The 6 Stages of attachment – and how to repair missing stages part 2

by | Mar 11, 2018 | Education, Personal growth |

In last week’s article we’ve been looking at the six stages of attachment. We we’ve seen how there is a maturing process going on with the purpose to create solid attachment. This attachment creates a solid bond between the child and the parent, making our task as parents so much easier and more successful.

In this Article we will once again look at the six stages of attachment and what can go wrong, concerning them.
In the end I will share with you proven ways of repairing the missing stages along with ways to build up attachment with your child.

  • Proximity

A baby begins the journey of attachment to the parent through contact, touch and closeness. As they grow and as we send the message that they are loved and adored and that we like to be around them, this attachment gets stronger.

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This has always been an easy one for me. How could I not cuddle my babies? How could I not have them near me, answer their crying instantly, be it through feeding, picking them up, rocking them to sleep? For nine months, they had been in my womb. They were always feeling me, hearing my heartbeat, feeling my warmth. The whole fuss about “spoiling a Baby” by responding to their crying has always let me puzzled. How can “experts of child raising” tell us that? How can they profess such a thing like the warning that a Baby can become egocentric, spoiled and a difficult child when it grows up if we instantly answer to their cues? That we become literally the “slave” of our babies?  (more to that I’ll explain in that Article)

You know, if you have been parenting like that, I don’t blame you. I know how such teaching can seem a help to well meaning parents and give a sense of security.
But let me tell you. It’s not true. Pick your Baby up when it cries, give him food when it seems hungry, rock it to sleep, even nurse the baby to sleep. Carry your baby whenever it needs to be carried, hold the baby whenever it needs to be held. You will never spoil your baby. Your Baby will not become manipulative or egocentric.

The only thing it will do – is to strengthen this attachment from your Baby to you as parent. It will help your connection and it is the first step to truly successful parenting, secure attached children that obey and follow your cues.

Like I said above, if you missed that stage due to the belief that you had to “educate” your Baby, or simply because you had no choice to do it otherwise, due to life circumstances… it is not too late! Even if your child is older and you feel that you’ve missed that stage, be encouraged:
It is possible to repair that stage! For more, scroll to the end of this Article.

  • Sameness

 Around the age of two, a child adds sameness. That is the desire to be like their parents. They mimic words, mannerisms and behaviors. It also helps the growing child to continue to feel connected to us when we emphasize interests or inclinations that we share with them. Their desire to be like us is also an important element in their acquisition of language.

repair, attachment, Neufeld
Mostly, what we hear about the age of two, is the “terrible two”, the “difficult age”, the “age of temper tantrums”.  It is a challenging time both for parents and the toddler. In that article, I go more into details of what this age is about from another perspective.
But in the light of attachment, we see that there is more to it.
Right now, we have a toddler in the middle of what is normal for that stage. We do have all these moods, anger outbursts and temper tantrums.
However, we also have all the word mimicking, mannerisms and behavior. He wants to be just like us, the parents… (as well as the siblings!)
Observing my toddler during the past weeks in the light of the six stages of attachment, I realized that many of the tantrums are connected with him wanting to do the same thing I do.
As I’ve come to understand this age better, I am not only melting by his sweetness, when he repeats everything I say and do, but I give even more effort to encourage this sameness. I thoroughly enjoy his proud look when I affirm him in the way he just imitated me (in what he said or did).

I’ve realized anew, that I don’t want to look at my toddler as a “terrible-two-toddler”… but that I much rather want to keep in mind his strong desire to be like his parents.

  • Belonging or Loyalty

Around the age of three, a child becomes preoccupied with belonging and loyalty, to be “on the same side as”, which is a different way of closeness, says Neufeld. Children of this age are possessive of their parents, pushing siblings off Mommy’s lap, saying things like, “It’s my Mommy.” With bonding through loyalty, the child also begins wanting do what we ask of them.

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As the child reaches the age of around three, it becomes all sweet and kind. The child wants to please us as parents and belong to the family. It is a wonderful time where we can enforce this bond with the child and show the child that we are trustworthy enough to be attached to. That we are on his side. That we see him/her.

This implies that we truly want to know our child as this individual person he/she is. As I explained in the last article, this stage somehow went missing with our third child. Even though we didn’t know about these different stages at that time, we could sense that he didn’t consider himself to really be part of the family. We could sense that he didn’t arrive in this tranquil assurance that he “belongs” to us.
During his third year of life, our forth child was born, and I have to admit that, because he’s such a sweet and quiet personality, he was somehow left out in his need to truly belong. You can find out in  this article what we did to repair that stage.

  • Significance 

Around the age of four
Connection deepens even more with the next stage: significance. By letting our child know, how he or she is special to us, that they are cherished for who they are, we fortify the sense of closeness between us.
The child’s understanding of their significance is based on the understanding, that parents will hold close, what is precious to them.

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At this stage, the child is very vulnerable to the feeling of being cherished for who it is – or of not being appreciated for who it is.
If the child does not or only rarely receive the message that it is valuated, cherished and loved for his unique individual personality, the maturing process will get bogged down, or the child will even go back to the previous stage. It will not be able to enter the next stage of bonding that requires even greater capacity of vulnerability:
  • Love

Around the age of five, the child moves into the fifth stage of attachment, which comes in form of emotional connectedness. Warm and affectionate feelings begin to help deepen the attachment. Now it is important, that the child knows, that the affectionate feeling we have for them is not attached to accomplishment, achievements or behavior. This becomes a major factor in the formation of trust in the parent.  A child who experiences this kind of emotional intimacy with the parent is able to tolerate much more physical separation and yet still manage to hold the parent close.

