An Introduction to the Crucial Role of Attachment and Connection
Perhaps your child is missing homework, assignments turned in are half-finished, and grades are slipping. You will likely start feeling pulled to check in on their academics more: “How was your day today? What’s for homework? How did you do on your math test? Did you get your grade back for your English paper?”
While the role of academic supervisor may fit the bill here, as a parent, your job is tough. You’re charged with fulfilling many roles, and it can be easy to fall into one while ignoring the others. Chaos at home and school can signal a need to focus and deepen your connection with your child, which is crucial for your child's overall wellbeing and success at school and home.
By focusing on strengthening the connection you have with your child, you’re more likely to have a child who grows into someone
Happier and more secure
Emotionally more resilient and self-motivated
Who reaches higher levels of academic success
Less likely to experience mood and anxiety disorders
Less likely to experience behavioral issues at school and at home
Naturally, as parents, we mean well. But are we sending the right message? “Your success in school is of the utmost importance to me.” Success in school means going on to find success in whatever comes after. Of course! School is everything, right?
No – we may have lost sight of what’s essential: forming honest relationships and lasting bonds with our kids.
Facts about healthy attachment and connection:
Kids always need a warm connection with a parent or parent figure. This need does not disappear as they get older.
Secure parent-child attachment builds resilient, competent, healthy, and self-motivated kids, who often achieve higher levels of success down the road.
A healthy attachment makes kids less likely to develop a mood disorder, depression, or severe behavioral problems.
When parents spend time with eye to eye contact with their infant, the infant and parent’s gaze, emotions, heart rate, and brainwaves (millions of neurons that activate brain regions) synchronize. Oxycontin, the love hormone, is released, and the connection between the two is fostered.
Eye to eye contact signals an intention to communicate and tune in to what the other is saying and feeling, building the connection and solidifying a stronger attachment.
What can you do to build attachment and connection with your child?
Be present - Remove external AND internal distractions! Put away your phone and you'll show your child they are worth your time and attention. Undivided attention sends the message, “you are important to me and heard.” Being fully present includes removing internal distractions or racing thoughts (i.e., What do I need from the market? Did I remember to pay that bill?)
Show an interest in their interests! Sit down for a session or two of video games, or have them show you their art doodles, sketches, and paintings. When you show interest and curiosity, the message given (and received) is, “You matter more to me than your homework or how you did on that test. You are important to me, and I am interested in you.”
Create a family or parent/child ritual they can rely on. A special goodnight kiss, a mantra heading out the door, a dinner date, popcorn, and movie night are great ideas to implement. This gives children a sense of belonging and unifies the family.
Think of these moments as filling their cup. In the future, there could be less resistance and fewer meltdowns. Your child will be more likely to open up in these moments when there is connection and warmth, which helps to nurture emotional resilience. Next month, we will give you tips on checking in with yourself and supporting YOUR well-being through self-care, which will directly contribute to the healthy connection you can foster with your child. Everyone benefits!
In the fall, we will examine the crucial role attachment and connection play in your child’s growth and development. So be sure to check back with us!
Written by Jenny Aguilar (M. Ed., ET/P) and Geneva Walsh (M. Ed.)
Sources; Johnson, Ned, and William Stixrud. What Do You Say? How to Talk with Kids to Build Motivation, Stress Tolerance, and a Happy Home. Penguin Publishing Group, 2021.
Leong, Victoria, et al. “Speaker gaze increases information coupling between infant and adult
brains.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 114, no. 50, 2017, pp.