I typically help adoptive families with attachment issues in newly adopted children. However, I have found that developing a securely attached child is something all parents seek to do if they want healthy, happy, well adjusted children. So what does a securely attached child look like? Well, they are independent, yet trust that their parents will take care of their needs such as a scraped knee. They will maintain eye contact and will talk to mom and dad about their feelings in an age appropriate manner. While all children have their own little personalities, attached children will more likely grow up with a healthy sense of empathy and responsibility for self and others.

Holding time or snuggle time is a vital part of attachment. I was often teased that my child would learn to walk faster if I set her down she still learned to walk even though I carried her quite a bit. Playing games that require eye contact, singing, dancing close, finger games with young children, sitting the child on your lap and just talking quietly, sleeping with your child will all enhance secure attachment.

So what if my child does not securely attach? Well, children who do not attach to their parents or caregivers will go to strangers for comfort, may have difficulty expressing emotions, sometimes lack empathy for others, and seek to control parents, friends, and teachers in order to feel in control of their world. Children who experience multiple caregivers such as those in orphanages or in multiple foster care placements have demonstrated these symptoms most vividly. Of course, children who never see the inside of an orphanage or foster home can become disengaged when they do not feel connected to a primary caregiver.

The best ways to enhance attachment is plenty of eye contact, lots of holding, talking to your baby while you are nursing or feeding, and of course, meeting your child's needs without fear that you are spoiling your baby. Babies cannot be spoiled by too much holding, contrary to the beliefs of the past. They develop vital neural connections that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Contributed by:
Lynn Barnett, Parent-to-Parent Adoption Resource Services