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Keynoter: Help Families Form Healthy Bonds :

September 16, 2017

Editor's note: The 2017 AAP National Conference & Exhibition will take place from Sept. 16-19 in Chicago.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda developed a love of music as a young child, his parents had a choice — nurture that passion or guide him toward a more pragmatic path.

They chose the former, and Miranda went on to write the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Hamilton” and kept their family bond strong in the process.

“…we supported and endorsed our kids’ passions and strengths, giving them the security and space to strive and thrive in their chosen paths,” said his mother, Luz Towns-Miranda, PhD.

Dr. Towns-Miranda, a clinical psychologist and advocate for child trauma victims, spoke about the importance of attachment and nurturance for children during her keynote address Saturday.

Attachment comes in four types — secure, anxious, avoidant and disorganized, she said.

“… the nurturance and attachment modeling they receive in their youth, really from the beginning of their lives, has a profound effect on the men and women they become,” Dr. Towns-Miranda said.

Nurturing caregivers help their children feel confident to try new things. They not only support, but endorse their children’s interests as Dr. Towns-Miranda and her husband tried to do with Lin-Manuel and their daughter Lucecita.

Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who inspired her son’s Broadway show, endured trauma and loss, but still thrived, likely due to his mother’s nurture, Dr. Towns-Miranda said.

When parents do not respond to a child’s needs, he or she may develop unhealthy attachments.

“… anxious, avoidant or disorganized attachment often leads to adults who struggle in their relationships or are incapable of maintaining healthy bonds; they often end up in unstable, dysfunctional, distrustful, codependent or even abusive relationships,” Dr. Towns-Miranda said.

Pediatricians, she said, can be on the lookout for red flags like a parent who doesn’t try to soothe a crying child or one who dismisses the child as “bad.” Children who show no emotion when their parents leave the room or are extremely nervous also may not be getting the nurturing they need. When red flags are apparent, advocate for your patients, help educate parents and other caretakers, and connect them to resources.

Dr. Towns-Miranda acknowledged some factors are outside parents’ control, and she applauded the Academy for its advocacy on some of those like gun violence, immigration, climate change and health care reform.

“You are telling your patients and their caregivers that you care not only about curing that cold or administering that vaccine, but about helping them lay the foundation to prosper in life,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe you’ve got the next little Hamilton at the other end of your stethoscope.”

For more coverage of the AAP National Conference & Exhibition visit and follow AAPNews on Twitter and Facebook.

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