When your children are young and unable to help themselves, they need your presence more that anything else. Your willingness to attend to their needs and be available for them will be seen as a secure base for them and they will understand that they can count on you.
- Be consistent. Insecure attachment is usually shaped by the inconsistency from parents in giving their attention and help needed by their children. When children can’t predict when parents will be available, they tend to be insecure and worry when their parents are not around. It is not easy to calm them down and their anxiety can manifest in many different forms – including looking terrified, angry or through clinging behaviors.
- Be expressive. In some Asian cultures, showing affection is not as easy as any Western cultures, therefore being expressive is not an easy option for some Asian parents or families. It does not mean that attachment theory is not applicable to Asian families, but the culture surely impact parents’ ability to express their affection to their children – and in turn, impact the development of attachment circle in that family.
- Take charge. Children need to know that parents have control in certain situation and this is for their own good. Always giving up to your children and say yes to their every demand do not represent yourself as good parents – because good parents know how and when to say NO. One way to show your attachment is by being wise (read: article on Circle of Security).
I hope you find this brief article on attachment as useful and we will discuss a lot more on attachment in upcoming articles. (CE)