To understand the importance of disrupted attachment you first need to understand secure attachment. Secure attachment simply is when children feel protected by their caregivers, and they can depend on them to return.
This is a healthy attachment between caregivers and children which helps children develop trust and better long-term relationships in the future. Children and babies can play and explore under the “secure base” of their caregiver’s presence. Secure attachment is the most common attachment style in western societies and it is estimated about 66 percent of the US population is securely attached. Parents or caregivers are responsible for best satisfying the needs of their children, as well as providing them with a nurturing environment. Parental attachment supports a wide range of regulatory processes including: thermoregulation, eating habits, tactile stimulation, imitation, and emotional attunement. If children’s needs are not met, they are likely to develop various forms of insecure attachment.
Another factor to consider with children is the occurrence of disrupted attachment. Attachment can be disrupted by a wide variety of factors including: loss or separation from a parent, prescence of multiple caregivers, child abuse or neglect, medical procedures, illness, neurological problems, and more.
Disrupted, interrupted or disturbance in attachment can lead to children projecting an image that is inaccurate. They might hide feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. Other extreme behaviors that these children might demonstrate are: poor eye contact, poor impulse control, stealing, lying, and acting out. Children with insecure or disrupted attachments might be considered a “troublemaker” or push buttons to get a reaction from adults. This is due to the fact that they are accustomed to adults reacting with anger, abuse, neglect or leaving when they act out. They can thus use this same behavior to test other adults.
Providing a safe and predictable environment is key for children. Children thrive on routine which gives a sense of security and safety. Children with insecure or disrupted attachments lack this sense of security due to the unpredictable world they live in. As a parent it is important to show up and not walk away when things get hard.
Some great ways to fix attachment issues or build attachment are:
- Praise - praising children can have incredible results. It is great to praise your child when they behave acceptably or do things in an acceptable manner. It is great to also praise your child out of the blue to show them that you are paying attention and value their contributions.
- Providing Choices - some poor behaviors stem from the idea that children feel they lack control in their lives. Giving children choices gives them back the feeling of control. It is important to give two equally acceptable choices whether that be when picking out an outfit, a meal or activity.
- Using Statements, not questions - Asking a child why they did something (especially something naughty) can be all for naught. That is because many children don’t know why they misbehave. Remember children’s brains are still developing so unlike adults, they still lack complete impulse control. So, instead of asking your child if or why they did something naughty, rephrase your wording into a statement (i.e. I saw you do this…). Still give your child a consequence, but this wording will eliminate your child’s protest to reasoning as it is based on evidence instead of emotion.
- Pay attention - this is especially important in younger children. Pay attention to your child’s tone, facial expressions and nonverbal behaviors since this might tell you more than their words. Children send messages through their behavior, so before losing it with your child, take a step back and evaluate why they might be behaving in a certain way. Children with insecure or disrupted attachment can be trying to connect to adults, especially in a way that makes sense to their own survival.
Remember It is never too late for a child to form a secure attachment with your child and that is great news. In addition to the recommendations listed above, don’t forget to find quality time with your child. While we know life can be hectic, it is important to not forget that our greatest job is as parents/caregivers to our children.
Find at least 5 minutes at the end of the day for a Storybook massage, poem, or meditation to help you connect with your little one. Storybook offers a 7-day FREE trial to new users, so what do you have to lose?