My academic background and deep interest in Attachment Theory spans nearly two decades. I view my work with children, families, and couples through an attachment lens and I am excited by its contributions to neuroscience, ethology, and biology. When I was in training at the birthplace of Attachment Theory (AT), walking the same halls as John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, AT was edging towards becoming the cornerstone of child rearing in the Western world. The more we know about our attachment styles and interaction patterns, the better prepared we are to build enjoyable relationships with our children and partners.
What is Attachment Style? Attachment refers to the particular way in which we relate to other people. Your style of attachment is usually formed during your first two years of life. Once established, it stays with you and influences the way you relate in intimate relationships, both with your partner and with your children. The different Attachment Styles are Secure, Dismissive, Preoccupied, or Fearful-Avoidant. Understanding your own attachment style will shed light on why you behave or react in certain ways in relationship to others — your partner, children, parents, friends, co—workers and even strangers. Robert Karen wrote a fascinating book called Becoming Attached about first relationships and how they shape our capacity to love. In this series of blogs on attachment, I will review some of the chapters of the book.
Children do not need 100% perfectly attuned parents to thrive and develop healthy relationships. They need “good enough” parenting from caregivers who are reflective of their own attachment style and history so that they can create meaningful and rewarding relationships with their children. Responding mindfully and flexibly is one of the biggest challenges each parent faces. When I feel tired, hungry or angry, I struggle to be mindful or to have intention in my actions. I find it challenging to remain present and in the moment with my children. Given that much of my life’s work is about building positive relationships with children and significant others, I become frustrated when I’m stuck in repetitive, unproductive patterns. How is it that I “know” so much and yet so little? I’m skilled and trained in the topic of parenting yet I, myself, often struggle to parent effectively. Just this morning I “found” myself yelling at my 7 year old. Really yelling! My ability to sort through my own impulses, ideas, feelings, thoughts and responses, rather than automatically reacting to things, is compromised at these times. Sometimes we react to our children in a way that’s unhealthy and unsettling, leaving us to wonder, “Who was that?” Our responses in those moments are rooted in our past and our Attachment Style.
“If we pay attention to our own internal experiences when we are feeling upset by children’s behavior we can begin to learn how our actions interfere with a loving relationship we want to have with our children.” – Dr. Dan Siegel
In this series I would like to invite you to join me in better understanding ourselves through our Attachment Style in order to effectively parent our precious children and be better partners in understanding our significant others.
My first article in this series will focus on the different types of Attachment Styles. Coming soon…