The Importance of Forming Secure Attachments with Children

– By Allison Thorson –

Let us take a few seconds to imagine something. Imagine that it is cold outside. You
are curled up inside a house in front of a warm fire. There is a cozy, fuzzy blanket wrapped
tightly around you. You are drinking warm cups of tea and eating your favorite comfort
meals. You are safe. Warm. Now imagine that, all at once, all of that warmth has been
suddenly ripped away from you. The four walls of the house fall; the blanket is unraveled and
cast to the wind; the fire is long gone. You are out in the cold. You can barely see, and you do
not know what happened or why. How would you feel about this? Seems terrifying, doesn’t
it?
This is how it feels to be born. Babies who have only known the feeling of a mother’s
comforting womb have their whole lives changed within a few days. They are in a new
environment. It is scary and they are looking for warmth, food, and shelter in order to
survive. As they grow, they begin to experience a plethora of new situations and feelings at
such young ages. They cannot comprehend so many things in life but the world they live in
remains large and demanding. They are crawling, walking, talking, eating solids, seeing
colours, and exploring this big world within only the first couple of years of their lives.
Throughout these very important stages, it is absolutely imperative that children have secure
attachments formed with a constant, primary caregiver. As they grow, they will begin to form
secure attachments with others around them as well.
But what exactly do the words “secure attachment” mean? It is a bond that goes
beyond providing for a child’s basic needs. It is an attachment and a bond that satisfies that
child’s need to feel secure, calm, and understood. A secure attachment with a primary carer
(and later other secondary carers) gives children the ability to develop the confidence and
autonomy they require as they begin to explore the world around them. It also places the
child into a relationship that remains in a consistent position of trust and comfort.
Psychologists have suggested that children are born “pre-programmed” to form attachments
with others. A child’s development is dependent on these secure attachments. Let’s take a
further look into some developmental domains that are improved by these attachments and
why they are so.

Social Development

A child is innately unable to understand or accept the complexity of human emotions
like we adults can. By nature, young children are also ego-centric; meaning that they are
legitimately unable to differentiate between self and others. “It is MINE,” and “I want it
NOW” are examples of ego-centric behavior as young children struggle to grasp the concept

that not everything belongs to them. As they develop, they look primarily to their parents and
main caregivers to understand who these “others” are and what they require of them. Forming
a secure attachment with a child allows him or her to see how to properly interact with other
human beings. As the child grows, they will sub-consciously build their future relationships
on how they themselves experienced their primary relationships. Strong, secure relationships
often lead to confident and caring adults. On the flip side, some psychologists believe that an
adult’s inability to open up fully and trust someone completely is often due to a lack of
having a close, secure attachment with an adult as a young child.

Emotional Development

Secure relationships also helps children to learn to control their emotions through
their early years. Every child is different. They behave differently, want different things, and
develop differently. Along with these differences comes a huge range of emotions that a child
is not equipped to manage on his or her own. A secure attachment with a primary carer offers
a kind of “safe haven” for a child while he or she learns how to control their emotions. They
know that when they are hurt or need comfort that there is an adult willing to help, listen,
provide, and comfort them. Children who are raised with secure attachments develop lifelong
trust in these adults and often return to them consistently even throughout their adult lives to
confide in them. This kind of attachment can be of great help during the child’s teenage years
as well.

Cognitive Development

Likewise, a secure attachment provides the best kind of atmosphere for a child to
grow mentally. When a child’s mind is preoccupied with thoughts of fear and lacks attention
and confidence, their minds cannot focus its development on learning new things and
growing confidently while gaining a sense of self. When a secure attachment has been
formed, this allows the child’s brain to develop its independence, demonstrate autonomy, as
well as helps them in their ability to learn. Every child, as I have mentioned before, develops
differently. They each need different kinds of guidance and understanding that is suited
towards their unique learning styles.

All in all, secure attachments, at the core, provide a child with EVERYTHING they
need to become a successful adult. Success is not always measured through someone’s career
or social status, but through a person’s ability to connect with other human beings, empathize
with them, as well as be able to maintain mental stability, make the right choices, and grow
personally throughout their adult life. It does not take a perfect parent or adult to form a
secure attachment with a child. They simply require understanding, plenty of unjudgmental
room to learn, attention, patience, and encouragement.