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How Teddy Bears can help with Attachment

We offer therapeutic training to all our foster carers which is training courses that are specifically designed to develop your therapeutic knowledge and skills.

November 24 2020 - 4 min read

‘Attachment’ is a concept introduced to us by Bowlby, a psychoanalyst working in the 1950’s who was interested in the way a baby forms relationships.  Attachment has been a theory and an observable idea since this time predominately in the psychological professions.  However, Attachment is now getting much broader attention as we come to realise that emotions and human relationships are very significant in so much of our thinking, our learning, our behaviours and our health throughout the human lifespan.  The current Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) movement seems to have captured and embraced this understanding.

Babies are where it all begins.  Attachment is, in essence, an evolutionary concept.  Our need to attach to a primary caregiver is one of survival as the human baby is born so dependent on the adult caregiver and the community of adults around them.

Seeking attachment to a primary caregiver ensures the baby’s survival.

“So the drive at the core of Attachment is this:

How can I help myself to feel as safe as possible in my particular world?

What do I need to do to help the adults in my world to love me, to stay close to me, to be interested in my experiences?”      

(Suzanne Zeedyk – The Science of Human Connection)

The baby will employ attachment-seeking behaviours to remain close to the adults who care for them.  Every time the primary caregiver is able to respond appropriately to the baby’s attachment-seeking behaviours (whether that’s a cry for food, for warmth, for clean nappies and clothes, or for less obvious physical or practical needs such as a hug, reassurance and affection) a trusting relationship is formed.  This is called a secure attachment.  It is through the trusting relationship and the secure attachment with the primary caregiver that the baby is able to form an idea of the world as safe, secure, and able to meet their needs.

As the baby begins to move from complete dependence on the primary caregiver to the tiny beginnings of independence they start to realise that the primary caregiver is a separate entity and that the primary caregiver cannot always be there to ‘magically’ meet all their needs.  This is ultimately a constructive process of gradual separation – but it can also be a frightening or painful one.  Winnicott coined the term transitional object and suggested it may be used in these early stages to support the child through the anxiety that can be created by the separation from the primary care giver.  This object could be a real object like a blanket, a piece of mum’s clothing or a teddy bear, but other things such as a song or a phrase can be a transitional ‘object’ as well.  It is something that embodies the feeling the baby has of that trusting relationship where they are cared for and safe.  Over time the need for the actual object will be replaced with an internal idea of the ‘teddy bear’, of being able to self-regulate powerful emotions and find comfort when in stressful situations.

That drive at the core of Attachment is a necessity for a baby’s survival but it is a continuous process throughout life.  The teddy bear we hold as a baby, that reminder of our initial trusting relationship and the love and comfort given to us can give us internal emotional strength and resources well into adulthood.

At FCA Scotland we have a team of therapists who are on hand to talk to you and your foster child. You can discuss any difficulties you may be having with them and our therapists will work together with you to help you to look underneath any challenging behaviours, to understand why they are happening and what could be the cause.

This is under our Team Parenting Approach where you would be invited to attend Team Parenting meetings, these meetings are an opportunity for you and everyone else who is involved in the child’s or young person’s care to come together and share their experiences and observations in a collective to find the best outcomes and solutions.

We also offer therapeutic training to all our foster carers which is training courses that are specifically designed to develop your therapeutic knowledge and skills, this then enables you to gain new insights into how a foster child or young person might be behaving and give you to the tools to find new ways of dealing with it.