by Megan Sater, LMFTA

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 1 in 3 adolescents will experience an anxiety-related disorder before the age of 18. Many young people find themselves in a seemingly constant state of emotional dysregulation, caught in loops of worry and self-doubt, unable to relax and experience the simple joys of childhood and the exciting freedoms of adolescence. As parents, we want nothing more than for our children to live peaceful and fulfilling lives. 

A secure parent/child attachment is an important factor in the mitigation of anxiety-provoking external forces. A common misconception is that a secure parent/child attachment is only important in early childhood. As an attachment-based marriage and family therapist, I believe that secure attachment within the family system remains important throughout the duration of the teenage years. Research has shown that the healthy transition from adolescence to adulthood is facilitated by a child’s secure attachment to their primary caregivers. There is also evidence that secure attachment fosters the development of cognitive, social, and emotional competence (Moretti, 2004).

When adolescents feel as if they have a safe and loving home base, they are primed for emotional success and experience fewer mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. Securely attached youth have been shown to have a heightened ability to foster and maintain healthy relationships with others. 

While maintaining a mutually respectful relationship with a teenager is not always easy, there are ways that parents can use the ups and downs of the adolescent years to nurture and increase secure attachment. While many parents view conflict as an active threat to their relationship with their child, it can instead be used as a tool to increase closeness. The complete acceptance of a child, regardless of their emotional state, is an integral part of secure attachment. 

The securely attached toddler runs to the water’s edge with confidence, knowing that the arms of her parents will be waiting once she has become overwhelmed by the vastness of the world. Years later, the precocious teenager looks over her shoulder and gives a small wave to her mother, as she walks into her first dance, knowing that whenever she is ready to debrief the experience that her parents will be ready to listen with acceptance and non-judgement. 


Megan Sater is an attachment-based marriage and family therapist in private practice on Bainbridge Island. She works with individuals, families, and couples, prioritizing a holistic approach to therapy. More information can be found at: