Attachment and relationships
Attachment refers to the intense, responsive, and affectionate bond between an infant and parent or caregiver. Attachment is both the original bond and the way lifelong connections to others are formed and held. This first relationship forms the foundations on which a child develops a sense of wellbeing, a sense of self, engages in future relationships, learns to respond to life’s pleasures and copes with life’s difficulties.
If an infant has a responsive, consistent and caring parent the child feels safe. A secure attachment develops. A secure attachment in infancy predicts good social and emotional outcomes. Without this they are at risk of developing a poor attachment, and less favourable outcomes.
Abuse, neglect and repeated rejection by parents or carers can interfere with attachment. When children are removed from their primary caregiver and placed in care this can cause a disruption in their primary attachment relationship. Problems associated with poor attachment can include developmental delays, and emotional problems. It is your fundamental role as a carer to build an attachment relationship with children in your care. This is not aimed at replacing relationships with their family. Instead it is aimed at helping children heal and grow and enable them to continue and strengthen existing relationships and build new ones.
Things you can do to build attachment
- Nurture children and monitor how they respond
- Try to understand their behaviour before reacting
- Care for them based on their emotional age, rather than their age in years
- Be consistent and predictable, and develop regular child centred routines
- Model and teach appropriate social skills and competencies
- Take the time to listen and talk to them – listen more than you talk
- Have realistic expectations and accept that progress may be slow
- Celebrate subtle signs that a child is becoming attached to you, such as seeking comfort from you when they are hurt or sick
You can read more about trauma, grief and loss here.