Your little one will scarcely let you out of her sight, following you anywhere you go — even to the bathroom. The mother-child bond keeps you connected to her, but you didn’t count on her being attached to your hip. The bond helps her form emotional attachments with others and lets her feel loved and safe. Maybe she will play hide and seek with you so you can get a few minutes to yourself.
In the Beginning
A new baby naturally tries to form an attachment to mom, although a constant child care provider could gain that bond. You help your child form the bond by meeting his needs, such as food, diaper changes, loving touch, cuddling, rocking and smiling, according to Dr. Bruce Perry, an international authority on brain development and children in crisis. Over time, the attachment allows him to bond with others, feel safe in the world and grow into an emotionally and mentally healthy individual. It doesn’t bond like hook and loop take, although sometimes it might seem that way.
Toddler and Preschool Years
Bonding continues into the toddler years as she bonds with loving and responsive daycare workers and teachers. The bond you’ve formed with her also helps her interact with her peers in appropriate ways. A negative bond can lead to an antisocial, insensitive, hostile and insecure child, according to Dr. Carollee Howes, Director at the Center for Improving Child Care Quality. You would never knowingly leave your child with someone unsafe, so the bond continues to hold.
Separating a child from the adults he’s bonded with through divorce, illness, a move or jail can cause serious issues for the child, affirms Dr. Peter Haiman, an internationally known child psychotherapist and expert witness on attachment parenting. It causes a child to experience fear and loss, which can trigger stuttering, aggressive behavior or emotional distance. Abuse, neglect and maternal depression can also break the trust that maintains the bond. You can rebuild that trust, but it takes time for your child to begin trusting you to meet his needs and bond with you again.
Making your child one of your highest priorities builds or rebuilds the bond, according to Dr. Laura Markham, Columbia University Clinical Psychologist, author and mother. Pay attention when your little one talks to you, getting down on her level and making eye contact. Do things together that you both enjoy. You can try to anticipate her needs and meet them consistently. By keeping the promises you make, no matter how insignificant it seems to you, your child puts her trust in you. Finally, encourage and respect your child, displaying it through affirming words, body language and actions. And take hope, she will outgrow the need to follow you everywhere long before she becomes a teen. You might wish for a strong bond by that time.