secure attachment

Secure Attachment: Our triggers and our child’s safety

What is child attachment

Attachment is the relationship that the child has with their primary caregiver that is involved with making the child feel safe, secure, and protected, a source of comfort. It’s important to note that the purpose of attachment isn’t to play or entertain, feed, set limits, or teach your child new skills. Attachment goes much deeper than that. There are many dynamics that are involved in how we present this attachment and how the child receives that attachment. 

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Why is it important

According to Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, they say a secure attachment is an ultimate goal for parents. Their book “The Power Of Showing Up’‘ talks about secure and insecure attachment, highly recommended to read. 

So, let’s talk about why this should be our ultimate goal? Our job as parents is to be our kid’s safe place, and I know we have heard that so many times throughout our parenting and I know many of us try to make it that for them, but something still seems to be missing. Why is my child still misbehaving, why are they so shy, why are they so clingy? Doesn’t keeping them safe mean making sure they don’t physically get hurt? 

Let’s take a step back and think about when we were little. Our parents yelled at us and sent us to our room or spanked us, put us in timeout, and like little children, we probably felt scared or sad. Or maybe when you were crying they would tell you to go somewhere else and do that or go to your room until you’re done. But, deep inside all you wanted was to be held, or explain yourself.

Now that you’re a parent, let’s look at it from a different perspective. What we felt like a little child and when our child is doing the same thing, those subconscious feelings come up and it triggers us and that is when we start to repeat those same patterns.

And your child is feeling the same thing you may have felt but didn’t realize as a child which was unsafe, in fight or flight mode. 

We will talk about how this affects us now as parents and how having a secure attachment for a child will benefit them, and explore further why this is so important.

How our disconnection with ourselves impacts their attachment

So, that scenario may have resonated with you or you may have reminded you of a moment where you felt sad, scared, anxious, or nervous. If this is triggering for you, be sure to breathe and know you’re safe. 

As a child, if this was a normal thing, where you didn’t get the comfort you needed at any age, or inconsistency as a child all this carries with us into our adult lives. If you were told to stop crying or didn’t get the comfort you were needing as a child, those triggers may come up for you when your child starts to cry.

You may try to “fix” or stop your child from crying because subconsciously those feelings are coming back to you from when you were a child. When we dismiss our child’s cries or tell them it’s ok to get back up. When we spank or punish it’s setting up a disconnection within ourselves because we don’t know how to control the situation so we resort to that, and it creates a disconnection with our child and ourselves. 

When we are not connected to ourselves, then we aren’t fully connected to our children and they aren’t feeling the secure attachment that they are needing. 

I am not saying this to scare you or make you feel bad about not being connected with yourself. This is exactly what I help parents do in their lives and parenting- develop that secure attachment within themselves and with their children. 

The 4 S’s of secure attachment

Dr. Daniel Siegle and Tina Payne Bryson about eh 4 S’s in the book “ The Power Of Showing Up”. The S’s are the 4 components that go into a secure attachment, how to create a secure attachment for you and your child.

  1. Safe- The first thing that goes into security is the feeling of being safe. It’s the parents job to make sure that they feel safe and protected- emotionally, physically, and relationally. They need to feel AND know that they are safe with their parent/caregiver. This doesn’t mean that 100% of the time we are going to be perfect and make them safe. We are human. There are times where we accidentally make them not feel so safe. The key is to make sure you repair as soon as you can. This will show them that sometimes we say or do things that we don’t mean to and we are sorry, that we can repair and that we still love each other. 
  2. Seen- The second one is being seen. It is important to show up physically for our kids, playing with them, spending quality time, but being seen goes such a long way. What this means is seeing your child as they are. Attuning to what is going on inside of them. Focusing on their feelings, emotions, memories, what is going on inside of them- what is beneath their behaviors. 

This teaches them to also see others and builds active listening and empathy skills. 

