Attachment Parenting Skills

What is attachment?

Attachment is the connection between two individuals within any relationship. Typically, an infant’s early attachment experiences with parents form healthy emotional and physical relationships as an adult. Therefore, building healthy attachment with your children is so important as it sets them up for the quality of their relationships for the rest of their lives. The following are some ways to build connection with your children at the various stages of development.

Infants & Babies (0-12 months)

Developmental Stage

  • Fully dependent on caregivers.
  • Trying to understand their world.
  • Do not understand that they are separate from their caregivers.

How to build connection

  • Respond to their cues. An infant will communicate with you by crying for the various things they need – food, sleep, cuddling, changing.
  • Talk to them. Your voice is familiar and soothing to them. Spend your day chatting with them.
  • Make eye contact. Your baby loves to stare at your face.
  • Look for cues to their emotional/physical needs and respond to them.
    • Eye rubbing = tired. Chewing fingers = hungry or teething.
Toddler (1-4 years)

Developmental Stage

  • Realizing that they are individuals.
  • Trying to find their own place in the world.
  • Understanding reactions – both from people and objects.
  • Egocentric – unable to understand life beyond themselves.
  • Will become easily frustrated when trying to communicate.

How to build connection

  • Be consistent. They need to know that their world is stable.
  • Give them words for their feelings. Big feelings are overwhelming for little bodies.
  • Give lots of cuddles & kind words. You are teaching them how to interact with others.
  • Sit on the ground and engage in activities.
  • For older toddlers, make crafts, play at the playground, be silly.
  • Read books – take them on your lap and read. This builds both physical connection and cognitive development.
  • Offer them choices to help them feel successful and in control (“Do you want the blue shirt or the red shirt?)
  • Create a bedtime routine and stick with it. Bath, pajamas, teeth, story and song.


Elementary Years (5-10 years)

Developmental Stage

  • Believe rules are flexible.
  • Feel that they are “grown up” and know it all.
  • Longer attention spans, can communicate effectively.
  • Understand and enjoy humor.

How to build connection


Middle School (10-12 years)

Developmental Stage:

  • Friends become more important than family.
  • Will push against rules & directions.
  • Promises will become important. Be careful of what you agree too.

How to build connection:

Adolescence (13-19 years)

Developmental Stage

  • Peers are the primary social necessity.
  • Become emotionally distant.
  • Experiment with their image, identity and the way they are in the world.
  • May become sexually active.
  • Have emotional outbursts at you and at themselves.
  • Change in their sleep cycle.

How to build connection

  • There have been years to talk to them, it is now time to listen. Practice paraphrasing, empathy and open questions.
  • Drive them where they want to go. When individuals are within close proximity they tend to talk. Transportation makes the perfect opportunity where it is quiet, undistracted and neither of you are able to leave.
  • Communicate that you trust them. You have had years to teach them, now it is time to trust them and yourself.

If you find you are struggling to create attachment with your children or if you feel stuck in any aspect of parenting, please seek support. Talk to other parents, go to a support group or reach out to a counsellor.

Our parenting is often shaped by how we were parented in both the good and the bad. If you realize that your anger is becoming an issue, get a counsellor for anger management. Historical trauma may be causing triggering, seek trauma counselling. Postpartum depression or anxiety can create a mental block, seek counselling support.

Parenting is hard. We cannot do it alone. Seek support when needed.

About the Author
Laura Abraham

Laura Abraham

Counsellor with ThriveLife Counselling & Wellness. Find out more about her counselling work here.

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