Nearly 4 years ago, I became a father. We became a family. The next few lines, you may think, should be "It's the best thing that has ever happened to me" and "Now I understand the purpose of life," but in truth, it's been hard.
My little girl is now my world, and she's given me the privilege to witness love and attachment develop from the inside-out. With a sly smile on my face, I can happily write that my world is now very colorful and my energy much less!
The reason I reflect on my experiences is because it's important that you understand that - although I am a professional and have "read all the books" - parenting has been extremely challenging and emotionally demanding for me. Everything in the books has not always worked and is sometimes impractical. Some so-called parenting guidance is frighteningly outdated, and some of it is (to be frank) destructive.
The Under-Education of Attachment
The basis of human nature is attachment. Without attachment, we simply do not survive as a species. Attachment is a major factor and influence in all of our relationships, trust, self-worth, and worldview.
If you ever catch my presentations, I often reflect on the time just before my daughter was born. We attended an organized visit to the hospital alongside many other parents-to-be and had the opportunity to see the wards, ask questions, and get some information about the delivery experience. Although it was useful to see the place and be able to visualize how the big day might unfold, I saw the event as a missed opportunity to help many soon-to-be parents understand some basic fundamentals of child development.
While the word "bonding" was used twice - in regards to "breast is best" and immediate skin-to-skin contact between parents and their newborn - the world "attachment" was mentioned not once!
Throughout the years of working with adults, parents, children, social workers, school staff, and others, I have come to the conclusion that attachment and the parent-child relationship is one of those taboo subjects that we dare not comment upon due to the risk of upsetting or offending someone.
Possibly even more emotionally provocative, we are highly resistant toward looking at our own early experiences and how our own parent-child relationships have been, or still are. Valuable questions all parents must ask themselves are:
- How have my early attachment experiences influenced my sense of who I am, what I believe, and why I do what I do?
- How have my early attachment experiences influenced the way I parent and respond to my children?
- How will my children experience their world through me, and then pass this information onto their children when the day comes?
This is the first of a 3-part series by David Stimson, therapist and managing director/cofounder of Child & Adolescent Therapy Solutions in the United Kingdom. In Part 2, we'll learn why attachment is critically important for child outcomes. In Part 3, we'll learn about how to guard against society's barriers to secure family attachments.