Written by Alex Gitter MS, LAC, Med, NCC
Six tips to building trust between you and your child.
MOST PARENTS WANT THE SAME THINGS FOR THEIR CHILDREN: To be happy, healthy, successful members of society. SO, HOW CAN YOU, AS A PARENT, HELP YOUR CHILD TO ACHIEVE THESE GOALS?
Take a minute, now, and think about a favorite mentor, teacher, boss, or coach. Someone along the way that you really felt help you grow as a person. What was he/she like? How did he/she help you grow? The characteristics and strategies that come to mind are likely like those that developmentalists have identified for effective parenting.
TRUST AND SAFETY
In order to grow, we all need to, first, feel safe and secure. This is especially true for children. As parents, it is important to be a secure base for your children, providing a predictable and safe source of support and care. When children have what developmentalists call a secure attachment such as this, they feel that the world is a safe and predictable place where their needs can be met. They feel confident that if something goes wrong, they have a safe haven to turn to. Children, then, feel comfortable venturing out into the world, trying new things and meeting new people. Imagine how difficult it might be for a child to become happy and successful if they aren’t willing or able to explore the world!
Let’s take a look at how can you help to build trust & safety for your child?
- Spend time with your child. Sharing positive experiences by playing with, reading to, and engaging in discussions with a child are key to establishing a secure attachment. So, spend some time getting to know your child.
- Pay attention. Recognizing when a child is experiencing distress as well as when he or she is joyful is necessary for sensitive responses.
- Respond to your child with nurture, affection, and patience. Sensitive responding involves recognizing a child’s need (for food, sleep, comfort, etc.,) and attempting to meet that need in a kind and supportive manner. The sensitive response also reflects a knowledge of the child’s developmental level, rocking a crying infant versus rubbing a crying child’s back.
- Set clear and consistent limits for your child. Boundaries are necessary to feel a sense of safety. For small children it may be necessary to use physical tangible boundaries such as child safety locks and doors. As children become more verbal and more able to internalize rules and prohibitions (around age two, typically), rules can be expressed verbally
or in writing. Make sure to enforce the rules and standards consistently to help develop a sense of safety and predictability.
- Develop and implement routines. Bedtime routines, morning routines, dinner routines, playtime routines, homework routines all provide predictability and a sense of trust.
- Do not worry about trying to be “perfect”! Research has shown that “good enough” parenting, incorporating the above strategies most of the time is sufficient for happy, healthy, and well-adapted children. For more information on attachment theory, how parents can promote secure attachments in young children (ages 0-5), and the neurobiology of the attachment
relationship, see, Dr. Ruth Newton’s book, The Attachment Connection: Parenting a Secure and Confident Child Using the Science of Attachment Theory.
Broderick, P. C., & Blewitt, P. (2010). The life span: Human development for professionals (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Newton, R. (2008) The attachment connection: Parenting a secure and confident child using the science of attachment theory. Oakland, CA: New
Perry, A. (2009). Insecure attachment and its consequences. Healthcare Counseling & Psychotherapy Journal, 9(3), 3-6.
Pratt, M. W., Kerig, P., Cowan, P. A., & Cowan, C. P. (1988). Mothers and fathers