In the trying times we learn
Published April 25, 2012 | By Natasha Powles
Attachment is such a difficult thing to comprehend. It’s something that tends to come naturally to most of us. We are born and raised by one or two main caregivers. We learn that these are the safest people in our worlds and we can trust them in any situation. We understand their faces, their tone of voice, their body language and we learn the appropriate ways to respond.
Add to that extended family and family friends and we have our safe support network. Anyone not in this circle of people and deemed a stranger, we are taught to be cautious to remain safe.
That is true attachment. Someone there when things are going well, and they remain there, along for the ride, when things get tough.
The thing is though, some children never get this start in life. They may have never formed a valid attachment to anyone. They may have suffered trauma in their early years. They may have lost a primary care giver. They may have had several care givers who they never have the opportunity to build relationships with. They may have simply been let down one too many times to find it difficult to ever trust again. Or they may have experienced all of the above.
Such a sad place to be.
And it isn’t just children who have grown up in a care system who may experience attachment issues. I see varying degrees of attachment issues in several of the young people I work with. I’ve seen it in my daughter.
It’s the reason she spends most of her time with me. It’s the reason we limit the circle of people around her so she recognises and understands who exactly is in her circle and who is not. It’s the reason we promote safe and positive relationships with the people I know and trust, so she doesn’t build inappropriate relationship or have no awareness of stranger danger. It’s the reason we limit opportunities for people to cause ‘let downs’, in making broken promises to her that she simply cannot handle. After all she’s been let down enough in her life, now is the time to trust and grow.
The good news is that it isn’t a lost cause. As long as we put the work in to create a positive relationship then we can work on rebuilding attachment. It’s baby steps most of the time. A normal day can offer up lots of opportunities to create a safe and nurturing environment in which me and my daughter can grow together. And yes, ultimately the main attachment has to be towards ME! I’m Mum, and she has to learn to understand that and all that it means to have me as Mum.
Some people just don’t get it! Some people don’t even try to get it.
And that’s OK. Because maybe this is something they will never need to be aware of.
Although what I’ve found lately is that in the trying times we learn the most.
We went through a stage a while ago where if something had broken or been lost, we would experience total melt down. I mean screaming, crying, etc. If a meltdown didn’t happen then the broken object may just be hidden away so we don’t even have to deal with it.
Things have changed. This week in fact, a kitchen storage jar fell off the shelf and the lid smashed. Only this time things were different…..
There was no meltdown…
There was no hiding anything….
We finally had a positive attachment moment.
I simply watched for what reaction we were about to have. She took a deep breath and waited too. She regulated her behaviours to a certain degree and just when it looked like the tears were on the horizon, I was able to step in with a simple statement:
Followed by a small hug.
Rather than questioning my reaction based on her earlier childhood she simply waited to see if this trust thing was for real. It was a chance for our attachment to be tested. A time for her to actually check out if I was up for the task. A time for her to see how far she’s come!
And no I don’t mean for everyone going through a tough attachment time to go out and smash things so they can check out their reactions. Just look for those moments when you have your child’s full attention, when you are both feeling vulnerable and then use this opportunity to build on what you already have.
All those days of creating your ‘normal’, they all add up for these moments.
The trying times;
The testing times;
The learning times;
The trusting times;
The loving times;
The forever family times.
Natasha lives in Wales, United Kingdom with her daughter aged 11. Natasha’s daughter came home from Uganda in December 2010. Natasha is a professionally qualified youth worker, working full time in a secondary school. Natasha has had a special connection with Uganda since 2005 after visiting for the first time and continues to maintain close links with Uganda. Natasha’s personal blog can be found at www.natashas-africa.blogspot.com.
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