The Importance Of Stability For Children And How To Nurture It
Reflect for a moment on how you feel when your life gets chaotic. You probably don’t behave your best, and your emotions send you on a seesaw ride.
If uncertainty takes you off your A-game, consider what it does to your kids. They don’t have the coping skills of adults, and they look to us to provide a predictable existence. You can’t overstate the importance of stability for children — here are six ways to nurture it.
Why a stable childhood matters
According to psychologists, people develop one of four primary attachment styles with their caregivers starting in infancy. Children raised in stable environments often develop a secure attachment style, which benefits them in adult life. They can form intimate relationships with other people while maintaining appropriate boundaries and a sense of unique identity. Multiple factors contribute to stability for children, with parent temperament playing the leading role. However, other influences can leave young people on shaky ground. For example, decades of wage stagnation coupled with soaring housing and health care costs have left many parents facing tremendous financial insecurities. Already, many people opt not to have children at all due to cost.
Children raised in unstable environments often develop one of the three insecure attachment styles:
- Avoidant: People with an avoidant attachment style have trouble reaching out in times of need and may seem to shun others. However, behind their aloof facade dwells significant insecurity. When someone’s earliest attempts to meet their needs result in rejection from their primary caregivers, they can’t understand why anyone else would want to help. Parents with this style might rely too much on technology to educate their kids.
- Ambivalent: People with this attachment style tend to cling to others. They may become helicopter parents or stifle intimate relationships by demanding their partner account for every moment they are not in their presence.
- Disorganized: People with a disorganized attachment style often suffered severe childhood trauma. While some psychologists consider this style a blend of avoidant and ambivalent, others believe these individuals lack coping mechanisms for dealing with the world.
People with insecure attachment styles often face ongoing problems in their personal lives and even careers due to their inability to interact positively and professionally with others. For example, someone with an avoidant style might resist asking necessary questions at work, leading to errors. Conversely, someone with an ambivalent pattern might hesitate to take professional risks, driving their supervisor crazy with requests to check every detail.
Nurturing secure attachment and stability for children
What can you do as a parent to nurture stability for your children? The following six tips can help you raise kids with secure attachment styles.
Are you the kind of parent who responds to your child’s boo-boo with a demand to “toughen up” or “take it like a big boy/girl?” If so, consider the effect those words have on your children. Such pronouncements teach them that they should hide negative feelings instead of processing them. You can be supportive without coddling your little one. It’s OK to say, “Wow, that knee is really bleeding. It must hurt, but we’ll fix you right up. You’ll forget how bad it feels in no time.”
2. Maintain consistent routines
One way to create stability for your children is to make it easy for them to predict what happens next on any given day. Establish routines for everything from getting out of bed in the morning to winding down at night. They’ll also go along with things like nap time more readily if they occur at the same time each day.
3. Be honest
Your children will understand if you don’t have the money to take them to Disneyland. However, they might struggle more with a promise to go that you never fulfill. Don’t shield your children from the realities of life with lies — doing so only teaches them they can’t trust anyone to tell them the truth. You don’t have to sit them down with your budget, but you should be honest about your circumstances and remind them that any hardships are not their fault.
4. Identify feelings
Emotions spur behavior, but it’s challenging for your kids to understand — and manage — why they act the way they do when they don’t have words to share how they feel. Believe it or not, humans aren’t born with an innate comprehension of expressing frustration or sadness appropriately. They require adult guidance. Teach your children how to identify their feelings to start. You might use a chart of faces to explore concepts like “irritable” and “anxious.”
5. Model appropriate behavior
It isn’t enough for your child to identify their feelings — they also need appropriate coping strategies. Model ways to process your emotions through practices like yoga, dance and meditation. If you attend therapy, let your little one know it’s an acceptable way to manage your mental health in a challenging world.
6. Prioritize your children
You are your child’s entire world when they are young. Parenthood comes with the responsibility to practice the golden rule when dealing with your little ones. Therefore, think about how upset you would feel if the most important person in your life told you they would attend your soccer game — then failed to show. Prioritize your children — after all, you can never get these precious years back.
Nurture stability for children with these suggestions
Nurturing stability for children is important because it impacts their attachment style. This pattern, in turn, has significant consequences for their lives. Help your little one feel more secure with these tips.
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