Before we dive into security needs in young children, let’s try to understand a little about what security means and looks like.
Six-year-old Tanishka is a playful and curious child. She is out in the park with her mother to ride her bicycle. As she is all ready to set off on her riding adventure, Tanishka briefly looks at her mother, the two make eye contact and Tanishka’s off riding. What happened in that moment (hardly a millisecond) could be easily missed by another person. This was precisely a moment where Tanishka was asking for support in her new adventure from her mother. ‘Is it okay to go by myself?’, ‘Are you watching me?’, ‘Will I be safe?’ are all sorts of questions little Tanishka asked her mother in that moment.Here, the mother’s watching her child and making eye contact positively supports the child to set off to explore.
Children and parents are hardwired for attachment. Security simply means that the child feels safe to explore and seek comfort in any given moment. Parent’s role as primary caregivers is crucial to forming security in children. According to Circle of Security©, our children need support from us to explore their world and when the exploration overwhelms them, when they feel fear, sadness or are simply tired they seek comfort.
Our relaxed presence, positive body language, facial expressions, eye contact and tone of voice will communicate to the child that their going out to explore in the world and coming back to us for comfort are both welcome and equally important.
Being supportive doesn’t necessarily mean giving in. We all experience those particular moments in our parenting journey wherein we need to take charge and set rules. Children need their parents to be strong and at the same time kind to grow into healthy adults. Weak parenting may lead a child to feel confused and in some cases aggressive. Very strict parenting will prevent the parent-child relationship to bloom into a secure one. In both these styles, a child will find it hard to feel safe and this lack of safety will manifest in a range of behaviours in and outside home.
Circle of Security© outlines a very effective way of being with our children; Always be Bigger, Stronger, Wiser and Kind. In any given situation, can we as parents be Bigger, Stronger, Wiser and Kind at the same time? It can be very helpful to reflect on the way we parent our children. Is it easier for me to be Bigger and Stronger but somewhere the Wiser and Kind me gets lost? This can lead to mean parenting. Or am I a Kind parent but find it hard to be Bigger and Stronger in the process? This can lead to weak parenting. Keeping the Bigger, Stronger, Wiser and Kind in mind will lead the parent-child relationship to security. Parents will feel in charge in a healthy way and children will feel safe. This will come with practice and once we, consciously implement this way of being with our children it will naturally become our parenting style.
Every child deserves to feel safe. Every parent has positive intentionality for their child/children. It is this positive intentionality that leads us parents to seek the best for our children. How we were brought up by our parents plays a vital role in our parenting. Our compassionate, gentle parenting communicates to our children that they are important and loved. Positive, loving interaction between parents and children become children’s inner voice. This inner voice will help our children developmentally, intellectually as well as emotionally. Emotionally resilient children become responsible, empathetic adults. Our positive parenting will not only lead to the child feeling safe, secure and happy but these feelings of safety and happiness will be reflected in the parents too. Happy parents lead to happy children and in turn a happy and resilient society.
Having talked about balanced parenting, ruptures are inevitable in any relationship. At times, we might snap at our child or ignore him/her when s/he is seeking connection or support for exploration. As long as rupture is followed by repair; it is not only OK, the benefits are huge. In these moments we may apologize to our child and talk about how we are feeling and mend the rupture by re-connecting. Modelling rupture and repair promotes development of a reflective self within a child which paves way for good relationships throughout life.
Remember it is just as important to be kind and gentle to yourself as to your child. Practicing self-compassion and self-love can go a long way in our parenting journey.
Psychotherapist & Educator