Remember when your kid was little and never left your side? Ah, the good old days. Now she has a mind and personality all of her own and isn’t afraid to show it (cue the cries of “I hate you!” or running away from you in the playground). But she still loves you…right? Of course she does. Here, eight signs that your child is securely attached.
8 Signs Your Child Is Really Connected to You
1. They’re happy to see you
“While children with a healthy attachment to their caregiver can cope with brief separations, they’re visibly delighted once reunited because they feel genuine joy, comfort and safety in your presence,” says Dr. Elanna Yalow,Chief Academic Officer at KinderCare & Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. So that big grin and bear hug your 5-year-old gives you at school pick-up? Yeah, that’s a good sign.
2. They turn towards your voice
Yep, you can tell when parent and child share a strong bond even from the infant years. The bonding process starts in utero, says speech therapist and child expert Michelle Mintz, M.S., CCC-SLP, noting that babies learn to identify people’s voices that they hear often in the womb. “Then, by the time your infant is born, they will recognize your voice, and you may notice your baby turn its head towards your voice,” says Mintz. “That is your first bonding moment and how you will know your baby is already connected to you.”
3. They explore their surroundings…while checking in with you
“Toddlers and preschoolers can show signs of a secure attachment when you see they're willing to explore and move away from you...but they still look periodically to make sure they know where you are (and may become very distressed if they lose you),” shares Kristene Geering, parenting coach and content director at ParentLab. Let’s say your kid is in a new playground, for example, and toddles off to explore the toys or equipment. They may engage with their new environment quite happily for a few minutes before looking up to check that you’re still nearby or asking you to come see what they’re doing. “They've learned that you will watch over them and keep them safe, and that you'll be there to help if anything goes wrong,” adds Geering.
4. They show you their emotions
Your kid’s teachers rave about how kind, sweet and mild-mannered your little monster is and you can’t help but wonder, are we talking about the same child? Because at home, he’s a whirlwind of emotions. “While it’s not always easy to help your child navigate big feelings like anger, sadness or frustration, the fact that they feel safe enough to be honest and vulnerable with you about how they’re feeling is a sign that they trust you to understand and support them,” Dr. Yalow tells us. In other words, if it sometimes feels like your child is saving all their big and tough feelings just for you, it may be frustrating, but it’s actually a good thing.
5. They want to show you things
It takes superhuman strength to show interest in your child jumping over a rock for the hundredth time, but it’s yet another good sign that she feels really connected to you. “When your child is playing and is proud of what they have done, such as building a tower or painting a picture, and they look at you to get eye contact, share that moment and engage together in that feeling of pride; that child is feeling very connected and attached,” explains Mintz.
6. As babies, they cry when separated from you
Another example of secure attachment from the early days is if your baby gets visibly upset when they are apart from you. “When you return, though, you're able to calm them fairly quickly,” says Geering. “This seems counterintuitive to a lot of parents, that crying is a good thing, but in this case it truly is. This means that your child sees you as someone who can keep them safe and able to soothe them when they're in distress.” And this behavior continues into the toddler and preschool years when if they can't find you, (like if they lose sight of you in a crowd, for example) they become upset but then calm quickly once you’re reunited.
7. They ask for your help
“Children are naturally curious but seeking out your help or guidance in a situation is a sign that your little one values your insight and trusts you to help them learn,” says Dr. Yalow. So the next time your kid asks for your help with their geometry homework, try to see it as a good thing.
8. Your teen comes to you with their problems
“The adolescent years are usually associated with your child moving away from you, and with peers having a very strong influence on behaviors,” explains Geering. And while it can be strange to see your teen hang out with new friends or pick up a new hobby, adolescents with secure attachments are more likely to branch out and try new things (much like preschoolers). “But when they encounter problems, they feel comfortable turning to you to share their feelings and (maybe) seek advice,” says Geering. And that’s a sign that even as they’re drifting further away from you, you’re still strongly connected to one another. “It's difficult to balance how much ‘help’ to give during this time, but a good rule to keep in mind is that your role as comforter hasn't changed. You can't fix everything, nor should you try. But you can be a safe haven, one to which your child will return and depart again and again as needed,” she adds.