Emotional attachment is one of the key factors in raising a happy and confident child. Attachment is the coming together of a child and a parent (or caregiver) in a close and connected relationship. When a child is emotionally attached to a parent in a healthy way, he or she feels safe, secure, and protected on physical, emotional, and mental levels. The parent senses and responds to his or her cues (or what their toddler needs and wants). Emotional attachment occurs gradually over time, through day‑to‑day actions and routines.
When you respond to your toddler in a loving and accepting way time after time, your toddler learns that someone is there to support and protect them. This is especially important when your toddler is sick, hurt, or upset. She or he then feels free to explore the physical and social world with confidence. Your toddler knows he or she can return to the safety of a parent if something frightens or overwhelms them. Knowing this, your toddler can take full advantage of opportunities to learn new skills. The basis of a secure attachment is that the parent always offers a safe place from which to explore the larger world.
- If your toddler is sick, hurt, or lonely ‑ reassure, rock, or hold your toddler.
- Be responsive, sensitive, and available, as much as you can.
- Find activities that you both enjoy.
- Spend time talking with and listening to your toddler.
- Read stories, go for walks, and play games together.
- Show interest in your toddler’s activities and spend lots of one‑on‑one time with him or her.
- Keep your home and environment as safe as possible to allow your toddler to explore.
- Protect his or her independence ‑ when your toddler learns to crawl or walk, you can let your toddler go off a short distance, but make sure you remain nearby so your toddler can return to you.
- Talk with your toddler about things that have happened in his life. As he or she gets older, tell your toddler stories about when he or she was small.
- Show your toddler photos of when he or she was younger, and answer any questions she or he may have. These memories can give your toddler a sense of his past and create a feeling of security.
- If your toddler goes through a difficult event, talk about it. Review it, play it out, and discuss it when your toddler is willing and able to do so. This can help avoid nightmares and trauma. Events, such as the birth of a sibling or a friend leaving town, are important and it helps to talk about these events.
- Make a photo album and look at it with your toddler.
- Maintain a collection of her crafts and artwork.
- Make videos and keep a record of special events.
- Establish family traditions; they help your toddler feel secure and able to look forward to things.
- Being away from your toddler once in a while will help his or her sense of attachment, but these separations need to be handled well.
- When leaving your toddler with someone else, set up a goodbye ritual and leave with confidence. Provide your toddler with some things to do while you are away.
- Give your toddler a photo of yourself, a security blanket, or familiar toys to keep your toddler calm. Let your toddler know when you will return, and make sure to come back on time.
- If your toddler is very upset about being away from you, try to do it gradually. Remain present during part of the first few days.
- Be as predictable as you can, to provide your toddler with an additional sense of security.
- Keep to a routine for meals, bedtime, and so on.
- Set clear rules and follow through on them.
- Always comfort and soothe your toddler if she or he is sick, hurt, or upset.