Attachment disorder per dictionary.com ‘is a broad term intended to describe disorders of mood, behaviour, and social relationships arising from unavailability of normal socializing care and attention from primary care giving figures in early childhood’
It’s where a child or adult is unable to form normal healthy attachments. This is usually due to detrimental early life experiences – such as neglect, abuse, separation from their parents or primary caregivers (after six months of age and before three years of age), frequent change of caregivers, and lack of responsiveness from their caregivers.
Symptoms vary depending on age. In adults, they fall under one of two categories, either avoidant or anxious/ ambivalent personalities. These are summarized below.
• Intense anger and hostility
• Hypercritical of others
• Extremely sensitive to criticism, correction or blame
• Lacks empathy
• Sees others as untrustworthy and unreliable
• Either sees themselves as being unlovable or “too good” for others
• Relationships are experienced as either being too threatening or requiring too much effort
• Fear of closeness and intimacy
• Compulsive self-reliance
• Passive or uninvolved in relationships
• Can find it hard to get along with co-workers and authority figures
• Prefers to work alone, or to be self employed
• May use work to avoid investing in relationships
- Anxious/ Ambivalent
• Demonstrates compulsive caregiving
• Problems with establishing and maintaining appropriate boundaries
• Feels they give more than they get back
• Feels their efforts aren’t noticed or appreciated
• Idealizes people
• Expects their partner to repeatedly demonstrate their love, affection and commitment to them, and the relationship
• Emotionally over-invests in friendships and romantic relationships
• Is preoccupied with close relationships
• Overly dependent on their partner
• Believes that others are out to use them or to take advantage of them
• Fears rejection
• Is uncomfortable with anger
• Experiences a roller coaster of emotions – and often these are extremes of emotion
• Tends to be possessive and jealous; finds it hard to trust
• Believes they are essentially flawed, inadequate and unlovable.
Parenting a child with attachment issues;
Parenting a child with insecure attachment or an attachment disorder can be exhausting, frustrating, and emotionally trying. It is hard to put your best parenting foot forward without the reassurance of a loving connection with your child. Sometimes you may wonder if your efforts are worth it, but be assured that they are. With time, patience, and concerted effort, attachment disorders can be repaired. The key is to remain calm, yet firm as you interact with your child. This will teach your child that they are safe and can trust you.
A child with an attachment disorder is already experiencing a great deal of stress, so it is imperative that you evaluate and manage your own stress levels before trying to help your child with theirs.
To help a child with attachment issues, it’s also important to:
Have realistic expectations. Helping your child may be a long road. Focus on making small steps forward and celebrate every sign of success.
Stay patient. The process may not be as rapid as you’d like, and you can expect bumps along the way. But by remaining patient and focusing on small improvements, you create an atmosphere of safety for your child.
Foster a sense of humour. Laughter’ goes a long way toward repairing attachment problems and energizing you even in the midst of hard work. Find at least a couple of people or activities that help you laugh and feel good.
Take care of yourself. Reduce other demands on your time, make time for yourself, and manage stress, (you can equally read about stress management) Rest, good nutrition, and parenting breaks help you relax and recharge your batteries so you can give your attention to your child.
Negotiate – One thing I have learned is that children who are “acting out” need something they are not getting. Don’t use commanding voice, instead talk to them softly, ask questions like: What’s going on? How can I help you? Why are you upset? What do you need now? And yes, nothing is bad negotiating with children – it sends the right message. You are basically saying, “Yes, I realize it has been nasty but I have come to be a comforter, you are a powerful being and let’s make a deal.” Again, it is another form of partnering with kids so they win and you win. There’s nothing wrong with this! Always inspire and motivate them using the story on how the stone which the builder rejected later become the chief corner stone.
Stay positive and hopeful. Be sensitive to the fact that children pick up on feelings. If they sense that you’re discouraged, it will be discouraging to them. When you are feeling down, create your own motivation.