Almudena Fernández: «It is very important to take care of our attachment to our children»


The way in which we interact with the environment and with others, as well as the way in which the outside world interacts with us, is a key factor in understanding how we develop during childhood.

And it is that in the first years of development we are very sensitive to what happens to us, and also to the type of relationships that we establish with others. An example of this is child attachment, a determining psychological phenomenon in the way in which we develop and we become adults. To talk about this topic, we have interviewed the psychologist Almudena Fernández Ayensa.

Interview with Almudena Fernández Ayensa: attachment and its importance in child development

Almudena Fernández Ayensa She is an expert health psychologist in the care of adults, children and adolescents, and she attends her office in Alcobendas and also online. In this case, he talks about one of the most important phenomena in the field of Developmental Psychology: the attachment developed during the first months of childhood.

How would you define what is the attachment established during childhood?

Attachment is the type of relationship that the child establishes with primary caregivers; it is usually the mother.

This bond is very important, since it determines the future personality of the child, and how their future relationships will be. The stage that most influences the future personality is from pregnancy to three years, which is when the child is most dependent and his brain is in training, but at any age it is very important to take care of the attachment with our children to prevent future problems .

Why is the relationship that is created between the baby and his parents important for his development?

The three fundamental pillars of attachment are, firstly, to give our children security, that they feel that we are behind them, protecting them, and that if they ask for help, we will respond to any problem they have. In this way the child learns to feel safe, which helps him accept controlled risks and ask for help.

Another important pillar is to help you explore, not overprotect you. The child learns by experimenting, we must let him try to do things for himself and only help him when he asks us to. This will increase your curiosity, reflective thinking, your tolerance for frustration and your self-esteem. Nothing makes you prouder than having overcome a challenge.

Finally, understand him and connect with him, both on a thought and emotional level. We must create a climate of trust, so that the child feels safe to tell us about the things that happen to them and that concern them. It also helps you understand and regulate your emotions, since children are not born with this ability, but it is something they learn from their parents. In this way, in the future you will be a healthier person psychologically, you will learn to trust others and will be more open and tolerant in your relationships, having grown up without being judged and with empathetic parents.

How are trauma based on childhood experiences, on the one hand, and attachment arising from interaction with family related, on the other?

Recent research shows that they are closely related. In this sense, there are four types of attachment.

Secure attachment appears when the child grows up in a loving and secure environment without overprotection; They are usually people who do not have psychological problems in adulthood, unless they have suffered some traumatic experience, such as accidents, ectopic catastrophes, and still have more resources and overcome them more easily than people who have not grown up in a close environment and sure.

Disorganized attachment occurs when the child has suffered some type of physical or psychological abuse, abuse, abandonment or intrusion; there is a possibility of more than 80% that as an adult this child develops some type of pathology.

Then there is the anxious attachment, which occurs with very worried parents, who tend to overprotect their children; As adults they will tend to anxiety, the world will seem dangerous to them, they will be more immature than those of their age, and they will tend more to dependence.

Avoidant attachment is characterized by having cold and distant parents with their children: they pay little attention, especially emotional, they focus above all on results. They are not very empathetic. Your children will tend to be hyper-demanding, they will often have anxiety problems not knowing how to regulate their emotions and depression when they do not achieve their goals.

As a psychologist, have you seen many cases in which the attachment formed in childhood explains part of the problems that affect patients and adults?

Yes, almost all of my patients have problems with the attachment they received in their childhood, this greatly influences the way they see the world, and in their current relationships, with their children and their partners.

Some people think that the attachment they received cannot be changed, and that the way their parents treated them has no solution. But this is not true, the attachment received can be repaired, no matter how badly our parents have done it. In this way we will avoid giving our children a bad attachment.

Is it common for children who have not developed an adequate type of attachment to overcome by themselves, without professional psychological help, the problems that come their way due to this?

Without professional help, I don’t think so. Attachment can be repaired, but it is a job that requires effort and perseverance and work, whenever possible with the whole context of the child: parents, school, as well as with the child, of course.

If you don’t work, problems usually get worse over time, and it’s a shame, since with children it is much easier to achieve good results, and we can avoid many future problems.

In what way can psychotherapy work to help people who have developed dysfunctional attachment patterns?

The technique I use is The Safety Circle. This technique helps parents to identify the needs of their children and satisfy them, so that as we are more efficient in understanding our children, they behave better, are more confident and happy and the relationship with them improves. We also teach parents to set limits, and to help children regulate their emotions.

With adults I start by identifying by their history the possible mistakes that parents have made with them, that is, if they have had absent, demanding, very critical, not very affective parents …

Later, with EMDR therapy, I repair the dysfunctional memories that have given rise to current problems, while at the same time resources are being installed that the person has not been able to learn in childhood due to not having adequate models, such as social skills or emotional regulation. In this way, the patient can have a secure attachment model acquired, and in the future he will face problems with more resources and in a more secure way.

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