Once the "baby stage" ends, they enter toddlerhood. The often tumultuous, emotional time where children want to be both "big kids" and babies all at the same time. This can be frustrating for both parents and children, who do not understand the process that kids are going through developmentally. Watch the video below, which does a much better job than I can of demonstrating the attachment needs of toddlers:
As anyone who has survived the twos, threes and fours of early childhood, it is a no-brainer how challenging and tiring it can be at times for your child to need so much of your energy. It can be overwhelming some days, and not make sense on others. It can feel like a breath of fresh air for kids to become school-aged, and not need those frequent attention and check-ins. Or so it seems...
I have a nine year old daughter who plays hockey. Last weekend, at her hockey game, I had a light bulb moment where I was reminded that this need for safety and security does not end after toddlerhood. My daughter plays goalie- which is a really tough position to watch your child play, BTW- and I noticed that after someone scored on her, she would look up to the stands where we were sitting, needing to check in and make eye contact. I would give her some kind of sign to let her know "It's OK! Keep going!" and she would turn back to the game. I then observed her block a puck, and I was hoping she would look up to me with the excitement I knew she was feeling. But she didn't. I noticed this pattern throughout the game- check in if a goal went in, but stay focused on the game if it didn't. And it occurred to me that she was checking in, just like in the video, seeking reassurance ONLY when she was disappointed, worried, in need of reassurance. A sign of her secure attachment was not seeking out our connection when she was successful- likely because she knows we are proud of her.
As kids get older and become adults, they will continue to search for safety and security. The need to attach to loved ones, to find that secure base, never ends. It just changes.