When an infant’s needs are met in a sensitive, responsive, timely and predictable way, the infant never spends too much time in distress because whenever the infant / child is distressed, the parent responds and the distress is ended. This scenario allows the child to spend most of his life in a contented way. When an infant or child too often is separated from his parent, or frightened, injured, hungry or cold, the infant / child experiences too much distress. In other words, the child’s attachment system was frequently activated to try to get the parent to meet his needs and the parent did not. This scenario may have long-term consequences to the child’s regulatory systems; the child may become too easily distressed or not distressed enough. Failure to thrive infants give up on activating their attachment system because that behaviour was ineffective in getting their needs met. Other children may remain easily dysregulated. The role of the parent is to respond to attachment behaviours before the child becomes distressed; or if the child is already easily dysregulated, the parent will need to create an environment that will facilitate low levels of distress. Let’s break this down a bit. Continue reading
As an adoptive parent, you might wonder about how to best to help your child feel loved, accepted and that she belongs. This is quick overview of the essentials in helping your adopted child develop an attachment to you through your bonding behaviour.
The essentials of attachment and bonding:
- Children attach (form an attachment) to their parents who is usually the person who is meeting their needs. Parents bond with their children and adults form attachments or bonds to intimate partners. Lots of people use these terms interchangeably however for clarity, this is the ways the terms are used here.
- Attachment behaviours are those behaviours that evoke nurturing, protecting and comforting behaviour in the parent. In this way, the parent is signaled by the child to meet the child’s basic needs, and for comfort and safety. Attachment behaviours will vary according to age / developmental age of the child.
- Bonding behaviours are the parent’s responses to the child’s attachment behaviours and those that are initiated by the parent to meet the child’s needs.
- Attachment behaviour in infants and toddlers: crying, whining (preverbal vocalizations that are a step down from crying), cooing, smiling, reaching, face gazing, touching, clinging, following, turning toward parent and similar sorts of behaviour. The goal of these behaviours is to get needs met. Basic needs are food, warmth, comfort, relief from discomfort, play and socialization and to maintain close proximity to ensure safety from environmental dangers.
- Attachment behaviours in older children / teens: all of the above, and seek affection from parent, accept affection from parent, give affection in return to parent (in other words reciprocal affection); seek help or assistance when needed, accept help or assistance when needed (in other words, allow the parent to meet the child / youth’s needs), seek and accept comfort when scared, sick, injured. Maintain close enough proximity to parent when in dangerous or new situations.
- Bonding behaviour in parents: in general, parenting that enhances secure attachment is
- Sensitive: accurate, on target, correct read of the child’s attachment need
- Responsive: is in response to the child’s needs, a reciprocal interaction (like gentle ping pong)
- Timely: responses are immediate
- Predictable and consistent: this helps the child make sense of their new world.
I am a Registered Psychotherapist, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapist, and Play Therapist in private practice in southern Ontario, Canada. Serving Toronto and South-Western Ontario.
I specialize in supporting and enhancing attachment in children, bonding in parents, and resolution of early losses, trauma, war trauma and neglect in children. I work with parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, customary care parents and their children. I am a provider through Non-Insured Health Benefits-Mental Health for Indigenous persons.
Areas of Expertise
- Attachment disorders and difficulties
- Developmental Trauma
- Early Trauma and Neglect within the Care-giving environment
- Loss and grief
- Separation from Care-givers
- Bonding and Attachment in adoption
- Bonding and Attachment in foster care
- Advocacy for Attachment and Bonding
- Childhood developmental and emotional difficulties
- War Trauma
- Treatment of Refugee and Immigrant Trauma
- Acculturation Difficulties
- Expert Witness in Attachment, Trauma and Child Development
- Consulting with schools
Advocacy and Community Work
- Member of the Developmental Trauma Action Alliance, chair of the Provincial Campaign Committee
- Past President of the Association for Training in the Treatment of Trauma and Attachment in Children (ATTACh) Minneapolis MN, and now member of the ATTACh Advisory Committee
- Trainer for the Permanency and Adoption Competency Training (PACT) for the Adoption Council of Ontario (ACO)
- Member of the Board of Directors of Adopt4Life, Chair of the Mental Health Committee.