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Acceptance and Empathy in Parenting- How to Form Secure Attachments with Your Child

Love and Acceptance- Our Guiding Forces in Parenting

At HeadFirst Counseling, we help parents adapt an approach to parenting their children that focuses on developing secure attachments, so that the child is able to form secure attachments with others and explore his or her world freely.

We believe that children must first feel secure with a primary caregiver before they can feel secure and regulated within themselves. The best and most efficient way to develop a secure attachment with your child is through unconditional love and acceptance.

At HeadFirst Counseling, we encourage parents to create an atmosphere at home of acceptance of whatever the child may be experiencing- whether it seems valid or accurate to the adult or not. By accepting the child’s full experience, we are saying that it is ok for the child to think, feel, or experience whatever is going on within them. This, however, does not mean that any behavior is ok. Accepting a child’s feelings and being permissive towards their behavior are two very different things. More on that in another entry coming soon!

Unconditional love teaches your child that who they are as a person is always valued and accepted- even when their behavior is not. Using limits to redirect a child’s unwanted behavior can be done in a way that still communicates acceptance and understanding for the child’s experience.

Communicating acceptance to the child's experience is a way of showing unconditional love for the child. Repeated experiences of unconditional love from parents shows children that the relationship is secure, and helps them feel free to explore their world and try things out without fear or rejection or withdrawal from primary caregivers.

One quick way to begin showing acceptance towards your child’s experience is through empathy and reflecting your child’s feelings (i.e., state what you see/hear in your child’s nonverbal and verbal messages).

Children must feel validated and understood before they are able to solve problems.

Parents often rush to wanting to solve the problem for their child- “you’re ok,” “don’t be scared, I’m right here.” Using these type of statements without the child first feeling validated for their experience can come off as rejection to some children.

By allowing the child to feel validated and understood right when an event is happening- “that was really scary for you,” “you are having a tough time with that”- they can then be more open to redirection from you to help regulate their emotions or complete a task.

Reflecting your child’s feelings and developing empathy can take time, so be patient with yourself. The results are worth it- we promise. Try is out today and let us know how it goes!


Laura McLaughlin is the Founder and Therapist at HeadFirst Counseling in Dallas, TX. Laura works with children, teens, and parents to foster secure attachments and create an environment for families to thrive. Read more about Laura and HeadFirst Counseling at

Laura can be reached by contacting the HeadFirst Office at (469) 665-9416 or

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