When you decide to raise a child, you are entering into a relationship that differs from what most non-parents consider to be a “relationship.” The parent-infant relationship is a relationship of psychological attachment, the way in which a parent and child bond. For infants, this relationship has a firm impact on how the child will build relationships with her peers later in life.
The Attachment Style
Just as personalities differ between, relationships differ between parent-infant dyads. Psychologists categorize these relationships into attachment styles, which are developed through parent-child interaction. But according to Carol Mooney, scholar of early childhood education and author of “Theories of Attachment,” only one style, secure attachment, can predict with high certainly that a child will have healthy relationships in adulthood. The other attachment styles tend to lead to unstable relationships in adulthood.
Actions to Build a Healthy Relationship
Parents of infants quickly realize that there are not many complex activities, such as heart-to-heart conversations, in which to engage for the sake of strengthening the parent-child relationship. Parents who wish to reinforce the parent-child bond should then engage in those little doings that help the child understand a parent’s love. These activities include eye contact, physical contact, play, and smiling. Constant affection and showing love for a child will help stabilize the relationship and increase the likelihood that a child develops a secure attachment.
Relationships are two-way streets. Parents of infants know how stressful having an infant in the house can be. Those little nuisances, such as crying keeping parents awake at night, are enough to drive some parents up the walls. If the annoyance of having an infant gets to a parent, the mother or father may feel like pushing the responsibility of caring for the infant at certain times to the other parent or to a nanny. However, parents who want to form strong parent-child bonds must push through these stressful times and give their infant the needed care, sometimes at the cost of sleep debt.
The Mother’s Heavy Role
At times, the mother-child role seems more important than the father-child role. For infants, this is often the case, as mothers play the role as the “secure base” for a child. This “secure base” role shows the infant that he can be at ease in new situations, such as when strangers enter the room or when entering a new environment. Sometimes mothers may forget this duty, particularly in stressful times. For example, when moving into a new home, moms might be busy with settling into the new house. But at this time, making the infant know he’s safe in this new and sometimes scary environment is also critical. A mother who shows her child that she can be depended on will strengthen the bonds of the parent-child relationship and increase the chances that the child grow up with a secure-type attachment.