A secure attachment to a primary caregiver is the most important aspect to developing a healthy and well balanced child. Unfortunately, there are many times when this attachment gets put on the back burner and the child is not afforded the chance to form a secure attachment. When this happens, a plethora of emotional and behavioral difficulties arise. Research suggests, “failure to form secure attachments early in life can have a negative impact on behavior in later childhood and throughout life. Children diagnosed with oppositional-defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD) or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently display attachment problems, often due to early abuse, neglect or trauma. Clinicians suggest that children adopted after the age of six months have a higher risk of attachment problems” (Cherry, 2006). With these attachment injuries present, parents usually find themselves in difficult situations that can seem impossible to get through. However, there is hope in helping children! Research shows that with the support of at least one consistent caregiver, children can learn to form new attachments and establish new found security in themselves and others.
What else about helping children?
The first thing to keep in mind when caring for children with attachment injuries is to take time to learn about the importance of attachment.For families dealing with attachment injuries in children, it is imperative to understand how early childhood experiences will shape a person for many years, including having lasting effects into their romantic relationships. When children learn that they cannot rely on a primary caregiver during their early years, they are not able to feel safe and secure. Though, when parents take an active role in educating themselves and/or using professionals to assist their family systems, they can better address the difficulties at hand.
Reparenting a hurt child is not for the faint of heart. It is takes time, patience and consistency. When helping children, the journey is long, but it can be immensely rewarding.
Below are a few books to support families in their journey to forming a secure attachment with their child.
Books below for helping children:
Reparenting the Child Who Hurts: For everyday parents looking to understand the impacts of trauma and attachment in childhood, this will be a beneficial read. The book addresses how usual parenting techniques are not always helpful for children who have experienced trauma and why they need to be parented differently. While utilizing a lens fit for foster care and adoptive children, parents find this book to be very helpful and down to earth.
A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development: This book was written by John Bowlby and it address the importance of attachment as a whole. Bowlby addresses a variety of research and includes the different attachment styles, along with how to detect them in children. The book is theory heavy and incorporates several clinical studies for those interested in more research.
Attached at the Heart: This book is for couples looking to start a family and incorporate attachment based parenting principals. The book addresses several strategies to strengthen emotional bonds with your children, raise conscious children, and ways to form a strong attachment from the beginning.
Parenting the Hurt Child: For families who are involved with a hurt child in some way, shape or form, this book is for you. The author utilizes an adoption lens to address the importance of a strengthened attachment in childhood and what families can do to support their child in the journey to heal and grow.
For more on helping children, you can also view Three Things Every Child Needs.