The Center for Reflective Parenting, located in Los Angeles, is an organization that uses a significant psychological theory as its foundation. In the last 40 years, attachment theory has become a major contributor to the way that mental health professionals explore the functioning and the well being (or lack of well being) in their clients.
The theory’s main premise is that an infant must develop a strong bond with at least one primary caregiver in order to appropriately develop socially and emotionally. In order for this bond to become secure between infant and caregiver, the following must happen:
- The caregiver must be responsive and sensitive in the way that he or she responds to the infant.
- The child must be able to consistently rely on the caregiver for soothing in times of stress.
- The caregiver must remain a constant in the child’s life from the 6 months to approximately 2 years of age.
As children develop they will begin to use the attachment with their caregiver as a secure base from which they will move away to explore their environment and then later return. The way that caregivers respond to their children during this process can lead to distinct patterns of attachment, which in turn, lead to an internal model for that child, which he or she will unconsciously use in later relationships.
The Center for Reflective Parenting recognizes the importance of the attachment between parent and child and so aims to improve that attachment by providing “an opportunity for parents to engage in an experiential learning process specifically aimed to enhance reflection and improve the attachment between parent and child”.
In the 1960’s, psychiatrist John Bowlby developed the attachment theory based on his study of the difficulties that homeless and orphaned children experience. Essentially, his research led to the understanding that infants will attach to parents who are consistent in their care giving throughout many months during early childhood
It is well recognized now that attachment is a core issue that determines whether a child will thrive. The first five years of life determines the success of that child in school, work, and in relationships. Those children who have had secure attachments are well equipped to go out into the world and are able to succeed. Those with poor attachments to their caregivers, due to trauma, neglect, or abandonment, will likely be anxious, fearful, and withdrawn.
When children feel like they can trust their environment, when they feel safe enough to explore the parameters of that environment, it lends to self-confidence, empowerment, and inner strength. And these are psychological skills necessary to become a well-adjusted, psychologically healthy adult.
According to the Center for Reflective Parenting, one of the ways that parents can facilitate a secure attachment with their children is through the use of reflective thinking. This is a significant communication tool that is at the core of healthy relationships. Research indicates that children whose parents are reflective, meaning that they recognize there is more going on inside a person than simply what is seen, are happier, more successful, and more resilient. The Center believes that parents who are reflective have the ability to recognize what’s necessary to create a stable family environment so that their children can grow psychologically, socially, and emotionally.
Furthermore, the Center emphasizes reflective parenting because they believe that too often parents are quick to jump to conclusions about the way that their child is behaving. Instead, through reflection, patience, and compassion, parents can better appreciate and understand themselves and their tendency to jump to conclusion as well as the truth behind what the child might be communicating. In this way, the relationship and thus the attachment between parent and child develops in a secure way, based on presence, truth, and authenticity.