A Sense of Security

PIP A Sense of Security

Young children can cope with minor stresses and anxieties if they feel secure in their relationship with their carer, as Anne O’Connor explains…

Leila and mum are together at home. Mum bangs her foot and Leila responds by calling her a ‘silly mummy’ when she sees that mum is OK. They both laugh together about it.

When a young child is securely attached, they can begin to appreciate that their caregivers can have feelings and needs of their own. As Leila is quickly reassured that mum is OK, she is able to respond in an affectionate, jokey way that is appropriate to the situation and which she will have experienced herself in other contexts.

Then Leila wants mum to read her a book. But mum insists that they tidy up first. Leila is able to accept this and begins to tidy up. She is secure enough to be able to accept that sometimes what she wants has to be negotiated and deferred for a while. There is evidence in this sequence of the real partnership that can begin to develop when secure attachment is established.

1 Leila is a good example of a child who has a secure attachment to her caregiver.

This happens when a child has a safe, affectionate and predictable emotional bond with their attachment figures. The special features of these relationships, whether primary or secondary, are sensitivity, affection and responsiveness.

Secure attachments provide a safe base for a child, reducing fearfulness and stress while building confidence and self-esteem. Leila has learned, through countless positive experiences, that her mother can be relied upon to meet her needs.

Very importantly, this secure feeling has also helped her to develop effective ‘stress regulation’ which means she doesn’t need to overreact to small stresses, such as not getting what she wants and having to tidy up first.

When a child doesn’t have enough of these positive experiences, they will have been overloaded with stress chemicals and the alarm systems in their lower brain will be overactive. This means they are likely to overreact to minor stressors and not be able to regulate easily, in the way Leila does…

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Article written by Anne O’Connor and published in Nursery World © www.nurseryworld.co.uk

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