A core part of early emotional development is attachment and every human being was born preprogrammed to bond with their primary caregiver. Social Worker Kgomotso JongMan says attachment is a strong connection that bonds one person to another in relationships. He subscribes to the John Bowlby theory which says attachment behaviour in adults towards the child includes responding sensitively and appropriately to the child’s needs. “Such behaviour appears universal across cultures. Attachment theory provides an explanation of how the parent-child relationship emerges and influences subsequent development and future relationships,” said Jongman. He says the success or failure of a relationship solely revolve around developing and maintaining trust, and the way an individual is going to conduct themselves in all their relations to others are made during the first 8 years of their life. “It is therefore very important to take care giving very seriously and understand that whether we give this care as parents, relatives, nannies or whoever; we are essentially creating lifelong characters,” advised Jongman.
“Parents are mostly challenged after the first three months of their child’s life when maternity leave ends. In other countries like the United Kingdom, mothers are given longer paid leave of a minimum of a year to spend with their babies but locally that unfortunately is not the case,” said Jongman. He said this little hiccup leaves mothers with the challenge of having to find a suitable care giver which opens another world of dilemmas. “We know that hiring a nanny is a challenge on its own. Some mothers get fortunate and land loyal ones who raise their children as their own but unfortunately it is not the case in all households, leading some mums into considering day care centres as an option,” he said. Jongman said the latter has its pros and cons. He said it may offer parents a reliable place at which they can drop their child while they deal with the demands associated with putting food on the table but in his view it is not the best place for an infant to grow.
“The child might never experience that ceremonial feeling of the first day at school because they opened their eyes to find themselves already in class. Apart from that, at day care the child tends to compete with others for attention unlike at home where the nanny would only be minding one child,” he said.
Jongman said the thing to be mindful of when caring for a baby is that one responds to their needs accordingly and as promptly as possible. “A simple thing like picking up and soothing a baby when they cry, or changing their soiled nappy immediately do contribute towards their attachment patterns. This causes them to trust and be comfortable with the people they look to for support,” said Jongman.
He said where the child is not well looked after they are likely to withdraw into themselves and this will definitely have a direct negative impact in their dealings with others in relationships. “The caregivers who come into our children’s lives within the first eight years should be carefully picked because they shape the people they are to turn into. Even changing or replacing such people creates a gap in a child’s life and leaves them with deep rooted scars of insecurity, fear and often very painful suppressed emotions surrounded by a lack of trust,” he said.