 

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As I think about this stage of attachment, I recognize my girl. She’s so expressive in her love for us, her parents. Every day she declares how much she loves us and how happy she is to be in that family. In her daily prayers, she includes: “Thank you for giving me such an amazing family”.
Of course I respond to these declarations with happiness, hugging her, telling her how much she’s loved and what an amazing girl she is.

I know that I could easily crush this stage by showing indifference, ridiculize her ways of expressing herself, showing rejection. I feel her strength – but also her high vulnerability as she expresses her heart that way. We are doing everything to value and honor her in that stage, her heart and her need to be loved back.

  • Being known

Age six onwards.
And finally, the last stage — being known — is where – if all has gone well – the child from six on up tells us their secrets. They wish to be seen, heard and accepted for who they are. The child wishes to be known, and desires to confide in the parent. He/she allows him-/herself to be known because of the significant safety he or she feels. If achieved in childhood, this stage is one which can definitely be maintained throughout the entire life.

repair, attachment, Neufeld
Depending on what upbringing you had and depending on the cultural norms of the place where you live, being friends with your own children is a no-go. This will be directly related to having spoiled children who do not respect any authority, kids who believe that the whole world revolves only around them. From that view parents who are friends with their children aren’t capable of setting any boundaries, desperately try to be buddies with their children and neglect their actual task of raising them.

In this article I describe why I want to be the friend of my children.

It is a great privilege and honor to be parent to a child who trusts you with his/her thoughts, feelings and questions. It is the result of a process that has been ongoing for the last several years, resulting in the possibility to have bonding, trust and vulnerability from your children, as they trust you with their life, and want to share who they are with you.

Our boy will soon arrive in his 8th year of life and we are simply blessed to get to know him more as he shares with us his questions, thoughts and even his plans for the future.

I cherish how he looks at us for guidance, counsel and direction.
Parenting like that is simply beautiful.

After publishing last week’s article, I received an email from a mom; she shared her valuable experience on that matter. I got permission to share her testimony with you:

“A few years back, we were greatly challenged with our then 8-year old girl. We finally found help from a professional. This professional helped us to see, that while she was very advanced intellectually, she was unable to mature emotionally. He told us that, at the age of eight, we should treat her like a four-year-old again, in terms of expectations of her behavior and manners.
As we started to do this, we were able to literally watch the child mature and develop, and today we have a nearly 14-year-old who cuddles us daily, is extremely empathic and does not show any typical teenage attire. I’m almost crying as I write this, that’s how grateful I am for these insights back then –  getting to know the principles of this professional and having these wonderful relationships we have with all our children, today. Even if I still make mistakes, I do sense this deep bonding with my children and marvel about all these other beautiful aspects which are emerging out of it. I’m so thankful to God!”

As I mentioned, we had to catch up with two of our own children. one of the stories you can read in the last week’s Article.
The first time we had experienced dramatic changes was with our girl:

She was born only 16 months after our oldest who had been a very demanding baby. I had to hold him close to me 24/7 and in the first three months he slept only on top of me – day and night. People were saying that it was my parenting, which made him to be that way.
Therefore, when our second child was born, I was very pleased to see that she was very different. I could lay her down, do homework and many other things, and she was simply content and quiet. She didn’t need much attention and I was happy to “prove” everyone that it was not me who was “at fault” for my very demanding firstborn.
Well, when she was about 3 years old, which is this stage of life where she was supposed to be all sweet and kind, she was very independent and individualistic. I thought this was probably her temperament, however my (very sensitive) husband felt, that this wasn’t really who she was. So he started to invest every free minute into her life, telling her how loved, special and cherished she was. He invested lots of quality time with cuddles, laughter, playing, reading books, etc. Even when she didn’t seem very interested, he took the initiative to show his love to her. It was so amazing to see how she changed drastically into this sweet, loving six-year old girl who is the absolute contrary to the independent and individualistic person, I assumed she was.

As you can see, there are no exact ways to repair the stage of the child.
But with that gained knowledge, you might realize where something went missing and find the ways to deal with it.
Don’t be hard on yourself!

It is not too late.
Children are very willing to forgive and to start all over with that connection, that bonding process.

Here are some steps that might help you to get into the process:

  • If you are a Christian, remember you have a God that is not time-limited. You can always pray over your child. Pray in Jesus name that God will come and bring healing into the missing parts. He will do it. There are so many stories how God changed one reality into a new reality – sometimes over night. We have experienced it ourselves.
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  • If your child is old enough, talk to him/her about it. Share your heart, that you want the very best for the child. Listen to your child. Take it serious…. Whatever the maturity level of that conversation might be. Remember, it is all about understanding where your child is in its maturity and finding a way to help it grow and mature.
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  • Spend time with your child. Show your love and affection. Get to know your child. A parent once said: What you can’t understand – you can’t stand. I think there is much truth in it.
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  • Try to figure out if your child is at the maturity stage it should be, regarding this six stages of attachment. If it is not, find out where the development process stopped and start all over again. This can look very differently, depending on the stage and your child. Be creative. You are the parent. You are capable of changing the story if it needs to be changed.

 

As I invested time and effort to get deeper into that subject of the six stages of attachment, reading, observing, thinking, praying… There were many things I realized concerning my own children. It helped me to understand my children better, to be a mom that is more aware and capable of discerning what is going on. I hope I was able to share with you this understanding in a way that you can apply it to your life, your family. Parenting strongly attached children is a beautiful and rewarding journey of motherhood.

 

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