Understanding Attachment and Bonding Difficulties
“Always be a princess never a queen”-
Isabella’s nanny taught her many things and her parents were delighted to have found a trustworthy caregiver for their little girl. The nanny had a few sayings that Isabella learned during their time together. The one that ended up driving her mother to tears was, “always to strive to be a princess because in the storybooks the queens end up being evil”.
Isabella was beautiful, smart, and incredibly strong-willed. The well known terrible two phase had tested her mother’s patience and caused havoc in their home. As a result, Isabella now 3 years old, and her mother had a strained relationship. Isabella often struggled to comply with rules and limits set, especially those set by her mother.
Her mother made efforts to work on bonding by setting aside time to play with Isabella after work. During play, Isabella always insisted on playing the princess and assigned her mother to be the queen. Her mother saw this as a breakthrough, Isabella finally accepting her mother’s role of authority! It was not until she heard the nanny’s famous saying about queens always being evil, that she realized she still had a lot of work to do in her relationship with Isabella.
(Inspired by a true story, not a client)
The bond or the attachment the child forms with their parent early in life has a tremendous impact on the child’s behavior. For healthy attachment to occur the primary caregiver has to be available, responsive, and nurturing.
Many factors disrupt attachment:
- Premature birth and extended period of time in the NICU.
- The personality of the parent and the temperament of the child clashing.
- Postpartum depression or anxiety
- Parent with more than one small child or one with special needs requiring a lot of attention
- Parent experience medical illness during the first few years of the child’s life
There are life long consequences for children that do not securely attach to their parent/caregiver. If the weaknesses are identified early on attachment can be repaired and strengthened.
How to determine whether your child has a healthy attachment?
Does your child:
1. Get upset when separated from you?
2. Welcome you back after you leave?
3. Look to you for comfort?
4. Feel confident and independent?
5. Prefer you over strangers?
6. Accept your firm directives and limits?
If you answered more No’s then Yes’s:
- Think back on your child’s early life experiences, specifically during infancy.
- Were there any situations that made it difficult for you to be consistently nurturing and responsive?
You can not turn back time but you can be proactive and work on strengthening and repairing attachment with your child.