Consistency is Paramount When Your Child is an Infant as well as a Teen
When your child is still a little one, it’s important to be responsive and show consistent care during their infancy. When they cry, you feed them. When they cry again, you change their diaper. And so on. The more you are consistent in meeting your child’s needs, the more they will come to learn that their needs and inner world are of value.
But you’re not only teaching your child about self-worth, you’re also building the bonds of attachment. In other words, you’re strengthening your parent-child relationship whenever you meet your child’s needs. In the last 40 years, there has been significant attention given to the early years of an individual’s life, noting that the type of attachment that an infant has with their primary caregiver will have a great effect on later life.
In the 1960’s, psychiatrist John Bowlby developed the attachment theory based on his study of the difficulties that homeless and orphaned children experience. The theory’s main idea is that an infant must develop a strong bond with at least one primary caregiver in order to appropriately develop socially and emotionally. In order for this bond to become secure between infant and caregiver, the following must happen:
- The caregiver must provide responsive and sensitive parenting to a child.
- The caregiver must do their best to soothe the child in times of stress.
- The caregiver must remain a constant in the child’s life from the 6 months to approximately 2 years of age.
Essentially, his research led to the understanding that infants will attach to parents who are consistent in their care giving throughout the months of early childhood. As children develop they will use the attachment with their caregiver as a secure base from which they will move away to explore their environment and then later return. The way that caregivers respond to their children during this process can lead to distinct patterns of attachment, which in turn, lead to an internal model for that child, which he or she will unconsciously use in later relationships.
Furthermore, that secure relationship becomes necessary when a child reaches adolescence. If a child has received consistent care and responsiveness, they will likely feel secure in their relationship with their parents. As described above, they will also likely have a strong foundation for high self-worth, self-esteem, and confidence. And this in turn will help a teen with resiliency and the ability to turn away from what they know is not good for them, even in the face of peer pressure.
It is well recognized now that attachment is a core issue that determines whether a child will thrive. The first five years of life determines the success of that child in school, work, and in relationships. Those children who have had secure attachments are well equipped to go out into the world and are able to succeed. Those with poor attachments to their caregivers, due to trauma, neglect, or abandonment, will likely be anxious, fearful, and withdrawn.
If you’re concerned that you haven’t done this in the past, there’s always an opportunity to strengthen the parent-child relationship and help your teen feel secure. If you need help with strengthening your relationship, contact a mental health provider for assistance.