This week we will take the first 2 core strengths for healthy brain development which are attachment and self-regulation.
Attachment is the capacity to form and maintain healthy emotional bonds with another person. It begins in infancy, as a child interacts with a loving, responsive and attentive caregiver.
It is important because this strength is the cornerstone of all the others. A childs interactions with the primary caregiver create their first relationship. Healthy attachments allow a child to love, to become a good friend, and to have a positive model for future relationships. As a child grows, other consistent and nurturing adults such as teachers, family friends, and relatives will shape his or her ability for attachment. The attached child will be a better friend, student, and classmate, which promotes all kinds of learning.
Signs of struggle: A child who has difficulty with this has a hard time making friends and trusting adults. They may show little empathy for others and may act in what seems to be ways that show no regret. Children unable to attach lack the emotional anchors needed to buffer the violence they see. They may self-isolate, act out, reject anothers friendliness because they distrust it, or socially withdraw.
What can we do to help? Dr. Bruce Perry suggests the following:
- Model good social language, eye contact, smiling, listening and positive-affirming touch
- Use gentle humor and be aware of your body language so that children see that you are relaxed and accessible
- Avoid sarcastic humor and be aware that many times children are their own harshest critics
Self-regulation is the ability to notice and control primary urges such as hunger and sleep, as well as feelings such as frustration, anger, and fear. Developing and maintaining this strength is a lifelong process. Its roots begin with external regulation from a caring parent, and its healthy growth depends on a child’s experience and the development of the brain.
It is important because we all need to take a moment between an impulse and an action. Acquiring this strength helps a child physiologically and emotionally. But it is a strength that must be learned–we are not born with it.
Signs of struggle: When a child does not develop the capacity to self-regulate, they will have problems sustaining friendships, and in learning and controlling their behavior. The child may blurt out a thoughtless and hurtful remark, express hurt or anger with a shove or by knocking down another child’s work. Just seeing a violent act may set them off. Children who struggle with self-regulation are more reactive, immature, impressionable, and more easily overwhelmed by threats and violence.
What can we do to help? Dr. Perry suggests the following:
- In your words and actions, model self-control
- Step in quickly and stop any hurtful action or language you hear.
- Praise your child’s thoughtful actions, remarks, reactions and problem-solving skills.
For the next blog we will take the next 2 core strengths which are affiliation and attunement. If you would like to read more about The Child Trauma Academy please click on the link.