The importance of bonding between parent and child


What does your child really seek from you? What does being with your child mean to you? SNEHAL DESHPANDE shares her insights on the formative years of life and explains the  significance of bonding in children’s overall development.

Ashwin is a 3-year-old boy who came to me today with his parents. His mother is a high profile HR head in a  multinational corporation and his father is an investment banker. They recently discovered that Ashwin was not speaking or making any eye contact. He is looked after by a caregiver at home, who spends most of her time in  front of her mobile phone. The boy speaks out dialogues from Peppa Pig with clarity, and he also emotes the character of Doremon. He plays with cars and toys, but he loves to arrange them in one line. He loves to move  around himself and watch the ceiling fan. He avoids eye contact and does not like to initiate a conversation.

This is a common scenario in many households nowadays. As a therapist I have come across a lot of children who are insecure and anxious. What leads to this? There is a missing bond or attachment, which the child does not share with his caregiver. He or she cannot understand where the circle of security lies. The British psychoanalyst, John Bowlby, did a lot of pioneering work in the field of connections, explaining through his attachment theory how babies attach to their mothers for reasons of survival, and also describing the effect of deprivation of  attachment on infants. Infants become attached to adults who are sensitive and responsive, and who remain as  consistent caregivers for some months during the period from about six months to two years of age. Parental responses lead to the development of patterns of attachment, which in turn lead to internal working models that guide the individual’s feelings, thoughts, and expectations in later life and relationships.

Parental responses lead to the development of patterns
of attachment, which in turn lead to internal
working models that guide the individual’s feelings,
thoughts, and expectations in later life and relationships.

In normal development, the first two years after birth usually see the development of the pre-frontal cortex, and this helps to create resilience strategies. It also develops a sense of security, which supports healthy self-development, self-regulation and self-confidence. Responsive parenting creates a sense of safety, trust and a sense of importance and belongingness, and all these factors together form a sense of competence.

Dr Stuart Shanker, in his book Self-Reg, explains how parent-baby social interaction happens through facial  expressions, gestures, posture and vocalization. He notes that what is going on is not simply shared understanding: “This is a much more primitive co-regulatory process in which each responds automatically, both behaviourally and viscerally to what the other is feeling. It is, in fact, the foundation on which mindreading – the ability to know what others are thinking or feeling from the body language – is built.”

The first two years of a child’s life is an enriched period of sensory abilities and uptake. The discovery of mirror neurons by neuroscientists is a good example of extrapolation from scientific data to clinical applications. The mirror neurons help us feel and emote the feelings of another person and could be the basis of empathy. As we observe the non-verbal communication neurons firing in the brains of others, mirroring what we are seeing and sending the signal of that mirroring towards the insular cortex, we feel what the other person is feeling. So it is important that we understand why children need our presence and feelings during the first two years, which are the formative years of life.


BOND well with your child. The first few months are the best months to create a lifelong bond with your baby.

EMPOWER YOURSELF with the feelings of love, security and belongingness. You can share what you have with    you. A parent’s anxious feelings are picked by the little one. If the parent is joyful, the little one is also joyful. Such feelings are immediately picked up by the pre-frontal cortex, which is important in regulating the emotions,  motivation, reward and empathy from others.

REPLACE DIGITAL device and media time with together time. Spending time talking to your child will increase attention. The use of gestures helps to emote actions, such as singing and dancing together.

EQUIP YOURSELF with the knowledge of stages of development in children and provide toys that are appropriate of their age.

WHEN LEAVING CHILDREN WITH A CAREGIVER, make sure that the caregiver is experienced in providing for  their emotional and developmental needs so as to increase a sense of connectivity.

WHEN IT COMES TO BONDING between parents and children, socializing is essential so that children develop the skills of conversation and communication naturally.

TAKE NATURE WALKS with your child.

LET CHILDREN PLAY with natural media like water, clay and mud paints so as to expose their skills and talent.

ENCOURAGE GRANDPARENTS to be with your child.

AVOID EXPOSING children to electronic gadgets at a young age.

THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE for good parenting by a loving mother.

Bretherton, I. and K.A. Munholland, 1999. Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research and Clinical Applications, ‘Internal Working Models in Attachment Relationships: A Construct Revisited’. Guilford Press, USA.
Graham, L., 2013. Bouncing Back: Rewiring the Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-being. New World  Library, USA.


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  1. Really a heart touching post! When parents separate they don’t think about their child and the child suffers a lot. As parents, we should think about it.

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