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New Parents: Bonding with Your Child

Parent-child bonding is a special intimacy that develops between you and your child is tremendously important to your child’s development. For most children this relationship is their first and will affect all their future ones.

If the bond between you and your child is loving and secure, then your baby, as an adult, is more likely to seek out these healthy elements of a relationship. However, children who grow up without such a connection may become adults without the capacity for love and intimacy.

Forming a Bond

Ideally, this bond with your child begins before birth, or even before conception, as you become emotionally involved with the idea of having a child. After birth, “the sooner, the better” is the rule for becoming close.

A bond still can form later, however There are many times during infancy when parents and children are particularly receptive to developing relationships. This means that adoptive parents are able to form strong bonds even though they cannot be present at birth. Although it may be easier to establish a connection with younger children, there is no age cut-off.

Interacting with and enjoying your infant is critical to forming a bond. Cuddle your baby and make interesting noises to get his or her attention; play games in which you try to get your baby to focus on you. If your child delights you and overwhelms you with feelings of love, this is a healthy sign indicating that you and your child are
bonding.

When Bonding is Difficult

For some parents and children, bonding is difficult. A disability may mean special challenges for parenting, but these can be overcome. If for example, your child has a communication or motor delay, he or she may have trouble expressing love for you. Instead of expecting full smiles and warm noises, you can lean to recognize smaller signals. A fleeting glance or even the movement of a finger can be as representative of love as are bigger gestures from other children.

Occasionally you may find that your feelings towards your baby are negative. This does not necessarily indicate that something is wrong. Ups and downs in human relationships are perfectly normal, as long as intimacy, love, and satisfaction with the relationship are dominant.

However, if you find that you shy away from interaction with your infant, or that you have highly ambivalent feelings about parenting or take a mechanical approach toward it, this may mean that something is interfering with the intimacy that should be developing. Other signs that may indicate a problem are depression, self- absorption, and an unwillingness to become attached to your baby. If any of these happen, it is vital that you take action.

What to Do

Your first approach can be on your own or with your partner. How much do you think comes from you and how much from the child? Is there something else going on in your life that is making things difficult? Does your baby not react to you in the ways you had hoped for or expected?

If you feel that you have identified something that seems easily changed, then you can try to change it on your own. For example, if you work so much that you never get to see your child, you might try dropping an extra shift to spend more time at home. If, on the other hand, you spend all your time with your baby, perhaps you can find a friend or relative to relieve you for short periods. Adjustments like these may remove some of the stress from parenting.

Sometimes, however, solutions are less apparent; if this is the case you may want to try a professional consultation. A therapist or counselor also will be able to refer you to local organizations, such as home visitor or parent aide programs, public or nonprofit child service agencies, or volunteer self-help organizations. Such programs include parent-child help centers and groups of other parents with similar difficulties.

Counseling and support can help to bring out your potential for love if you feel that you are unable to connect with your child. Remember, all parents are capable of bonding. People have different capacities for intimacy, but there are many forms of love.

New Parents: Bonding with Your Child

Michael Ashworth, Ph.D.

APA Reference
Ashworth, M. (2018). New Parents: Bonding with Your Child. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 19, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/new-parents-bonding-with-your-child/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.