Attachment and Bonding: Subtle Signs of Trouble, by Lynn Barnett

The range of attachment reaches from the securely attached child to the child who does not connect with others at all.  The good news is that children are very resilient so they may display only the more subtle signs of strained attachment issues.  Here are the four most observed signs of troubled attachment.

1.  Excessive anxiety, does not self-calm well by themselves

2.  Sleep disturbances, night terrors, fear of sleeping alone

3.  Picking at scabs and sores, picking nose, plucking eyelashes

4.  Difficulty with transitions and changes

Some children who join a family through domestic, international or foster care adoption have difficulty attaching to their new family. Research shows that a majority of children experience some attachment strain.  The more times a child’s primary caregiver changes, the more difficult bonding and attachment can be. If your child has experienced this trauma, this article is for you.

(In this article we use ‘she’ when referring to the child but you know we mean either ‘he’ or ‘she’.)

A child that has been in foster care or is adopted after the first few weeks of life can go through many significant changes during their first  vital months of life (birth to eighteen months) when the ability to learn, speak, think and control their emotions are just beginning to develop.  The physical connection between a baby and another human being is truly life sustaining for the child.  Is it any wonder then that their cognitive, social and emotional development is affected?

Subtle signs are good reminders that children have some attachment issues that we must address in a loving and responsive manner.  Attachment is a function of reciprocal and responsive communication between the parents and the child.  It is vital that the parents recognize and work toward an attuned connection.

Super Nanny teaches “time out” or the naughty chair for misbehaving children. This practice is dangerous for children with poor attachment histories.  Scoop up your child and keep him with you. Draw, color, sing, talk, or just sit and watch television until the storm has passed.  Help her calm down.  Don’t expect her to know how and don’t leave her to “cry it out” alone.  Children with attachment issues have not learned how to calm down because no one was there to teach them in the early months of their lives.

Take every opportunity to baby your overly independent one.  When she has fallen and scraped an elbow or knee, shower her with care, hugs and kisses.  When she’s not feeling well, go overboard with care. Check her forehead. Feed her soup and crackers. Take this time to cuddle with her as much as possible.  Children respond better to love and nurturing at this vulnerable time and you’ll find that it carries over to healthier moments.

If it has been determined that your child has bonding or attachment issues, help is available.

MidAmerica Family Treatment Center

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