As a parent, you want the very best for your children. But, have you ever wondered whether you’re helping your child develop a healthy attachment style?
Does your child become extremely upset when a parent or caregiver leaves?
Is your child exploring less than other children their age?
Does your child struggle in regulating their emotions?
These are just a couple of signs your child may be developing an anxious attachment style. People don’t usually talk about attachment styles, yet they affect your child well into adulthood.
Attachment styles are the foundation of how children develop relationships with the surrounding world.
When a child develops an anxious attachment style, they’re more likely to progress into other problematic styles as well, like disorganized, and avoidant. They’ll become adults facing:
I’ve seen this time and time again in my practice. That’s why we’re talking about anxious attachment styles in children – so together, we can stop the cycle before it begins. My clients have proven attachment styles can be changed with dedication and work.
What Are the Four Attachment Styles?
An attachment style is formed at the beginning of a child’s life between the ages of 0-3 (up to 7) years old – it’s how they relate to other people. It’s established based on how the child’s parents or caregivers meet their needs.1 Here’s a quick rundown on the four attachment styles:
Secure. Children with this attachment style feel seen, safe, secure, and soothed by their caregivers. They know their parent will be there whenever they need them.
Anxious. Children with this attachment style feel confused by the imbalance of emotional connection. They feel like they’re walking on eggshells and can’t rely on their parent or others for connection, attunement, and regulation.
Avoidant. Children with this attachment style feel ignored and dismissed emotionally every day. They struggle to connect with others and don’t feel safe or seen.
Disorganized. Children with this attachment style feel ignored and fearful of their caregiver and the world. They feel helpless and think people are unreliable.
Though not always, research shows these attachment styles can be passed through generations.2 By developing your own attachment style as a child, your caregiver’s form of parenting became an internal working model. This means your parent’s attachment style may influence your parenting style.
It’s essential to understand your attachment style to discover if your child is possibly forming the same style.
How Does an Anxious Attachment Style Form in Children?
An anxious attachment style is caused by unpredictability from the child’s parent.
Inconsistency in how a caregiver responds to their child’s emotional or physical needs leaves them confused. For example, if the baby cries, the caregiver will often pick them up and soothe them by feeding, burping, or holding them. At other times, they may feel overwhelmed with their own emotions and decide to let the baby cry it out alone.
These inconsistencies leave the child unsure about their caregiver and whether they will always be there for them when needed. And regardless of the caregiver’s inconsistencies, the child will crave affection from their attachment figure and want them to meet their emotional needs. 3
By having unpredictable caregivers, the child will feel like:
They’re living on the edge – preparing for the next ball to drop
They can’t count on their parent for help regulating their emotions
They’re insecure about their family and feeling safe in the world
If a child can’t count on their parent, they’ll have trouble trusting anyone, including themselves.
An anxious child will most likely have an anxious parent who’s distracted by their unresolved and imbalanced emotions. The parent’s emotions and insecurities can overwhelm their child. They’re not able to soothe or regulate their own emotions, let alone their child’s feelings.
Still, the parent tries their best to be there for the child and meet their emotional and physical needs at times. But, by not meeting their needs consistently, they unknowingly create a confusing world for the child.
If you’re a parent resonating with this, don’t feel bad. Just by being here and reading this, you’ve taken the first step to creating a healthier relationship for yourself and your child. That alone is commendable.
Stick with me to learn what signs children with anxious attachment style present, how it affects them, and how to foster a secure attachment style.
What Are the Signs of an Anxious Attachment Style in a Child?
It can be challenging to figure out whether your child displays signs of an anxious attachment style – especially if their actions are inconsistent.
A child that’s developed an anxious attachment style might become extremely anxious when isolated from their attachment figure. They will also most likely be challenging to console even after their parent has returned.
Here are some more common signs your child is developing an anxious attachment style:
They’re less likely to explore new things compared to other kids their age
They cling onto their attachment figure trying to 'seek approval'
They don’t interact well or at all with strangers
They don’t connect well with kids their age
They have issues regulating their emotions, especially negative ones
They normally look anxious
They may display aggressive behavior
When a child feels insecure with their attachment figure yet desperately wants their affection, they feel unsure of themselves and their emotions. This results in the child not knowing how to make firm choices – especially as they grow.
