Gareth D Morewood

Meeting the needs of pupils with attachment

To meet the needs of children with attachment, we must have a realistic sense of the self and surroundings, and develop a non-confrontational attitude that provides a consistent positive role model. Some more general strategies to support students are outlined below.

  • Create win-win situations – so that either ‘choice’ made by the student is a good one.
  • Give clear, consistent guidelines and boundaries, yet allow some flexibility.
  • Be honest and truthful, with sensitivity to the young person’s feelings.
  • Give calm, measured responses in confrontational situations.
  • Always endeavour to let them know it is their behaviour that isn’t liked, not them.
  • Listen to them: hear what they have to say – but remember that they communicate in more ways than just verbally.
  • Remember that the adult is responsible for helping young people make appropriate, positive attachments.
  • Give them a safe, secure environment to express their innermost feelings, fears, hurt, etc.
  • Plan with them for their adult life; help them to understand the attachment process and how they can be positive as an adult.

Why is attachment important in schools?

  • There is a population of students in schools who seem unable to access learning, to engage and achieve, and to move on into adulthood with confidence; children whose diminished self-esteem and resilience are limitations on engagement in relationships and emotional and cognitive development.
  • Early attachment research clearly indicated that secure attachment is the factor linked to children’s more successful engagement in school, in terms of social competence, curiosity, effective play and investigation and sympathy towards others. A secure enough start prepares the child to become the student.

Most importantly:

‘You might be the only adults who can make a difference in a child’s life’ ‘You have the emotional skills and the resources to make that difference’

Attachment and the classroom

  • In school, it is the teacher who is at the front line of student behaviour.
  • Behind every child who misbehaves and underperforms in school there is a story; and the story is acted out in the classroom.
  • Teachers are exposed to this stressful experience daily – adding to classroom tensions and challenges.
  • Such powerful experiences are felt by the teacher who can begin to feel the helplessness, powerlessness and rage that some students are unable to bear and so project into others. Teachers need to be supported in such relentless encounters everyday in the classroom.

You can see my Supporting Students through Understanding Attachment guide for more information on attachment and its importance in schools.

Further reading

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