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  • Writer's pictureFiona Heard

December 2023

Updated: Nov 29, 2023




Watching my now 9 month old granddaughter develop and grow is a joy. Observing her development over these short months is a marvel to behold, from helpless being to an aspiring bi-ped, communicating all the time about her needs and her feelings. She clearly knows her parents and will seek comfort from both of them when she is upset or distressed. She is also developing relationships with others in the family circle – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and so on. All of these relationships bring her joy and she is able to feel secure in the relationships with her extended family when her parents are not physically present.


In the 1970s, Mary Ainsworth, through observations of infants of around 18 months old, proffered a theory of child development that focuses on the child’s attachment to their primary caregiver, this does not need to be a mother, or indeed a father, but someone who has primary care for that infant and who provides unconditional love. This core relational bond shapes all relationships that the child develops and impacts relationships into adulthood, particularly intimate ones.


The unconditional love offered by a loving parent provides the growing child with a safe base or a sense of safety, it is always there and it is always a safe place to return to. When the love is conditional or is in some way erratic this can be seen in the child’s relationship with their caregiver, resulting in a sense of insecurity and lack of trust. It can also lead to an inability to understand needs and how to ask for them to be met, helping others to the detriment of self or remaining in an unsupportive relationship.


Person-centred counselling can provide an opportunity for clients to discover a safe space to explore their feelings about their relationships growing up and how they might be informing relationships in adulthood. A counsellor can be that safe base for a person to explore and return to and we can all love ourselves unconditionally and self-nurture when we understand our needs and how to ask for them to be met.


When my granddaughter cries or smiles she is communicating her needs and seeking a response that shows she is heard and understood which in turn brings her comfort and an awareness of her value within her family group. Recognising these needs in our adult relationships can be transformational and empowering.


Fiona Heard

December 2023.


Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

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