What happens to young children who experience secure attachments?
Young children who experience secure attachments:
- Trust their needs will be met by adults
- Trust that adults will be emotionally available to them
- Learn to communicate in a variety of ways
- Begin to manage their strong emotions with help from adults
- Are more affectionate with peers
- Can focus on learning
- Demonstrate more empathy for others
We know that when young children experience secure attachments, they will trust. Trust is important. In fact, when I first start teaching a child or teaching in a classroom, I truly emphasize the importance of trust, that children will be able to trust us and trust that adults will be emotionally available for them. A friend of mine grew up with a mom who had bipolar disorder and her mom could not always be there emotionally for her. There were times her mom would be in a manic phase and be so depressed that she just withdrew to the bedroom. My friend as a five-year-old would then have to take care of her three-year-old brother because mom wasn't available to them. You can imagine what it’s like when a five-year-old and a three-year-old come to kindergarten or come to preschool and the primary adult in their life hasn't always been emotionally available to them.
Children learn to communicate in a variety of ways, including verbally and with their eyes. We know that as adults, 85% of what we communicate is nonverbal; the nods, the smiles, the hand movements. That's a high percentage of communication that is nonverbal rather than verbal.
Young children who have secure attachments learn to manage their emotions with help from adults. They're more affectionate with their peers and they show empathy. It's amazing to see a 12-month old cry and another 12-month old look over with a very worried face. They learn that level of empathy if they're in a secure environment and have secure attachments. Then they can focus on other learning, such as motor learning, fine motor learning, learning to read, learning to write, and art. Then as I said, they learn to demonstrate empathy for others.
This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Supporting Young Children's Social-Emotional Literacy - Part 1, by Pamelazita Buschbacher, EdD, CCC-SLP.