  1. Soothe- The next one is soothe. This is not in any way saying that we need to rescue them from pain and hard times, and discomfort- to make sure they never feel pain. Depending on the age it is important for them to feel those hurts, tough times, and hardships between friends, family or teachers.

What this is about is teaching them how to ride the waves that life will bring to them. It is letting them know that they have someone there on their side when those tough, painful times come. They should know deep inside that no matter how hard life gets we will always be there, they won’t have to face these trying times alone.

  1. Security- Then the last one, is security, this is the sense of predictability. Always remember this is not about perfection, it is unrealistic to expect anyone to not mess up and make mistakes. It’s about letting your child know that they can count on you time and time again to show up. Security comes when they see that they can rely on you and that you give it your all to keep them safe, they work hard to make them feel seen when they come to you, then when life gets hard for them that you will be there to soothe them. 

This tells their brain and nervous system that they are safe, they become resilient and know that they don’t have to live and be stuck under stress.

Here is a refrigerate printout from Siegel and Bryson that you can hang up as a reminder. Click here to get the pdf.

How a secure attachment benefits the child

You may already see how much building a secure attachment with your child can benefit them, but let’s talk about more ways that this helps them, and your relationship with them. 

Kids will be able to approach life knowing that they are safe, that love and relationships will be present and consistent in their lives. They will be able to get through the inevitable difficult times that come in life. 

Your child will experience more emotional balance, resilience, more insight, and more empathy. 

The goal isn’t to make your child or even you happy 100% of the time, that isn’t healthy or really realistic. But, this helps them be able to feel all feelings and know how to move through them in a healthy and safe way. Your child will be able to better socially adapt, collaboratively problem solve, think of consequences and think of others and their feelings, just to name a few. 

Our triggers and their secure attachment

We need to develop a secure attachment beginning with ourselves. This holds the quality of security that we can provide for our children and the quality of connection and security they will have with themselves.

If the child doesn’t’ feel connected to their parent, it’s because their parent doesn’t feel connected to themselves.

Being triggered is inevitable, there is no one that can never become triggered or angry. That being said, what I’m going to say, I hope you don’t think that you can never be angry, or can never slip and say something or do something that you wish you didn’t, we all make mistakes. 

We parents have so much on our plates, just creating a child and making sure that they are healthy and alive is so much as in of its own. Then we add all the other responsibilities we have, it’s no doubt that it will get overwhelming. 

We have all been in those times where we lose it, and we are yelling and your child covers their ears, or looks terrified, or just starts crying or screaming back, and something in our head is saying “stop” but we ignore it because we don’t care, we are so pissed and they need to feel our wrath! 

Then once we get out what we had to say, all that energy we calm down and end up feeling like a horrible failure of a parent. Let me put you at ease, it happens to all of us. When this happens you haven’t broken your child or your relationship with them. It is important though, that we repair as I mentioned before as soon as possible. 

Below is a great authentic repair apology that I like to do when I mess up with my children.

I get the feeling of wishing for this cycle to stop and not know how to get it to stop. I want to tell you that there is hope. 

You know there have been a lot that went on in your life and ever your ancestors’ lives that goes into how we react. It is in our DNA, an amazing book that I highly recommend reading is “The Body Keeps The Score.” I won’t go too much into it, but I want to say that it’s not your fault if you’re a reactive parent and don’t know how to have a great secure attachment with yourself or your child. 

No, it’s not hopeless to be able to soften these generational patterns, our brains are amazing and can make big shifts. 

Creating a secure attachment with your child is probably the most important thing in parenting. It can be such a tricky thing though if you never had that as a child from your parent it can make it very difficult to know how to feel safe yourself so that you can be a safe place consistently with your child. 

There is so much that goes into this I can’t explain it all in this post, because it will turn into a book. But if this is something that you struggle with, and need help and support please feel free to reach out to me or comment below. I’m here to support you so you can be the best version of yourself, the person you so much want to be for your child. 

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