Attachment theory is based on the connection between parent and child. How we connect to our parents can impact how we connect as adults to partner’s as well as impact our long term health and well-being. Part 1 discussed the importance of eye contact and touch in development. Here’s part 2.
Often when we speak to our baby (babies), we often use a rhythmic or melodic tone. This also builds a comforting connection with your baby because it is soothing. Tone is important obviously, because tone can also be rage filled, angry, or aggressive etc and your child’s nervous system will pick up on that too as it is stress inducing.
Reading to your baby/child has been the foundation for early childhood education. Every teacher knows that reading and engaging your child in conversation helps to engage your child’s brain, creating more neural networks (brain pathways). In doing so, it increases your child’s learning ability. There have been studies regarding the differences in learning abilities of children from affluent environments and less affluent environments, with children from affluent environments flourishing in school while children from the less affluent environments have difficulties excelling. How does this happen? There are various layered reasons or contributing factors as to why children from more affluent environments have been found to have greater learning abilities, but I’m only going to address one aspect contributing to this issue: Stress. Stress impacts your connection with your child. Stress impacts every connection in your life, period.
Here’s how stress can impact the child’s learning abilities. A parent(s) from a lower socio-economic situation is concerned with the basic survival of their family. In addition to raising their child and worrying about their well-being, parents from a lower socioeconomic background have the stress of making/finding enough money to pay the bills and put food on the table etc. Single parents can go in this category too. The more stressed you are, the more limited you get in your thinking. Meaning, you don’t have the time, space or the luxury to contemplate the meaning of (your) life. This can carry over unknowingly in how a parent interacts and engages with their child. One’s scope gets smaller under stress and that can include language. The parent may be focused on “don’t do that, you can’t do that, stop it, be quiet etc.” If this is the most of the conversation you have with your child, then your child’s vocabulary will reflect that, limited vocabulary. Lack of engagement also impacts the brain’s development where the brain becomes pruned in that area (no new brain networks are created), limiting their learning abilities as they grow older. Expand your child’s language through conversation and reading and you expand their ability to learn. With each conversation, you’re helping your child create new brain neural connections and pathways. From an attachment perspective, when you’re reading and engaging with your child, you’re also being present with them, connecting with them. This is something that you can do and change right now, in your own home. Teachers can only do so much.
Which brings us to Energy. This isn’t one of the 5 tangible senses but it’s important because it’s about being present, energetically present to your baby/child. I know it’s impossible to be 100% present 100% of the time, but in the field of attachment (connection) we’re concerned more with consistency and quality. Many adults will often say, “My child is too young to realize what’s going on.” Ummmm…yes they do. Children/babies soak up their environment and their experiences through their senses and nervous system (body memory).
A parent can be physically present but not energetically/emotionally present and various behaviors can contribute to a sense of disconnect, such as depression, addiction (including workaholic), substance abuse, video games etc. This can translate into a parent being physically present yet emotionally/energetically distant and unavailable. Some of you reading can relate personally to this, or some of you can relate by the men/women you attract into your life. If you’re still negating the energy aspect of this: Think of a time you spoke to someone, a family member, partner, spouse or co-worker. As you spoke, they bobbed their head to acknowledge they were listening, however, you could feel or sense that they weren’t really listening to you. They were physically present, but not energetically present to you and you felt a disconnect in that moment. It’s the same for a baby/child.
Lastly, smell. Babies can identify you and connect through their sense of smell. Having a blankie with your smell on it as they go off to childcare will keep your baby connected to you through smell.
In the theory of attachment, connection is the name of the game. Connection = Better Health.