I was going to be setting the second of the two Easter
holiday challenges today but I didn’t wake up in such a jolly mood so I wasn’t
sure that would flow today. I’m afraid I’ll
have to keep you hanging a bit longer.
But don’t worry, I’ll post the creative idea next week so there’ll still
be plenty of time before the Bank Holiday weekend disappears.
When I’m in a flat mood the person I always want to talk to is my mum. Post mother’s day and I’m left feeling so grateful that I have such a wonderful mum who is always there for me and always offers a listening ear. I know for so many, including a lot of the incredible children I work with, that this luxury is not the case and so that makes me feel triply blessed. Being a mum is a tough gig, but growing up without a mother, either the physical or the emotional presence is even tougher. Mothers are essential to so much of a child’s development, their ability to attach to another, but also to detach, and the help they provide in understanding empathy (something that just doesn’t come as naturally as a man). Now, I’m not saying a dad-figure can’t do this, but there is a different and special bond between a mother and her child that cannot be replicated.
I haven’t written a “parenting” style blog for a few weeks
now so I thought it was about time! Today
I am briefly going to touch on the amazing discovery of a man named John
Bowlby, and his theory on attachment. In
the field that I work in as a play therapist it has be revolutionary in
understanding how children form relationships as well as how they struggle to
We are attached to something the moment we are created. From day one, the baby is joined to the mother
whether they like it or not! We are
created for attachments. We are created
for relationship. That is why, so often,
we crave attention of some kind and often we will do almost anything to get
it. What should a baby do as soon as it
is born? Cry. It needs something and it will holler to get
it. It wants to be held, to be loved, to
have that skin to skin experience to help itself regulate. A human baby is born so prematurely. It can do next to nothing other than breathe
and, hopefully, feed. The mother has to
be available to provide for the baby.
But, what if they’re not? What if
the labour didn’t go well and they were rushed in for an emergency C-Section
and now they’re being stitched up and having a blood transfusion? Sometimes, plans don’t always go to
plan. Or what if mother is emotionally
unavailable. Perhaps there are mental
health problems, post-natal depression, relationship difficulties. There are so many factors in our world which skew
the ability for a perfect attachment.
I’m not going to go into great detail about the different
types of attachment (that can be found in books of research and essays of
explanations), but I will outline three of the common presentations. Firstly, and most usually, there is the secure
attachment. When baby feels unsafe/upset/hungry/cold/…they
cry and that cry is met with comfort and a solution to their problem. Mother is in tune with the baby and learns
what they need. Woah! What a job to be the mother of that
child. But, be reassured, the majority
of us mothers provide a secure attachment for our child. However, we ALL have our challenges, we all
have a life to live and jobs to do so it is very often that we cannot and do
not meet 100% of our children’s needs. But,
and hear me now, that is OK! I’ve said
it before and I’ll say it again, in the words of Donald Winnicott (child paediatrician and psychoanalyst), we
only have to be “good enough”.
Two types of an insecure attachment are known as; avoidant
and ambivalent. We are likely to find
that we all have some traits of one of these styles, but some may be more obvious
than others. I am going to quote Kim Golding
to describe these attachments as she puts it so well:
Avoidant: Some parents
find it difficult to care for their children when the child is emotionally
expressing this need. They therefore
tend to back off at the time the child is expressing “I need you close”. Children quickly learn [..] and will adjust
their behaviour to preventing this ‘backing off’ […] they inhibit emotional
expression, becoming undemanding and compliant and/or self-sufficient. (pp.51-52)
parents are inconsistent in responding to children […] they find it hard to
attune to the child and they are unpredictable in their responses. […] These
children therefore maximize attachment behaviour to ensure that they do receive
care from an inconsistent parent […] The children display a lot of emotional
distress […] and remain distressed. They
fear if they do calm, the parent will then leave them alone once more. (pp.
But, please hear me, there are some factors in our lives
which prevent us from being readily available 24/7. Illness, work, single parenting, our own
attachment styles, the list continues. I’ve
outlined these two attachment styles purely as information. Being informed as a parent is generally
overwhelming, but it can also be helpful.
I hope that this might shed a bit of light on some grey areas in your own
relationships with your children. Have
you ever considered your own attachment style?
It is likely you will bring up your child in a similar way. Being a mother is a tough gig. That is why I believe it is so important to
build a community around ourselves. Why
go through the biggest, most challenging event of our lives without someone
nearby to support, encourage and pick us up again when we feel we’ve totally
blown it? We’ve all been there and we’re
all in this together.
Golding, K.S., Nurturing
Attachments: Supporting Children who are Fostered or Adopted (2008) Jessica
Kingsley Publishers, London
Winnicott, D.W., Playing
and Reality, (1971) Tavistock Publications, New York
Ommg not only this is so well written but I got to learn a lot while reading. I had no idea about the whole avoidant and ambivalent terms. Thank you for sharing this :)
I hadn't heard of the different terms when it comes to attachment parenting before. Very interesting read!
I thought I left a comment earlier but I’m not seeing it :( this is such an incredible and well thought out read. Thank you so much for sharing and for shedding some light in terms I’ve never heard of before! Hope you’re having a great week!