top of page
  • Rebecca Parks, MA, LMFT Associate

Attachment In Parenting

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

By Rebecca Parks, MA, LMFT Associate

Supervised by Cristy Ragland, MA, LPC-S, LMFT-S, RPT-S™

(If you haven’t already read our last blog post on Adult Attachment styles from June, make sure to go here and catch up on the basics of Attachment Theory!)

“Attachment” can be a scary word for parents. Many, if not all, parents who know about attachment theory feel worried or afraid of their child forming an insecure attachment style. They may fear that any little parenting mistake will ruin their children forever! Understandably, we want our children to form the most secure attachment with us possible, setting them up for healthy and thriving relationships in adulthood. But many parents may feel at a loss at how to “win” at the elusive attachment game.

While we want to be cognizant as parents of implementing strategies that will provide the best possible chance for developing secure attachment, we cannot live in fear or insecurity in our relationships with our children. This is a sure path to projecting onto our children and heading down roads we don’t want to be on. To combat this anxiety and fear, it is important to keep in mind several factors about attachment theory and ourselves in our parenting:

1. Research

The truth is, secure attachment may not be as elusive as it feels. Research suggests that between 50-60% of the Western population is classified as having a secure attachment style. That’s a pretty large percentage of the population! Additionally, major traumatic events in childhood, especially within the parent-child relationship, are greater indicators for avoidant and anxious attachment styles. While we want to be mindful of attachment injuries, lack of trauma is a promising indicator of secure attachment developing.

2. Temperament

If you have multiple children, you may have noticed that they each came hardwired with their own way of dealing with their emotions. Temperament cannot be underestimated in how it affects attachment style. Each child is unique and has specific needs for comfort, processing, and coping. These unique qualities mean their relationships with others are, also, completely unique. Their attachment style will be greatly influenced by their temperament, as well as by your parenting.

3. Spectrum

No one is truly perfectly secure because no human parent is perfect. Many therapists and other psychological professionals prefer to see attachment styles along a spectrum, rather than categories. In this view, many people may, generally, fall into the range of secure attachment style but “lean” avoidant or anxious, due to natural temperament and experiences and how they naturally cope with their emotions.

4. Rupture & Repair

What matters more than the statistics are the two components that make up the foundation of attachment relationships: rupture and repair. Rupture occurs when there is a “break” in parent-child relationship, including when parent uses dismissive or angry nonverbal cues, says hurtful words, misses the child’s need, or shuts the child out. In parenting, we experience these moments on a daily basis. Intentional or unintentional ruptures are inevitable in relationship with children. What then do we do? The answer is repair. Repair is the magic word of attachment! Using really good repair skills at every rupture helps create the building blocks to secure attachment.

5. Self-Compassion

We will struggle to form a truly secure attachment with our children if we do not, first, deal with our relationship to ourselves. As stated above, ruptures are inevitable. You will make mistakes in parenting. A parent’s ability to forgive themselves and move forward with self-compassion and strong repair skills sets a beautiful stage for children to know they are secure and know mistakes do not define them, either. Additionally, children are receptive to the nonverbal and emotional cues of their parents. Parents’ anxiety or hopelessness is felt within the child, too, through neuroception. The way parents deal with themselves gives a model to children for how to deal with their own big feelings.

How can these factors help parents with work toward secure attachment with their children?

First, focus your energy on 1) comfort-giving and 2) repair skills.

All parenting advice and strategies can be summed up into these two foundational blocks to attachment. Do you need some support with providing comfort and empathy when your child is struggling? Or is facilitating repair with your child an area you need help with? Identify where you may be lacking and ask a spouse, friend, therapist or other community members for insight.

Second, look outward at your child’s unique temperament to know how to meet their unique needs.

The ability for a parent to tailor their comfort-giving and repair skills to the temperament of their child is extremely validating and helps the child feel deeply known. Is your child more introverted or extroverted? Do they feel their emotions loudly or quietly? Do they get comfort from physical touch or alone time? These types of questions will provide a guide for how to navigate your uniquely made child.

Third, don’t underestimate the value of caring for yourself, too.

Children are incredibly intuitive; they pick up on the ways parents treat themselves internally. Identify where in your life you need greater self-compassion, more self-forgiveness, or deepened vulnerability and connection with others. Growing these parts of self will only enhance your relationship with your child.



bottom of page