Love and attachment are the foundations of an emotionally healthy relationship between parent and child.
When we think of parent–child attachment, it is often measured in terms of whether it is secure or insecure. A securely attached child uses their parent as a secure base and feels safe and confident to explore the world. Whereas an insecurely attached child may either be very clingy and unconfident or, at the other extreme, become detached.
To create a secure attachment and encourage healthy emotional development, it is good for you to have plenty of face-to-face interaction with your young baby, in which you are positive and attentive to their needs and responses. For example, respond to changes in your baby’s emotional state when playing with him or her.
Sensitivity and regulation
Regulate your baby’s emotions by reading their signals and adapting the signals you give back to your baby, eg in the movement of your head, eyes and arms, and how you speak. For example, you can use a softer pitched voice when they are feeling tired or sad, or a higher pitched voice when they are happy. This is often referred to as attunement.
It is typical for parents to move in close to their baby and nuzzle, and stimulation for the baby will increase as you touch and speak to them. Likewise, when a baby shows signs of tiredness, become sensitive to how you move – a yawn could show you understand how they are feeling by mirroring their emotion without the need for verbal communication.
Praise and positivity
When your baby is happy they will smile and move about excitedly – reinforce this positive emotion by smiling back. Babies tend to understand positive behaviour by how parents interact with them. For example, if your baby reaches out for something, encourage them or help them and then show praise by clapping your hands or saying “Well done!”
You will find practical examples for developing emotional awareness in My First Emotions, a multisensory resource designed for parents and children to use together at home. My First Emotions is coming soon! Subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll let you know when My First Emotions is available to purchase. You will also receive a discount code to purchase My First Emotions for £49 (RRP £69).