A child with an anxious attachment style may “up-regulate” their actions when separated from their attachment figure.3 “Up-regulating” is when a child feels angry or distressed and throws tantrums to reunite with their attachment figure. When their parent returns, they may still be inconsolable because they’re unsure if they can trust their parent. Yet even in these cases, the child might still cling to their parent for a feeling of safety.
How Does Having an Anxious Attachment Style Affect a Child?
An anxious attachment style can make a child present extreme attention-seeking behaviors from adults. They’ll focus more on getting attention from adults than connecting with their peers and forming bonds. By feeling unsure of their family, the world, and themselves, they seek approval and affection to feel seen and heard. According to my clients, their anxiety grows as they get older.
The child’s ability to comprehend and perform tasks effectively can be compromised by their anxious attachment style. With their primary focus on grasping and maintaining an adult’s attention, the child may:
Not understand the task at hand
Struggle to perform the task successfully
Find it difficult to focus
Ask numerous questions frequently
Sometimes children with this attachment style are misdiagnosed for ADHD as these behaviors are disruptive and show signs of hyperactivity and a struggle to focus.3 In reality, these children are simply looking for attention – even negative attention.
They feel increased amounts of anxiety with no knowledge of how to regulate emotion. Their level of anxiety hinders their ability to focus on their tasks.
Don’t feel discouraged if you realize this may be your child. While their anxious attachment style has formed as a result of how you treat your child, it was unintentional. And that’s okay. Often, attachment styles are formed before the parent or child can realize what’s happening.
Attachment styles can be changed. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t make mistakes. The important part is learning from them and creating the change you and those around you deserve.
Helping Your Child Develop a Secure Attachment Style.
No parent is perfect, though we try our hardest to be. You’re trying to steer this parenting thing carefully without smothering or spoiling your children but still loving them and wanting to make them happy. But how do you know when it’s too much?
A child’s basic fundamental needs are food, water, shelter, and love. Love is programmed by making sure your child feels secure, safe, seen, and soothed. To achieve this, you must establish a secure attachment style with your child.
In a secure attachment style, your child will understand you’re not perfect – but you’re always there for them when they need you. Here are some tips for creating a secure attachment:
See your child as an individual. You’ll be able to attune to their needs successfully by being more empathetic to their feelings. Your child will feel seen.
Communicate clearly. Your child will feel like they can rely on you and communicate with you directly when they need you. Your child will feel secure.
Be comforting. Children still see the world in terms of “black and white,” which can sometimes cause distress. They need to know their parent can console them warmly. Your child will feel soothed.
Express happiness and pride. By being prideful of who your child is vs. what they do, their confidence will grow. Knowing they’re loved unconditionally, your child will feel loved.
Let them learn. Support and believe in them enough to give them space to learn lessons. Your child will learn to be self-sufficient and develop a sense of self.
Hear them out. Listen to their concerns and figure out what they need. Help them reach that solution. Your child will learn you’re reliable and feel safe.
As long as your child can form a secure attachment with at least one of their parents or caregivers, he or she has a sound chance of becoming a well-adjusted individual. It’s challenging, but you don’t have to go through it alone. My clients have found hope and started their path towards a secure attachment within themselves and others.
Foster Attachment Style Healing.
I’ve helped many high-performing parents overcome their anxiety and self-sabotage to cultivate health, genuine relationships, and success. By healing yourself, you can begin the process of fostering a secure attachment style with your child. I help parents through exclusive personalized services, including:
Hypnotherapy – Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT). With this award-winning therapy, I use various techniques (modern psychology, hypnotherapy, NLP, psychotherapy, counseling, and coaching) to disconnect your underlying subconscious beliefs that may be holding you back. We then replace them with positive patterns to drive positive actions. RTT has a 95% success rate after only 1-3 sessions.
The Emotion Code (Energy Healing). With this energy healing technique, we identify and release trapped emotions (harmful energies from negative past events). These emotions can cause depression, anxiety, and may block you from love, happiness, and connection. By working through this together, we can start the journey to foster a healthy attachment style between yourself and your child.
Mindset Coaching. With this technique, I’ll provide you with actionable tools to help you identify and overcome obstacles in your daily life. Included is a personalized lesson plan and workbook to work through y