What we know now is that, for young children, having strong attachments is really important. During a child’s first year he/she develops a specific emotional attachment to a primary attachment figure and that attachment figure is the secure base for the child - a haven of safety. Usually, but not always, this is the mother. The presence of this attachment figure reassures the child and enables it to play, explore and learn new things. When the child is fearful in a new situation, or fears being abandoned, it experiences a strong instinctive drive to seek support from the caregiver, and once reassured and supported, these feelings vanish and the child resumes its play. Second attachment figures are often fathers or grandparents or aunts, and when there is consistent care from them and a growing number of people in their community, children can grow in confidence to explore their wider world.
As children grow, if they have a strong base relationship within their family, they have a fantastic head start.
Not all of us have had that safe haven in our homes in our early years, and through no fault of their own, children who have not had secure attachments in their early years (eg parental absence, sickness or death, drug/alcohol, depression, abuse etc) can and often do exhibit behaviours designed to protect themselves and keep themselves safe.
Often these behaviours cause them and others all kinds of troubles. They might constantly try to seek attention of the parent or teacher, they may hit out at others, they may be unmotivated or fearful and reject opportunities to learn/fail. They may get very angry, or may run away when stressed. They may only know how to form superficial relationships. They may reject others before they themselves are rejected.
As a staff we are committed to being a part of the growing process for each child - being extra 'attachment figures' for the learners in our care. We want our school to be a safe haven, a place where children feel they belong, where they can be free to learn and grow. We want to help them replace the self-protective behaviours and barriers with new ways of relating.
It is both a challenge and a privilege to walk the early journey with our learners, a few of whom have learnt from a young age to either fight or flee or freeze when fearful.
And it is cause for celebration when we see children blossom as part of our wider Christian school community.
This year we have begun comprehensive professional development on Positive Behavour for Learning which will help us evaluate all our behaviour management systems and processes, review the data we have on negative behaviours within the school, teach the specific behaviours we want to see schoolwide.
Sam Burrows is leading this initiative with the staff and we look forward to sharing our learning with you during the next few terms.