Emotional Availability

Emotional Availability (EA)

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What is emotional availability? Simply put, it means “being there” for your children — but it entails much more than helping them with their homework, picking them up from school, putting dinner on the table, taking an occasional day off to spend “quality time” with them.

It means you also need to be there for your children emotionally. This goes beyond the occasional hug or the perfunctory “I love you” before your child dashes out the door — but refers instead to an emotional connection that makes your child feel supported and secure. The degree and quality of your communication and connection can play a significant part in their confidence, their success in future relationships, their security in a scary world, their life choices, how well-adjusted they become as adults. Given the uncertain and stressful times, it makes sense that more parents want to ensure that they’re helping their children to feel secure inside through emotionally available relationships.

Everything You’ve Learned About Child Rearing
May be Dead Wrong — or Even Harmful to Your Child

Many popular books on the subject of child rearing may offer recommendations that seem like sound advice — but they are not based on scientific research. For instance, there is no scientific evidence to indicate that the practices such as “cosleeping” or “birth bonding” — the delaying of any separation or routine procedures during the newborn period until after the family has had time to bond — have much of an effect on long-term parent-child relationships.

There is also no good scientific evidence that “babywearing” or “breast-feeding on cue” have an effect on a child’s long-term social/emotional development.

Parents would be well-advised to be wary of the proliferation of unsubstantiated and harmful parenting therapies that have managed to gain considerable attention in recent years. “Holding therapies,” for instance, which are meant to induce attachment, sometimes for adopted or foster children, have absolutely nothing to do with scientific research and are actually harmful to children. These therapies are coercive and traumatizing — and instead of purportedly breaking down the wall of resistance many children have to caregivers, they in fact instill fear, terror and rage, and reinforce the feeling that adults cannot and should not be trusted. These methods are not scientifically advisable and are not the way to create emotional security or secure child-parent attachment relationships. Traumatization of a child is never the way to create emotional security regardless of a child’s history.

“25 to 30 percent of normal families have children who do not feel secure in the parent-child connection.”

— Zeynep Biringen, Ph.D.
Foremost researcher on emotional availability in parent-child relationships, associate professor at Colorado State University, licensed child psychologist, and author of Raising a Secure Child: Creating an Emotional Connection Between You and Your Child