Upton: Getting children to attach

Upton: Getting children to attach

October 24th, 2013 By Tabi Upton in Life Entertainment

Our ancestors knew things we seem to be forgetting. Things like the importance of keeping a young infant on her mother's breast and over her heart for most of the day for months after birth; the often-overlooked necessity of parents being held in honor, regard and as models of high character to be followed.

Of course, these ancients weren't always perfect. Sometimes, war happened and they made children fight. Or they married girls off too early. But they often had more order within their societies than we do today.

There is a certain chaos in the land, and poor attachment may be at the heart of the problem. Attachment begins for humans while they are still in utero. They learn the sounds and feelings of the mother. They know the father's voice. They continue to bond upon landing on planet Earth, cradled in arms with a gentle touch, floating on the familiar, sweet-sounding words, laughter and singing around them, enjoying the intimacy of eye-to-eye contact.

When they have a need, they alert the parent with crying. The parent meets the need gladly, and the child

learns to trust. They then are able to develop a conscience, learn empathy and respond to love with love. Connecting with and caring for others ideally occurs within the family unit. When this is done successfully, little humans grow up and move into society as productive members of it.

And then there is disrupted, poor, incomplete or reactive attachment. Here we have a child who has failed to bond properly, causing them to miss cognitive milestones that help them trust. They fail to fully develop their conscience, which makes teaching rules and responsibility a nightmare. Without empathy, they may enjoy the pain of others and inflict it purposely.

They fail to obey out of a desire to please or honor an authority figure because they have no respect for position. They need a sense of control because they do not feel safe, and so rebellious behavior, both outwardly and passive-aggressively, becomes the mode of operation.

These little ones sometimes grow up to break laws, hurt others without remorse, move into chaotic and painful relationships and fail to take responsibility for their own behaviors. Several mental health diagnoses partially describe the problem; some personality disorders do as well.

Nancy Thomas, renowned attachment expert, teaches parents and teachers how to turn the ship around. Her seminar, "When Love is Not Enough," addresses the taxing issues of lying, stealing, aggression and abusive behaviors that many exhausted caregivers just can't get a handle on in their homes. Her Attachment Camps run for a solid week at a time, but transform families forever.

She should know. She's fostered dozens of children, many of whom qualified for the difficult to diagnose disorder of Reactive Attachment. Some of the children she brought into her home had killed before. They had learning difficulties, were defiant and decidedly "uncuddly." She's had an incredibly high level of success in turning them around.

She started with small changes - she simplified their lives and often did not allow TV watching for up to a year. She repeatedly turned her car around while out or packed the children up from a store when they talked out of turn. She changed their diets, taking out sugars and processed foods and adding supplements like B-complexes and fish oils that helped their brains improve. She learned about the impact of trauma on the brain, and helped her children move from fight-or-flight behavior into the frontal lobe area of the brain where cause-and-effect thinking could occur.

She loved them unconditionally and gave out hugs to seal the bond (children need 12 a day, she says), established herself as queen of the house, her husband as king and the children as the princes and princesses. They then were taught how to think and behave accordingly. The results speak for themselves.

To learn more about attachment disorders, visit www.attachment.org.

Tabi Upton is a local counselor, speaker and freelance writer. Contact her at tabiupton@bellsouth.net.