Emotionally connecting with children

97

Family Matters

Thomas Kulanjiyil, PsyD, PhD, is a founding member of PARIVAR International. He currently serves on the faculty of College of DuPage. He is co-editor of the book, “Caring for the South Asians-Counseling South Asians in the West.” Dr. Kulanjiyil can be reached at tk@parivarinterntional.org. For any personal or family issues contact Parivar Family Helpline:(877)-743-5711.

By  Thomas Kulanjiyil
Emotional security is fundamental to human development, and the degree of warmth and responsiveness parents demonstrate to children really do matter. According to Mary Ainsworth, a child psychologist, children reveal four different attachment styles: (1) Secure attachment, (2) Avoidant attachment, (3) Insecure-Resistant attachment, and (4) Disorga-nized attachment. In comparison to the other three types, infants with secure attachment style are found to be more emotionally secured, adjusted to their environment, and resourceful for their optimal development. 

Early attachment has many consequences for children’s overall development. The quality of early attachment continues into adulthood. Early attachment affects their self-identity and self-esteem. It impacts their personality, their perceptions of others, and their interpersonal relationships. Early attachment is a preparation for adult love relationships.

Deficit in emotional attachment is detrimental to children’s growth. Less secured infants, as they grow into adolescence and adulthood, tend  to be lacking in social skills, controlling in relationships,   and having trouble forming sustaining friendships.  They struggle with the issues of insecurity and self-doubt. Some suffer from an attachment disorder known as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), characterized by the incapacity to form normal, loving relationships, especially with family members.

Wanting in emotional connection with children is one of the leading problems of parenting today. Parents are not able to relate to children at an emotional level for many different reasons. They may include dearth of time to spend with children, child caring  practices such as professional day care where the parents are physically absent from the baby for a good part of the day, or sheer lack of awareness as to the importance of the matter. Mothers with history of depression may find it difficult to bond with their children. The quality of attachment parents themselves received as infants seems to have a direct bearing on their ability to attach to their own children. Parents who are securely attached are said to be more responsive to their own children. 

One of the best gifts parents can give to children is a few good childhood memories.  It is not enough to provide children material needs; parents must be physically and emotionally available to them. The time spent to cuddle them, to play with them, to converse with them, and to cheer them  up cannot be substituted by   anything at all. As parents consistently meet their physical and psychological needs in these ways, children learn to trust and to feel secure in that relationship.
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