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Life Arts    H3'ed 6/29/10

Verbal First Aid and Attachment in Children

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Verbal First Aid and Childhood Survival

Babies come into the world crying, cooing and clinging. They need--food, warmth, love, and safety. They do not come to us with the ability to give much beyond their own need for us. They don't come into the world with the capacity to calm themselves down or self-soothe. They don't come complete with the ability to self-regulate or work out problems.

They are born with the innate capacity to feel fully, scream for us, and hold onto us.

They are born with the potential to develop and think.

But they are not born with the ability to feel and think at the same time.

That is what we--as grown-ups, parents, caretakers--are there to teach them to do.

This is a formidable task, hopefully made easier with Verbal First Aid.

What Children Need: The Neurobiological Relationship

What does every infant creature need in order to not only survive but to thrive?


This is even more true for human babies, who are born helpless into an increasingly complex world on a multitude of levels. Not only has survival become more technological and demanding (new skill sets that are changing daily) but human relationships have become busier, more detached, more confused (can we touch, can we not touch").

According to attachment theorists, when we are born every cell in us has only one question: Are we safe?

And our response to that question--yes or no--determines our response to our environments and to ourselves. It also ultimately facilitates our hardwiring.

According to the best minds in Attachment Theory, children require that adults teach them to regulate their emotional arousal. In simple terms, we show them what to do with a skinned knee or a broken heart or an upset tummy or a bad nightmare. By our presence and our words, we show them how to think, feel and process each experience as it comes so that they are hard-wired for safety, self-reliance, and resilience. We teach them to survive.

When kids are helped to feel safe, secure, capable and calm, they are helped to learn to think and feel simultaneously. And, because they can do that--even at a rudimentary level--they are given the capacity to explore. They learn to utilize their own resources when they need them.

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Judith Acosta is a licensed psychotherapist, author, and speaker. She is also a classical homeopath based in New Mexico. She is the author of The Next Osama (2010), co-author of The Worst is Over (2002), the newly released Verbal First Aid (more...)
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