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Attachment (in primary school aged children)

An attachment bond refers to a relationship between a child and their primary caregiver that is formed in the early years and is thought to have a long term impact on the child’s development and growth. A secure attachment helps a child to feel safe and secure at times of need. If a caregiver’s behaviour is insensitive or rejecting, a child may develop insecurity that can affect their ability to learn and to form relationships with other adults and peers and can have a lasting impact throughout their lives.


Yael Shmueli-Goetz, Senior Research Fellow, Supervisor in the PhD programme and Child Attachment Interview Trainer, lists six tips to guide school staff in supporting secure attachment in children:

1. Train school staff in attachment theory to help them respond to children’s needs. Children with insecure attachment tend to underachieve at school, find it difficult to manage their emotions, and may be less willing to take on challenges.

2. Identify children with insecure attachment. They may be unfocused, disruptive, controlling, withdrawn or destructive. Often these challenging behaviours are their ways of coping and protecting themselves. 


3. Talk to children about how they are feeling. Children are often very aware of their own feelings but may not be able to express them. 


4. Engage with other adults who are involved in the child’s life, whether a parent or carer, grandparent, social worker or other professional. 


5. Help build children’s capacity for self-regulation, resilience and confidence. This could be through play, art, physical exercise, and friendship building, as well as classroom learning.

6. Value your input as a significant adult in the child’s life, with the potential to be a safe haven and secure base for them.