A Secure Base
You have spent many months lavishing your baby with tons of love, care, and attention. Then you lead her into a Romp n’ Roll class. She immediately lets go of your hand, and seemingly without a second thought runs off to play by herself and/or with others. Your heart breaks as you think to yourself, “My little one doesn’t need me anymore.”
Well, rest assured that is definitely not the case. Your child’s willingness to leave you behind in such circumstances is actually a sign that you have been a wonderful parent and are continuing to play an extremely important role in her life.
During infancy, it is critical for the totally helpless and dependent child to learn that her parent will be there for her when she needs them. And if all goes well, she develops a solid sense of trust. But during toddlerhood, it is important for the child to establish a reasonable sense of autonomy and start learning to do things on her own.
However, a child only can venture out independently if she is confident that if she gets into trouble, she can return to her parent for comfort and assistance. Consequently, while the parent is no longer required as a constant companion, it is critical that the parent serve as a secure base.
So while you should allow yourself to suffer a small twinge in your heart when your little one eagerly lets go of your hand, make sure you also give yourself a nice pat on the back for having been what she needed before as well as exactly what she needs now.
Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.