What is a “Secure Base” ?
Developing a secure base in a family is as important as building a solid foundation for a house. You may have nice art on the walls and a fancy exterior but without a solid base, the house will be unstable. John Bowlby, a pioneer of Attachment Theory, defined a “secure base” as:
The sense of well-being that emerges from predictable and repeated experiences of care. This internal mode of security enables children to develop well and explore the world around them.
Daniel Siegel states “How we come to talk to ourselves is shaped by how others have talked to us.” (p. 97 Parenting from the Inside-Out)
This is a very powerful statement. If you are feeling frustrated or angry with your child, it’s essential to BREATHE and walk away without letting discouraging comments fly off the tip of one’s tongue. Telling a child that you can’t stand him/her or that he/she is useless or bad will only create these negative messages of self-belief inside a child’s mind. Quite often such knee-jerk reactions or comments come from our own unconscious or unresolved issues. Maybe we felt helpless and powerless as a child and therefore to see our own child appear this way, feels uncomfortable and unacceptable. Remember to breathe and walk away when it feels as though you might “flip your lid” and reflect on why you’re not able to join with your child at this moment.
The Importance of Feeling Understood
We have come a long way from the belief that “children should be seen but not heard”. We now know that the more “heard” and understood a child feels, the stronger the parent-child connection and the more secure a child feels. It is through our sharing of emotions with one another that we deepen our relationships. We need to develop a flexible mind that can understand one’s own mind as well as the minds of others. By listening to our children and hearing their experiences we can develop an understanding of their minds. When children experience the joining that occurs from an emotionally-attuned adult, they feel good about themselves because their emotions have been accepted and validated. This is the case for positive emotions and negative emotions. When a child feels happy and a parent shares in his/her joy, this magnifies the child’s feeling of happiness. When a child feels disappointed or sad and a parent offers an empathic response (through words and/or hugs) the child feels soothed and the hurting feelings subside. This connected feeling acknowledges to the child that he/she exists within the mind of the parent.
Parents help regulate their children’s internal states and bring meaning to experience….When our internal experience keeps us from connecting with our children, their experience of our intense emotion may trigger the arousal of a defensive emotional state in them. Therefore, this is no longer a collaborative relationship, now each person is in his/her internal world – alone and isolated. Children may express this discomfort of feeling disconnected by withdrawing and being aggressive.
~ Daniel Siegel
Daniel Siegel created the term Mindsight: “The ability to perceive one’s own mind and that of others”. Communication is both verbal and non-verbal. The goal is to communicate and blend both minds, which validates our own experience as well as our child’s experience. If parents understand their own mind and experience, but not their child’s they will have difficulty developing a close and trusting relationship with their child. Moreover, parents who only consider their child’s perspective and experience, while dismissing their own thoughts and feelings, will have difficulty setting boundaries. This will lead to anger, exhaustion and children who feel insecure.
Our sense of “I” is profoundly influenced by how we belong to a “we”.
~ D. Siegel
One way to create this secure base is through our relationships and through a sense of order in the home. Family meetings are a wonderful tool for creating a metaphorical base and developing mindsight as everyone shares his/her point of view. As the family gathers around the table, lights some candles, shares some appreciating comments and plans for some upcoming events, all members feel counted and connected. There is a sense of order, collaboration and commitment to being a united family. If you’ve never tried a family meeting, it’s never too late to start and it’s really worth giving it a try!
Have a wonderful week,
Ps. I am running 6 week groups for children (one hour/week), to teach them anxiety management strategies, through brain science, art, stories and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Names are currently being taken for the next round of groups. For more information please call ABLE Developmental Clinic: 604-922-3450 or see the flyer for more info: Anxious Child?
Pps. Our next Connected Parenting session will discuss “Understanding Your Child’s Code through the 9 Traits of Temperament”. The dates will be Thursday May 24th 9:30am-11:00am and Monday May 28th 7:30pm-9:00pm. This is very useful material for gaining a deeper understanding of yourself, all your family members, friends, co-workers etc. See Connected Parenting Series for more information or call the ABLE Clinic at 604-922-3450.
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