If there were no children, we wouldn’t be fathers, right? So we can talk all we want about how mothers and fathers work things out, or the roles that fathers want to play, but really it all comes down to the kids. The best way to learn about kids is through experience — spending time with them. Here are a few key ideas that will help you make the most of that time.
Attachment: Feeling Connected
Attachment is a word used to describe the very close bond between parent and child. It mostly means getting to know your child and feeling like you belong together. It doesn’t mean that you feel all warm and fuzzy about your child all the time, but that you have a strong feeling of connection that keeps coming back no matter what happens. It also means that your child knows she can depend on you to provide comfort when she needs it.
Why are psychiatrists so interested in attachment? Babies are helpless little creatures. If they’re not well looked after, they won’t thrive. A good attachment increases the chance that an adult will do whatever it takes to care for and love a child. It also helps a baby learn to trust people and builds the basis for loving relationships in the future.
When people first started talking about attachment they only talked about mothers, because we all thought that looking after babies was something women did. But we now know that, given the chance, fathers and their kids develop a strong attachment too. How do you make that connection? By being with your kids — holding them, talking to them, playing with them and laughing together. The more time you spend looking after your children – handling their daily routines, comforting them, and responding to their needs and feelings – the better you will be able to understand and connect with them. That builds the foundation for a strong attachment.
With attachment we usually talk about babies, because that’s where it begins. But it doesn’t end there. Although life with older kids is different, attachment is still important and it’s built the same way: by looking after them, responding to their emotional needs and giving them your time. This is what will help you maintain that wonderful sense of connection which makes you feel like you belong together.
(from Involved Fathers: A guide for today’s dad. You can download the entire booklet here.)