5 Ways To Stop Taking Attachment Disorder Personally.

Attachment disorder is one of the hardest, loneliest, and defeating aspects of parenting children from traumatic pasts. If you’re anything like us, you struggle to not take the words and actions of your child personally. So, how do you find light at the end of a very dark and long tunnel?

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It IS personal. That’s the trouble with Attachment disorder. It is the opposite of the parental connectedness that we all desire with our children. Children attach through constantly having their needs met. When this attachment doesn’t happen during a child’s first few years, it can take a lifetime to recover the loss. As adoptive parents this is where we find ourselves with many of our children.

Often we are ashamed to admit that our child is not attaching to us. We may feel judgment from others who do not understand the cycle of bonding or the lengths we are going through to repair years of past damage and trauma. When we are living in a cycle of shame and disappointment as parents we are further hindering our own ability to attach. Here are a few things you can do to put shame behind you and stop taking your child’s attachment disorder personally.

  1. Lose Expectations. Do you have a healthy bond with another child? Did you have a healthy attachment to your parents? This relationship is different. A child who has been through trauma is going to view his or her world through a different lens than other children. They have built an emotional wall as a protection against further hurt. They did not consciously intend to keep your love out as well. They do not know how to differentiate. Lose your old expectations and allow your relationship to evolve at it’s own pace.
  2. Take a Minute. Children who have lost trust in adults, namely parents are often quick to react out of fear. They may lie about the most trivial situations. They may respond to requests with hurtful words or refusal to comply. They may curse at or push parents away emotionally. When these things happen, it is important for yourself and for your child to take a minute. The first reaction is usually not their real reaction. When you realize that your child is responding to a situation inappropriately, take a moment to allow their brain to catch up to the reality of the event. Often when our children are allowed to have a do-over they will aim for a different outcome.
  3. Correct and Guide. While you must understand where your child’s attachment disorder comes from, you don’t have to surrender to the disconnectedness. As your child grows and matures it is ok to find moments to address the issue with your child. Our son is now a pre-teen. He is beginning to have the maturity to understand a small correction like, “When you yell at me, it really hurts my feelings.” Sometimes we desire for the connection to be there so badly that we are tempted to deny the hurt. It is more than ok to allow your child to take responsibility for his or her words and actions. Keep in mind that your child may not seem to care how you feel. Brace yourself for that but if they do seem to understand, this can become a time of careful guidance.
  4. Cherish Moments Of True Connectedness. Be on the lookout for real moments of connectedness. Often I am exhausted from the every day wearing down that the lack of trust takes on my relationship with my children. I sometimes forget to look for the hope that still exists within our relationship. Hope is still there. Connectedness is always possible. The connection could happen in a brief moment of eye contact. Maybe it will be a genuine hug. You may laugh at the same joke or find out that you love the same food. My daughter was 24 when she called me “Mom” for the first time. I cling to that moment in my memory to this day.
  5. Be Prepared to Start the Cycle Over. Tuck those good memories away where you can retrieve them quickly because attachment disorder may rear its ugly head just moments after a wonderful success. Attachment, bonding and trust take time. My children are worth all the time it takes. I’m willing to bet yours are too!

Often you will feel as if you’re fighting a losing battle. It’s hard to see the sun behind storm clouds. Hang in there. Remember, you’re not alone. We’re in this trench with you. Keep your head up and keep fighting for the heart of your child.

Question: Are you parenting a child with an attachment disorder? What has been the most difficult aspect of your journey? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Sherilyn Fuhriman Olsen

    I agree with all on this well-articulated list. Thank you for the encouraging reminders!

    • Kristin Berry

      You are so welcome!

  • sheluvskids

    Thanks for such a great article. I think not taking it personally is one of the biggest challenges we face.
    Most of us are doing this because we love kids, and feel called to this work. It is really hard heart breaking work to love someone who hasn’t learned to love in return.
    We invest everything we have into our children, and it is profoundly wounding to be rejected.
    Yet in my deepest hurt, I am reminded of how much Christ loved me when I was also unlovable.

    • This is so well said. Thanks for your comment!

  • Lindsey

    Thank you for this article. A new foster-to-adopt child moved into our home on Tuesday, and it is really nice to know you are here, even if it is online.

    • You are definitely NOT alone Lindsey.. 🙂

  • Dee

    Great article, are you just talking about attachment disorders? I have an adopted child that has reactive attachment disorder, which seems to be totally different than this, am I correct?

    • Kristin Berry

      Hi! Attachment disorders can display themselves in so many different ways. We have one child who “attaches” to every stranger she meets. She is the total opposite of our son.

  • Deb

    my frustration really lies with schools, family and friends that see my child as a holy terror because of her behavior and also not getting the support or resources we need because where we live there is a shortage of therapists or lack of knowledge with these kids

    • Kristin Berry

      Hi! I completely understand that. I hate when others vilify our son because of his struggles. I know he can seem like a holy terror but that isn’t all there is to him as a person. Thank you for sharing a little of your story. I’m hopeful that you will get some help and community soon!
      k

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  • Kirk Sheppard

    I often teach new counselors (and told parents when I was doing direct service) that there’s nothing in the world harder than parenting a child with an attachment disorder. You’ve given such great advice in this article without minimizing anyone’s feelings or sugarcoating reality. Great work!

  • Vince Crunk

    Not 100% sure this (AD) is our issue but we DO see some of these responses etc and we know for sure trauma was part of infancy but re this – ” … take a moment to allow their brain to catch up to the reality of the event.” Often it feels as if there is never any catch up. No recognition of this reality. Also would love to see a post about remorse/having a conscience (two different things but that connect for me)

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  • Mandy

    My husband and I are fostering and hoping to adopt twin boys who are 6. We have had them about 15months and we love them so much. It is very clear one of them has more issues with RADS. I am a sensitive and nuturing woman and have to work daily to not take it personally. The lack of support and understanding is hard to deal with. Your Facebook articles are so applicable and help me so much. I pray every night for guidance on how to deal with this. Thank you so much for all of your kind and encouraging words. They really are a blessing!