Every time I speak on the subject of attachment, there is usually one person in the audience who will ask. ‘Is this a western concept?’ or ‘My mother never told me that she loved me and I am fine’, and I never told my children that I loved them and they are fine.’
Although it is alarming, I have learnt to listen to this comment with patience and understanding. It is usually coming from a place of curiosity and genuine concern. Most would like to learn more so that they can understand and make changes. For others, they fiercely guard their loyalty to parents. Many are afraid of the logjam of emotions that comes from facing truths that they’ve hidden from all their lives.
However, the fact that we would think it is ok not to express love in a verbal or non-verbal way is problematic. We were born with an innate need to experience love, and we cannot intellectualise or argue love away.
The problem with the group that challenges the need for affection is they cannot see that they are giving what they got. By holding to the view that bonding is a hairy fairy concept of the west ensures that another generation of people in your family will grow up not knowing what it feels like to intimately connect with primary caregivers. Lack of bonding ensures that the legacy of hurt continues. Nevertheless, this cycle can change. It changes when someone in that family decides to heal their attachment injuries and make different choices.
Behaviours can mean different things to different people. Notwithstanding, there are some universal elements of love. For example, the parent who is sensitive and attentive to the child’s needs is a parent who is working at creating deep bonds.
It is also true that many aren’t able to do this for a variety of reasons. Additionally, attachment cues might differ from culture to culture. For example, some cultures might be expressive and vocal when playing with or engaging the baby while others might be calm and more reserve. None is right or wrong but what is important is that parents know how to respond to the needs and signals of children and act in a timely way.
Facial expressions can attract a child’s attention and is a good mirror of the parent’s mood. A secure connection is also built through safe touch, kindness, love and acceptance. Relationships that reflect these are safe and can give a sense of belonging.
Childs behaviour is organised around a parent’s availability of unavailability. It is likely that the people who question the need to learn how to say I love you or show it in a way that the child can understand comes from the environment where there was emotional unavailability.
For those who still believe it is a western concept when did you first figure out that you were loved? What were the signs that led you to make that conclusion? When do you think your children will begin to figure out that you working hard was your way of showing, love? Should that replace other expressions of love such as; safe, loving touch, kindness, smiles, soft eyes, and quality time?
If you would like to learn how to begin to develop a secure attachment with children our parenting after trauma course will walk you step by step through this process. View Parenting after Trauma HERE