6 min read

Building secure relationships with children

- Making babies and children feel safe and secure

Illustration of a mum sitting together happily with her daughter
  • From birth, significant relationships shape a child’s development

    Babies are totally dependent on their caregivers to meet all their needs. When a baby cries, they’re often asking an adult to come closer. That can be because they need something - feeding, changing, soothing, attention. Or because they don’t feel safe. This is called attachment behaviour and it's an instinctive response.

    Many different animal species display attachment behaviour. It’s a way of older animals protecting younger animals from predators, which helps with survival.

    Every time a caregiver meets a baby’s physical and emotional needs, it strengthens the bond between them. The baby feels safe, secure and soothed. This helps to develop a secure attachment. The baby predicts that caregivers will meet their physical and emotional needs. 

    Children need to have a secure attachment to at least one key adult in their lives

    They need a strong, warm, predictable and reliable connection to feel safe enough to explore the world around them. They need to know that they have someone reliable to return to when they feel scared or anxious.

    Those early experiences of feeling safe and secure influence our behaviour and responses. Right through to adolescence and beyond.  

    Secure attachment relationships help children learn how to trust and rely on others. They have self-confidence and go on to understand and manage their emotions for themselves.

  • Babies are born to instinctively keep their main caregivers close. They often do this by crying - as new parents know only too well!  

    It takes a long time for babies to develop emotionally and physically. And they need secure, loving and reliable attachment relationships to support this development. 

    At birth, some areas of the brain are more well-developed than others. A lot of brain development and shaping takes place in the first five years of life. 

    Relationships play an important role in helping to connect and strengthen pathways between the different parts of a baby’s brain. Meeting the baby’s needs has the potential to strengthen these pathways, and to ensure they are well connected. 

    The first five years of a child’s life are an important time for key attachment relationships. We also know that these relationships continue to be important through to adulthood. Children need a secure base as they grow and develop.

    Top tip: it’s never too late to make safe, secure and reliable relationships a priority

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