Month: April 2015

A multi-ethnic group of college students working together at school on an assignment.

What’s Your Relationship Attachment Style?

Relationship attachment style, refers to how you relate to others, particularly to people you are in an intimate relationship with such as a partner, sibling, parent or close friend. We learn attachment as young children through the dynamics of our relationships with primary caregivers. Under the best circumstances, attachment teaches us how to manage and balance our competing needs for autonomy and dependence.
Learning about your relationship attachment style as an adult is useful because attachment influences your emotions and reactions to many life events including loss, abandonment, betrayal, intimacy, friendship, coupling, parenting, and separation. Ultimately, relationship attachment styles learned at a young age wield hefty influence over the health of adult relationships.To find out more about your attachment style, you can click here to complete the quiz.

Secure Attachment: Individuals who utilize a Secure Attachment style most likely had caregivers who provided them with a secure base as they were growing up. Caregivers encouraged them to explore the world while representing a safe place to return to where children could have their needs met such as being fed, cleaned, and given affection and support. As adults, these individuals are able to achieve stable and fulfilling relationships with others based on their ability to successfully balance autonomy with maintaining connection and closeness. They are generally comfortable with intimacy, communicate their feelings, and have little trouble asking for or providing support.

Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment: Those who have learned an Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment style likely had inconsistent caregiving as children. Caregivers may have sometimes provided their child with a sense of warmth, love, and security but failed to do so at other times. Children who grow up with this dynamic never feel that the world is a safe place to navigate alone and tend to cling to others in adult relationships. Fear of abandonment and the possibility that they are unlovable are pervasive concerns for Anxious-Preoccupied individuals and they may invest a substantial amount of their time and energy into keeping their partner close by trying to limit her or his autonomy. Any indication of their partner’s independence from the relationship may be perceived as rejection, thus confirming the Anxious-Preoccupied person’s worst fears about their own potential to be loved and cared for. These individuals may seek out co-dependent or dependent relationships.

Fearful-Avoidant Attachment: As with Anxious-Preoccupied individuals, Fearful-Avoidant individuals have learned attachment strategies in reaction to inconsistent caregiving. Fearful-Avoidant people, however, learn to both crave closeness and fear it. Also known as Insecure-Ambivalent attachment, this style is characterized by conflicted views and anxiety surrounding connection with others. On one hand, these individuals very deeply desire to have a secure, intimate relationship but they have also learned through years of recapitulating dynamics that depending on others can leave them feeling hurt and disappointed. Fearful-Avoidant individuals have not learned any organized strategy for maintaining intimate relationships and may try to bottle up their emotions, even positive ones, to avoid intimacy. They may be prone to changeable moods or explosive bouts of emotional caused by their ambivalence about wanting to express their feelings but also avoiding closeness. The relationships of Fearful-Avoidant individuals are often tumultuous, dramatic ones characterized by exaggerated highs and lows.

Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment: This attachment style is often the result of caregiving characterized by abuse or neglect. Early life experiences may have taught the Dismissive-Avoidant person that total autonomy is the “safest” way to navigate the world because dependence on others is dangerous. As adults, these individuals tend to emotionally distance themselves in relationships and look inward for all of their needs. In relationships they are able to willfully close themselves off and detach quickly from others. They may also choose to socially isolate and avoid situations wherein they would need to depend on others.

You may identify with one or more of these attachment styles. While attachment style learned at a young age tends to carry into adulthood, styles are also characterized by flexibility and adaptation across relationships and over time. Gaining insight into your own attachment style is an important first step to improving your relationships because this enables you to identify what you need to change in order to maintain more stable and fulfilling relationships. Individuals can work towards developing a secure attachment style by challenging themselves to use better strategies in relationships, remaining self-aware, and by seeking out relationships with individuals capable of secure attachment.

A young couple piggybacking their small children while outdoors in the park

Tips for Managing Challenging Behaviors in Young Children

Providing care for a young child is undoubtedly an enriching, rewarding experience but it can also be exhausting and stressful, especially if you have a young child who is difficult to manage. All children have their challenging moments and every parent feels overwhelmed or hopeless at times. Reading the needs of a young person and worrying about how your parenting techniques will impact your child’s coping abilities in the future are weighty responsibilities. Luckily, there are some specific techniques to manage challenging behaviors that both improve behaviors in the present and can become building blocks for healthy behavior as your child grows and develops.

Tantrums: Children often have tantrums when they are unable to express themselves or ask for what they want. As long as the behavior does not pose risk of harm to themself or others, allow your child to have the tantrum in a safe, isolated space. Console and soothe your child when they have calmed down. If your child is able, it can also be helpful to encourage them to identify and talk about their emotions when they appear upset, frustrated, sad, or angry.

Attention-Seeking: Acting out by not listening, whining, or clinging to caregivers are ways that young children have learned to get attention from adults, even if this behavior results in negative attention such as scolding or punishment. Encourage your child to seek positive rather than negative attention by providing them with opportunities to receive praise and affection such as setting the table at mealtime.

Defiance: When children refuse to follow instructions, provide options rather than commands. For example, say calmly to the child, “You can either sit over here or play in your room” rather than “Don’t run around the house.”

Poor Play Skills: If children are aggressive with others or possessive over toys, parents can help improve their play skills by making them accountable for their actions. For instance, when your child resorts to hitting a playmate, explain that they made their friend sad and suggest they get a tissue or a toy for the other child. Reiterate rules about what “nice touches” and “nice words” are and be firm with your child that aggression will not be tolerated.

Difficulty with Transitions: Some children have trouble moving from one activity to the next. During transitions, children may be vulnerable to having meltdowns or enacting other challenging behaviors. Be sure to warn children about the transition multiple times beforehand and walk them through the process. You can say something like, “Now we are playing with our toys, but in 5 minutes we will clean up and then sit down for dinner.” It is also beneficial to include the child in the transition by assigning relevant tasks to ease along the transition.

Unsafe Behavior: Young children may attempt to explore their environment in ways that are dangerous such as climbing on furniture, locking doors, or playing with hazardous objects. Go over safety rules often and explain why certain behaviors are unsafe while emphasizing that you do not want them to get hurt because you love and care about them.

As important as it is to respond purposefully to challenging behavior, it is equally vital to take the time to care for yourself and manage your stress. If you are frequently in a state of heightened reactivity, your children will be able to perceive your stress and it can have a negative impact on their behavior and development. In order to do the best job possible at raising the children in your care it is imperative that you do your best to stay healthy, happy, and well-rested.

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