One of the most important gifts we give our children is knowing our own story. Reflecting on our upbringing provides valuable insights into our interpersonal dynamics. It's crucial to understand what we excel at, particularly when it comes to connectivity, closeness, and responsiveness. It's equally essential to identify areas where we might need improvement, especially in connection, relationships, and emotional responsiveness.
Longitudinal data from the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) reveal an interesting fact. Women, specifically during pregnancy, are interviewed about their childhood, helping us to understand if they've resolved past issues or not. Then, a test is carried out 18 months later with their child. The results accurately predict, with around 80% accuracy, whether or not the parent-child relationship is secure.
Where you stand today with your childhood experiences will directly influence how you relate to your child. To resolve any lingering issues, it's necessary to face your past. Take the time to do an inventory of what happened, how it affected you, and how your pattern of relating developed from that experience. This reflection can be undertaken with a therapist, friends, a partner, or family members.
Questions to ask yourself include "What happened?", "What were my relationships like?", and "What did I learn about closeness, emotional need, and connection?" Books like "Parenting From the Inside Out" by Dan Siegel and "Securely Attached" provide comprehensive insights into understanding and working through issues around affection or emotion regulation.
Understanding what happened when you were growing up, and how that impacted your pattern of attachment, is essential to shift from an insecure to a secure pattern. The earlier this work is done, the less likely you are to accidentally repeat it with your children and then have to repair the damage later.
Your long-term goal with your kids is to be a safe haven and a secure base. As a safe haven, you're a place where your children can find soothing, support, and refuge. By doing so, you become a secure base, or in other words, a launchpad. The more children feel loved, accepted, co-regulated, and that they belong, the more likely they are to venture out into the world in an exciting, endearing, thoughtful, and intentional way.
This guide includes a worksheet to help you reflect on your experiences and what you want your children to experience. It's never too late to make healing moves in our relationships with our children. I've seen people make powerful pivots late in their parenting journey. But I hope that you'll take this opportunity to do some of the work early on. The parents who've done so absolutely wished that they had. I'm so glad you're here.