Attachment is a clinical term used to describe “a lasting psychological connectedness between human beings”. In particular, attachment theory highlights the importance of a child’s emotional bond with their primary carers. It’s important for all adults working with children to understand what attachment is and know how to help parents and carers become attuned to their child’s needs.
Children can form attachments with more than one carer, but the bond with the people who have provided close care from early infancy is the most important and enduring. It’s important that parents and carers are attuned and responsive to their baby’s needs and are able to provide appropriate care. This includes recognising if their baby is hungry, feeling unwell or in need of closeness and affection.
In secure relationships, the carer is usually sensitive and tuned in to the child’s needs. They are able to provide care that is predictably loving, responsive and consistent. Young children who have formed a secure attachment to their carer may display the following patterns of behaviour during times of stress or exploration:
- proximity maintenance – wanting to be near their primary carer
- safe haven – returning to their primary carer for comfort and safety if they feel afraid or threatened
- secure base – treating their primary carer as a base of security from which they can explore the surrounding environment. The child feels safe in the knowledge that they can return to their secure base when needed
- separation distress – experiencing anxiety in the absence of their primary carer. They are upset when their carer leaves, but happy to see them and easily comforted when they return.
It’s important for anyone who works with children and families to support parents and carers in building positive relationships with their child. Having positive interaction and playing with carers can help a child’s brain to develop healthily.
Here at Little Hands we aim to ensure that children settle into nursery, feeling safe and secure and forming strong bonds with our practitioners from the very start of their journey with us. We pride ourselves on having a robust transition process into nursery and working in close partnership with parents and carers to ensure that children feel confident in our care. We ensure that we follow many policies and procedures to meet children’s individual needs and interests, meaning that children learn to trust and bond with us. We also use strategies such as having a consistent routine to help them understand the structure of the day and predict what is coming next. This can help to reduce anxiety.
We use things such as visual timetables to support children who aren’t able to understand verbal prompts yet. We support and nurture children’s feelings as children need to learn to recognise their feelings and learn the words to label them. For example, “I can see you are getting very frustrated with that toy – it’s not working properly is it? Let’s see if a cuddle might help and we can look at it together” Also, we role model to focus on reinforcing behaviour by demonstrating and praising children when they are showing wanted behaviours.
Nurture and attachment supports children’s personal, social and emotional development (PSED) as the first few years of life are crucial to learning key life skills. Personal, social and emotional development supports children to learn to get on with others and make friends, understand and talk about feelings, learn about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, develop independence and ultimately feel good about themselves. Children’s early PSED has a huge impact on their later well-being, learning achievement and economic success too.