Allowing emotional space for children to emerge with self-assurance

Person in maroon wooden hat holding a baby who is snuggling in for a cuddle, outside in nature

Written by APHP

April 11, 2024

When ancient wisdom meets modern psychology, we can become present and available to support the uniqueness in children to allow them to flourish and grow. 

In Chinese medicine, each of the Five Elements contains an emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspect usually called a ‘spirit’.  The spirit of the Fire Element is called the Shen.  As a child, the Shen enables insight and awareness of their individual character and destiny.  It helps a child to manifest their true potential.  The Shen is not something that sits hidden within a child but is related to how they show themselves to the world.   

Therefore, if a child lacks ‘emotional space’, their Shen, or spirit, will suffer.  In the same way that a young tree whose light is blocked by bigger trees around it will not grow, a child needs some space to flourish. Restriction of ‘emotional space’ will stunt growth and attachment styles. 

A family with mum, dad and child sitting in the park in front of a large treeFrom a Chinese medicine perspective, for attachment to be strong the Fire Element needs to be allowed to develop strongly.  For this to happen, children need: 

  • Caregivers who are emotionally and psychologically present 
  • Time with caregivers just being rather than doing. 
  • Adults who can enter their world and play with them on their level. 
  • To be allowed to be authentic, and to have role models who can be authentic. 
  • Some emotional space for their unique character to be able to blossom and shine. 

In psychology, attachment styles refer to the characteristic patterns of relational behaviours that people develop from their early childhood experiences with primary caregivers. The four main attachment styles identified: 

Secure Attachment 

People with a secure attachment style generally have a positive view of themselves and others. They are comfortable with intimacy and able to depend on others when needed. Secure individuals typically had caregivers who were responsive and nurturing during their childhood. 

Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment 

Those with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style tend to be insecure about their relationships and worry about being abandoned or unloved. They may exhibit clingy or demanding behaviour in their relationships. This style often results from inconsistent or unreliable caregiving during childhood. 

Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment 

People with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style tend to be highly independent and emotionally distant. They may have difficulty trusting others and avoid intimacy or closeness in relationships. This style is often developed when caregivers are emotionally unavailable or dismissive of the child’s needs. 

Fearful-Avoidant Attachment 

Individuals with a fearful-avoidant attachment style have a negative view of themselves and others. They desire close relationships but also fear intimacy and tend to avoid getting too close to others, this can manifest itself in ‘blowing hot and cold’ behaviours in a relationship. This style can result from childhood experiences of abuse, neglect, or trauma. 

Someone with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style typically has discomfort with intimacy, has difficulty trusting others, is very self-reliant, often suppresses their emotions and is in denial or dismissive for the need of close relationships. They fear rejection or abandonment and will frequently shutdown in emotionally difficult situations. 

Someone with an anxious-avoidant attachment style, also known as a fearful-avoidant attachment style, tends to display a combination of anxious and avoidant behaviours in their relationships. They may fear intimacy, be hypersensitive to rejection, be ambivalent in relationships from an internal conflict or trust issues. They often have a deep negative view of self and others and keep themselves emotionally distant to avoid rejection. Often, they will idealise the devalue those with whom they are in a relationship with and find it difficult to express their emotions. 

Happy looking child with good attachment and positive mental healthIt’s important to note that attachment styles exist on a spectrum, and individuals may display varying degrees of these characteristics depending on their experiences and individual differences. Many insecure attachment styles are as a result of adverse child events (ACE), 

Cultivating a secure attachment in a child (or adult) who has developed an anxious, dismissive, or fearful attachment style can take time and consistent effort, but it is possible. Here are some strategies that can help: 

  1. Increase responsiveness: Children with anxious attachments often feel insecure and clingy because their needs for comfort, reassurance, and emotional attunement were not consistently met in the past. Responding promptly, consistently, and sensitively to their bids for attention and emotional needs can help them feel more secure.
  2. Be emotionally available: Make yourself emotionally and physically available to the child. Engage in quality one-on-one time, maintain eye contact, and actively listen when they share their thoughts and feelings. Be consistent in making time to be emotionally available, predictability and reliability will increase the success in cultivating a secure attachment.
  3. Provide a secure base: Create a safe, predictable, and nurturing environment where the child can explore and return to you for comfort and reassurance. This helps them learn that you are a reliable source of support. Remove judgement and promote acceptance so that the child feels that they are loved and accepted no matter their actions.
  4. Use positive reinforcement: Praise and encourage behaviours that demonstrate growing trust and independence. This reinforces their sense of security and self-confidence. Encourage independence and show your child how to think for themselves, not what to think.
  5. Be patient and consistent: Changing attachment patterns takes time. Consistently respond to their needs with warmth, empathy, and care, even when they push you away or act out. They need to learn that they can be themselves without judgement or criticism.
  6. Seek professional support: If the child’s attachment difficulties are severe or if there are other underlying issues, seeking guidance from a child therapist or counsellor can be helpful.

Giving time and space to process emotions with support that is age-appropriate, non-judgemental observations of cause and effect and suggestions as to how things could be done differently will create a sense of hope that self-assuredness can be achieved. 


The key is to provide a stable, nurturing environment where the child can gradually learn that their needs will be met, and that they can rely on you for comfort and support. With time and consistent effort, their attachment style can shift from anxious to secure. 

Author: Nikki Emerton 

Master trainer & Master NLP Practitioner, Advanced Clinical Hypnotherapist, Life Coach & IEMT Practitioner 

Dip CBT, Dip Advanced Autism Awareness, Dip Nutritional Advisor, Dip Anatomy & Physiology, Dip Bach Flower Essence. Safeguarding Level 3, Enhanced DBS. 

Copyright: Nikki Emerton 

Tel: 07817885810 

Published : Apr 11, 2024