Stress is a normal part of life. However, too much stress can have a negative effect on a young child’s brain development. Helping them to cope with stress relies a great deal on the attachment relationship between them and their primary caregivers. That relationship is a key factor in building emotional resilience in a young child.
Resilience doesn’t happen as a result of everything going smoothly, all the time, in a consistently even relationship. When a parent and child have been dealing with anger, distress or upset feelings — in other words a ‘rupture’ in the relationship — it’s important to repair the situation. To repair the rupture when a child is upset, the caregiver provides calm and reassurance until the child has returned to a calm state. That’s what helps a child to build resilience.
We can’t go through life without anything upsetting us at all. That would be unrealistic. However, if too many things go wrong and a child is continually being bombarded with stress, the negative effects on their brain can be long-term. If ruptures are not dealt with they can also lead to deepening problems with the caregiver/child relationship, which may affect a child’s long term ability to thrive and learn. The adult needs to be able to reflect on the situation and help the child recover from whatever it was that upset them.
According to brain development expert Daniel Siegel, MD., ruptures are inevitable breaks in the nurturing connection with the child. What is important is not that ruptures never occur, but that ruptures are repaired. If they are not dealt with, deepening problems in the relationship between the child and caregiver can affect the child’s sense of self.
Page 8 of the Whakatipu booklet Te Kōhuri 2 includes the following advice. ‘Just like our tipuna, we want our relationships to be peaceful and lasting. The aim of our tatau pounamu is to make peace — hohou te rongo. So if there has been a raruraru, it’s important to restore the calm. Love, warmth and gentle guidance helps keep everyone’s mana intact.’
- Watch this animated clip on the Circle of security (external link)
- Dr Allan Schore talks about the role that ‘repairing the rupture’ has on developing resilience in young children.
- Dr Dan Siegel explains how important a secure attachment is when it comes to repairing the rupture in relationships.