Valentine’s Day: Serve and Return

By Jen Lindbeck

When I think about Valentine’s Day my mind immediately goes to parent-child attachment. Parents are the leading characters in a child’s first love story.

The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine describes parent-child attachment as “close, dependable relationships that provide love and nurturance, security, responsive interaction, and encouragement for explorations.”

Attachment isn’t complicated and yet the benefits to the child are profound. Quite simply attachment is best summed up in the term “serve and return”. For example, an infant sends (or serves) a signal or a cue: cries, roots for food, smiles, coos, and the parent returns that signal with appropriate interaction. Secure attachment impacts developmental outcomes, language development, and a child’s ability to regulate emotion. A child with a secure attachment believes in themselves and their abilities. Because they trust their parents they in turn believe that others are trustworthy and that the world is safe to explore.

Attachment behaviors may not come naturally to some parents and attachment may be difficult for a child because of special needs. No matter where you are at – every parent can benefit from a little coaching and encouragement now and then.

The good news is there resources in our community to help parents build skills and meet the unique needs of their children:

  • Start before the baby is born by building healthy relationship habits during the Bringing Baby Home Workshop beginning March 7. To learn more and register, go here.

  • Nurse-Family Partnership is a home visiting program where a specially trained nurse regularly visits first-time moms-to-be, starting early in the pregnancy, and continuing through the child’s second birthday. To learn more about eligibility requirements go here.

  • Check out Brigid Collins Parenting Academy! They offer a variety of parenting classes for parents with young children. For more information go here.

  • Parent to Parent offers support groups for parents who have kids with special needs. Check their website for more details.

Here are some books about attachment:

  • The Circle of Security Intervention by Bert Powell, Glen Cooper, Kent Hoffman, and Bob Marvin
    This book provides proven strategies for helping caregivers become more attuned and responsive to their young children’s emotional needs (ages 0-5).

  • The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
    Not necessarily a book about attachment, but a great book for understanding how your child’s brain works. The book provides twelve key strategies that foster healthy brain development, leading to calmer, happier children.

  • The Connected Child by Karyn B. Purvis, David R. Cross, Wendy Lyons Sunshine
    For parents or caregivers who have adopted or are fostering children. This book, written by two psychologists specializing in adoption and attachment provides ways to build bonds of affection and trust, effectively deal with any learning or behavioral disorders, and ways to discipline with love.

Enjoy your little ones this Valentine’s Day!

Jen Lindbeck has a M.Ed., Early Childhood Education, Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University and is the Early Learning Resource Coordinator for United Way of Skagit County.


We'd love to hear from you - please send us an email and we'll get right back to you.

You can write to us at:

PO Box 451, Burlington WA 98233

© 2020 United Way of Skagit County