Your Challenging Child

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Attachment, Connection, Security

Behavior is a result of emotions. What are your child’s emotions that cause them to behave as they do? And more importantly, what are the thoughts that are causing those emotions? They may be suffering from the result of an early life event or events that caused him or her psychological pain. Bonding or “Attachment is an affectionate bond that endures over time.” (Vera Fahlberg, 1991). John Bowlby (1969) describes it as  a” lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” It begins with connectedness in-utero between mother and child (Verny and Kelly, 1981), helping the child to develop a sense of self-identity.” (Falhberg, 1991).  There are many factors that contribute to the disruption of a secure bond, including abuse or neglect, birth trauma, chronic pain or illness in an infant or child, adoption, early death of a parent or divorce. 

As human beings, we are all somewhere on the spectrum from a level of security to severely insecure attachments in our relationships.

The following information comes from data that was collected from the work of Psychologist, Bessel Vander Kolk. If any of the following characteristics describe your child’s challenges, he or she may be suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) or even PTSD, if their trauma was intense.

Describing your child’s behaviors in relation to physical effects…

  • Does he or she seem to have an inability to handle extreme feelings such as fear, anger, or guilt which may result in severe tantrums or immobilization?
  • Does he or she have serious problems with normal bodily functions, such as chronic sleeping difficulties, eating, and elimination; inappropriate reactions to touch or sounds; difficulty with transitions?
  • Does he or she lack awareness of sensations or have difficulty describing emotions and bodily states?

What are your child’s abilities for handling or coping with stress?

  • Does he or she have a preoccupation with threat or the inability to perceive an actual threat?
  • Does he or she fail to be self-protective, including extreme risk-taking or thrill-seeking?
  • Do they exhibit inappropriate self-soothing (ie. rhythmical movements or compulsive masturbation)?
  • Does he or she self-harm?
  • Does he or she have a complete absence of goals?

What are your child’s relationships like?

  • Does he or she exaggerate concern with the safety of the caregiver or other loved ones or difficulty reuniting with them after separation?
  • Does he or she have a negative self-image, including self-loathing, helplessness, worthlessness, ineffectiveness, or defectiveness?
  • Does he or she have extreme and persistent distrust, defiance or lack of reciprocal behavior in close relationships?
  • Does he or she have reactive physical or verbal aggression toward peers, caregivers, or other adults?
  • Does he or she make inappropriate attempts to get intimate contact or excessive reliance on peers or adults for safety and reassurance?
  • Does he or she lack empathy for others or have excessive reactions to the distress of others?

If your child exhibits any of the characteristics listed above that cause you to be concerned, it would be worth meeting with a therapist who understands attachment. They will help you understand your child’s needs on a level that you may not have considered yet.

If you would like to meet with a specialist regarding your child’s behavior problems, consider meeting with Max Park, LMFT. He has over 25 years of clinical experience helping clients create attachment in their relationships. Anyone who struggles to find a connection in any relationship can benefit from using these tools and understanding these principles. He has some great parenting tips for all parents who want to build a healthy connection with their children, but he is especially experienced in working with families who have the above-listed attachment issues.

This post was written by Sheri Braithwaite, with clinical data provided by Max Park, LMFT.