Attachment & Emotional Regulation

Understanding Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment and the importance of emotional connection and nurture is paramount, with the trusted adult facilitating the programmes in creating safety in the group experience. Having an attuned and sensitive attachment figure from birth is the fundamental and most important experience for a human infant, but sadly, the reality for some children is different.

Therefore, it is vital that children have the experience, often in school, to form an attachment with a significant or key adult, to help them to feel safe, accepted and that they matter. Children with an insecure attachment often have barriers to relationships, find it hard to trust the adults or people around them and need adults who create safety and care to enable them to begin to connect in relationships.

“A person’s attachment status is a fundamental determinant of their relationships, and this is reflected in the way they feel about themselves and others… Where there is a secure core state, a person feels good about themselves and their capacity to be effective and pursue their projects. Where the core state is insecure, defensive strategies come into play.”

Jeremy Holmes, John Bowlby – Attachment Theory

One of the core models of our programme is understood through Dan Siegel’s Four S’s Model which helps children to feel Safe, Seen, Soothed, and Secure. This understanding, alongside attachment theory and the importance of emotional safety, empathic connection and attachment is key in helping children to feel safe enough to be in school, to think about and express their emotions and the experiences that happen in their lives.

Attachment Theory
Attachment Theory

Fostering secure attachment and sense of self with Daniel Siegel’s Four S’s


  • A felt sense of safety.

  • Feeling emotionally and physically safe.


  • Attuning to their internal mental state on a profound and meaningful level.

  • Understanding their inner life.

  • Responding to what we see in a timely and effective manner.


  • When a child is in a state of internal distress, the caregiver attunes to and cares for them.
  • Co-regulated, comforted and calmed so that they don’t have the feeling alone.

  • Co-regulation leads the child to be able to self sooth and regulate as they grow emotionally.


Comes from the first three S’s

  • A felt sense of a secure base when we show them that they are safe, that there’s someone who sees them and cares for them and will soothe them in distress.

  • As a result, they learn to keep themselves safe, to see themselves as worthy, to soothe themselves when things go wrong.

  • Self worth, self-esteem and purpose.

Emotional regulation

When we attempt to teach self-regulation skills without evaluating a child’s co-regulation history, we risk asking too much of them too soon. Many children simply lack the neurodevelopmental foundation upon which successful self-regulation is built; human beings need to feel socially engaged and safe before they can learn. All of us – parents, educators, and providers – should build emotional co-regulation into children’s lives with compassion and understanding as it is the foundation that underlies a child’s ability to self-regulate and provides lifelong benefits for their mental and physical health.

“If vulnerable children haven’t experienced the warmth of co-regulation, our efforts to teach them self-regulation will inevitably fall short. These children simply don’t have the neural architecture in place; they need safe, emotionally attuned relationships to build it. When adults don’t appreciate their role as emotional co-regulators, we are missing the bigger developmental picture.”

Dr Mona Delahooke

The framework for Hamish & Milo comes from a range of theoretical contexts which hold the quality of relationship at the core of support work and togetherness with peers as a social group. Hamish & Milo is based on attachment aware theory and the importance of early social and emotional development, as well as understanding the emotional stress that many children with SEMH needs experience and the impact on the developing child.