Attachment theory explains how children’s early relationships effect their development and their capacity to form later relationships. It also helps explain why children who have had a poor start to relationships with others or who have experienced seriously compromised care, behave in troubling and challenging ways. Early care and attachment become the blueprint not only for a child’s future relationships but also sets the internal working model for how they interpret the world and themselves. From the research in attachment, there are four attachment styles; Secure, which is the optimal style and is developed when the primary caregiver responds most of the time to the child’s earlier needs. The other three styles sit within the Insecure Style and are Avoidant, Ambivalent and Disorganised. A child who has an Insecure Attachment Style has experienced compromised care that has been confusing for them and they learn to manage stressful situations in unhelpful ways such as withdrawing or shutting down, aggressive and acting out behaviour or a combination of the two. A child who has a disorganised attachment style has found their caregiver frightening or frightened. Because many children in the out of home care system have suffered experiences of abuse and neglect, they often display insecure attachment behaviours which tells us about how they view themselves and the world.
A child’s attachment is based on how they expect their caregivers to respond when they show distress, and these are internalised in the form of mental models of others and themselves. Children with insecure attachment styles see the world as dangerous and unpredictable and themselves as bad, unworthy of love and care. These children may sometimes resist forming attachments by either actively detaching or alienating themselves with destructive behaviours with the intention of damaging relationships to “prove” their internal models. Alternatively, they may appear emotionally needy and seem starved of attention or behave in an overly affectionate or over-friendly manner.
Modern attachment research informs us that attachment styles can change over time and attachment is on a continuum. It considers the relationships children may form with other adults such as teachers, day care providers, grandparents and other extended family members or even sporting coaches. At Little Stars Kids, we are attachment and trauma informed and one of our goals is to be a significant person in our Little Stars Learner’s lives and help change that internal working model to something far more positive.
Building Positive attachment with children living in care
If you have to leave
Finally, if for whatever reason you cannot continue on as a tutor, it is of utmost importance to plan your departure with the Little Stars Kids team and carer so the transition out of the child’s life is as smooth as possible. At Little Stars Kids one of our fundamental goals is to be a positive adult influence in a child’s life. When an adult all of a sudden disappears without warning, this creates further attachment disruptions for the child and reinforces all those negative internal views, having disastrous and long-lasting effects on the child. Think of what it must be like for a young child to have such a negative view of the world and themselves. We want to avoid this as much as possible. It is for this reason that when we recruit our very special tutors, we look for a minimum 12-month commitment. You are not just tutors, you are superheros who are not only improving a vulnerable child’s academic attainment, but you are also teaching these children to love learning, build their resilience, self-esteem and self-worth and change that internal working model to something far more positive and hopefully lifelong. To do this, we ask that you psychologically commit to this role because evidence links commitment with positive child outcomes and that is at the core of what we do at Little Stars Kids. It’s a big job but this is why we selected you into the program – because you can do it!