Monica Chan Yip
Elderly people often say that babies will be spoiled by being held too much, but some experts say more hugs can promote mental health in children. Should babies be held often? This is a problem often encountered by novice parents. People always say attachment is very important. What exactly is “attachment”?
In an interview entitled, “The Impact of Attachment,” hosted by Mr. Ling Yun on Far East Broadcasting, Dr. Agnes Ip mentioned that the attachment relationship has a profound impact on the growth of a child. Attachment is the emotional connection between a baby and a parent or caregiver, and this connection is established through mutual interaction. Learning from this interactive experience, understanding and expectations are gradually formed. Children will internalize these unconscious expectations, which will have a long-term impact on the development of their whole person, gender identity, self-identity, and trust in others.
Dr. Ip mentioned three types of unhealthy attachment:
1. Avoidant Attachment
Parents of this type do not respond adequately to their children. They sometimes will feel uncomfortable when they see their children crying. These parents will discourage their children from crying, and lack an expression of love when doing so, which indirectly encourages their children to become prematurely independent. These children will be indifferent and lack an understanding toward their parents. When they grow up, they are generally eager to find love from their male and female friends to make up for the love and security they could not get during childhood.
2. Ambivalent Attachment
These parents are generally more emotional. They love their children when in a good mood, and ignore their children or vent their pressure on them when in a bad mood. Such parents do love their children, but there is no criterion for their attitudes which are sometimes good and sometimes bad. These children grow up in an insecure environment, becoming anxious, and not knowing how to please their parents.
3. Disorganized Attachment
Parents of this type will frighten, withdraw from, and act negatively toward their children, and even appear to be confused in their role. They are generally very cold and have no interaction with their children. They will even show distress when they see their children, and may even verbally and physically abuse them, which makes these children anxious and afraid. Since these children are being neglected or physically abused, they are unable to approach the caregiver for comfort, or may choose to keep their distance for safety, and they usually act coldly toward their parents.
As for healthy attachment relationships, parents usually respond appropriately to their children’s needs and establish physical and emotional intimacy. Children have a sense of security and dare to take risks and explore. At present, many studies have found that children with healthy attachment experiences generally have better social skills and better peer relationships.
Since attachment is so important to a child’s development, should parents hold their babies often?
Dr. Ip has seen many parents overprotecting their children in the counseling room, being overly concerned about their kids. This tension will interfere with the child’s normal development and make the child become nervous and anxious. Parents need to adopt the golden median. When a child cries, it is not necessary to hug or hold him/her right away. Being attentive to meeting the needs of the baby is already adequate. Dr. Ip encourages newborn parents to wrap the baby with a warm cloth to make him/her feel warm and safe. It is also a good way to establish a good bond with the baby.
Many mental health problems in adults are related to the type of attachment they experienced during infancy and childhood, but insufficient attachment experiences do not mean that they cannot grow up. When parents look back at their past interactions with their children, they may find that there are still deficiencies and regrets in the relationship of attachment, but they don’t need to be discouraged. We must understand there is no perfect parent, and there is no perfect attachment. In addition to the attachment relationship, the formation of a child’s personality is also affected by innate tendencies and many other factors. In our limited life, we can only do our best, and leave the rest to God, because our heavenly Father is our most important attachment.
“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. ” Psalm 23:6
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