Whether you decide to be a parent exactly like your own or truly the opposite, there is no way to deny that our childhood has a lot to do with how we parent. In fact, attachment research has shown that our attachment style with our own parents is the biggest predictor of the attachment style we will have with our children.
Attachment styles influence the way we relate to the important people in our lives. They form from our relationships with our parents and impact our feelings of insecurity, anxiety, fear, avoidance and satisfaction in our closet relationships. It is believed that a parent’s connection and responsiveness to a child’s needs have an everlasting effect on the child’s future emotional health and relationships.
This does not mean that we are doomed as parents if our parents were not perfect. No matter how things were, if you are willing to explore and face the pain of your childhood, you can become a different kind of parent.
It’s very important to understand your past to identify the attachment style you may have had with your parents.
Secure attachments ensure that a child feels secure, understood and calm. These feelings optimize a child’s brain development and helps to provide a child with a foundation that promotes a feeling of safety, which results in healthy self awareness, empathy, trust and an eagerness to learn.
Anxious/Preoccupied attachment is characterized by clingy and needy behaviors. Children often experience anxiety and fear of abandonment. The child’s attention is persistently focused on the parent, who is often critical, ill, anxious or incompetent.
Avoidant/Dismissive attachments are where the parent may meet the child’s basic needs, but will have trouble responding to the child on an emotional level, The parent may feel like an emotional dessert for the child. In these situations, children learn that the best way to get their needs met by their parent is to act like they don’t have any.
Disorganized attachment is characterized by the child repeatedly being frightened by their parent. It is formed when the child is emotionally and physically dependent on someone who is also a source of distress and fear. It is found in children who have experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse from their primary caregiver in childhood.
Understanding the impact of our early experiences and how we adapted allows us to better understand ourselves as people and as parents. The influence of our early attachments on how we learned to relate should not be underestimated; it can offer us valuable insight into how we may behave as a parent. But, no matter how our story started, being a good parent starts with exploring our own story and being willing to look at any pain we experienced growing up.
There is always room to develop ourselves. Either on our own or by working with a psychotherapist, healthier models of relationships can be developed. You must do this with self compassion. Changing our attachment type requires us to look at and make sense of the most painful parts of our childhood.
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