Fear and emotional/physical discomfort activate attachment needs in young children. When frightened, lonely, and feeling stress, children rely on their caregivers for protection and need-fulfillment. When a child’s fear and stress are reduced by a dependable caregiver, he or she associates closeness with safety and security. This is the essence of secure attachment. When young children have no emotionally available caregiver to depend on, they must face anxiety and stress alone. With little or no support, the child is overwhelmed with stress, associates closeness with pain and fear, and concludes he or she is better off
alone. This is the essence of anxious attachment.
THE BEHAVIORS NECESSARY FOR PARENTS TO CREATE SECURITY IN CHILDREN FOR A SECURE BASE ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Emotional availability: Parents need to be accessible, dependable, and self-aware (aware of emotional triggers; do not take child’s issues personally); is a positive role model (constructive coping skills).
Sensitivity: Parents need to be attuned to the child’s feelings, needs, and mental state; is empathic, nurturing, patient, and loving; is a good listener.
Responsiveness: Parents need to respond appropriately to behavior and needs; can be firm and yet loving; is proactive, not reactive ; promotes feelings of safety not fear; provides a consistent, predictable, and developmentally appropriate structure and plenty of support.
Helpfulness: Parents need to maintain a mindset of opportunity rather than crisis (looks for “teachable moments”); helps the child learn effective coping skills, such as anger management, communication, and problem-solving; understands the role, attitude and skill-set of a mature and loving parent.