An online friend recently posted something I found very insightful. She basically said that the reason a child with an attachment disorder is so difficult to parent boils down to one simple thing, your own trauma. At first I was ready to go up in arms and set her straight but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how right she was.
Why? It is as simple and complicated as this, a child with attachment difficulties has honed his manipulation and triangulation skills to a science so he will know exactly where your sore spots are located.
What are sore spots? They are areas that are painful due to past trauma. In trauma language, they are called triggers. We all have triggers, some are not as intense as others, while others are so incredibly painful that the mere mention of a similar happening puts the individual right back in the situation and he reacts as though it were happening all over again.
For instance if your sore spot or trigger is being yelled at, your child will quickly learn that when he directs derogatory comments at you, he will get a reaction. That is what he wants because a reaction means the wall he is attempting to build between the two of you for the sole purpose of keeping you from accessing his trigger (attachment), now has another layer.
If yelling doesn’t affect you, your child most likely won’t use yelling as a means of keeping that wall in place because he knows he won’t get a reaction from you.
See, a reaction is what children with attachment disorders are seeking. A reaction means they have achieved their goal: making you angry and keeping the barrier between the two of you in place.
After you have parented such a child for awhile, you become adept at hiding your anger and frustration. This should solve the problem, right? Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. You see, by this time your child has learned to read you like an open book. He can sense when you are frustrated or upset with something he has done but are doing your best to hide it. So guess what he does? He pushes the issue harder and harder until you fear you will go crazy, and then he stands back and smiles because even though you may never show an outward reaction, he knows he has succeeded. Now, this may sound like children with attachment issues are nasty people. They aren’t, but their behaviors can be! Remember they are doing this to protect their trauma trigger, which is attachment/bonding.
This is why it is vital for you to have a good therapist for yourself. You need someone who is removed from the situation to give you sound advice, someone that is in no way swayed by your trauma triggers. You also need someone who is qualified to help you overcome these triggers. Triggers are unresolved trauma. The key word is unresolved, because all trauma can be worked through. If the pain cannot be totally eradicated, it can at least be brought to a level where you will no longer react negatively when your sore spot is pushed.
This means you will be able to remain calm and focused when your child does his best to push you away. This means you will be able to help lead him to healing rather than triggering one another.
I know this is not as simple as it sounds because living with a child who is determined to push you away is incredibly difficult. But I find knowing the reason behind why my child acts, and I react as I do, gives me another tool to help my child overcome his attachment difficulties.
About the Author: Sandra Zimmerman is mother to four children, one biological and three adopted from foster care. She blogs at talesfromourhouse.blogspot.com, where this was originally posted, about daily family life, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) and adoption. You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest.