What It Takes to Parent and Heal Attachment Disorder

By | 2018-02-08T17:04:59+00:00 February 8th, 2018|

In order to heal any child from attachment trauma, you have to create the same emotional environment in which a secure attachment is normally formed. In this blog, we’re going to discuss vital secrets to success, where most parents fail, and how to super-strong your parenting (don’t worry this will be described in further detail as the blog unfolds)!

You, along with many other parents, are probably asking yourself, “Why do I have to become a strong parent? What does it mean to be a strong parent? Won’t they attach to me if I’m just kind and loving?”

The short answer is, No. I wish it were so! I really do! If this were the case, so many children would be able to heal from their trauma and attachment issues, because there are lots of people who usually love these children!

The big problem is this: love, as we usually think of it, is not how you gain a child’s trust as a parent, because they see this love as a weakness. They think by you allowing them to treat you badly while you still feed, clothe, give them gifts, and let them play with their friends, that you’re weak and stupid.  

Would you trust someone who was weak or stupid…with your life?  

For adults with insecure attachments, they struggle to trust themselves for this very reason; they still see themselves as too weak and too incapable of knowing how to live life. So internally, we have this dialogue between our inner scared child and our adult selves.  

When looking at how to heal ourselves from attachment trauma, it’s important to remember that becoming a strong parent to ourselves is vital to help heal ourselves from attachment trauma as adults.

For any child, even if we’re referring to our inner child, the stakes are high, which is why you’re going to have to “Super-Strong” your parenting in order to earn their respect, trust, and love, which in turn will help them heal and earn that secure attachment.

Most Common Mistake of RAD Parents

Many parents make the mistake of using their kindness to earn their child’s trust, rather than by recreating the emotional environment in which an infant naturally develops a secure attachment in the first year of life.

The dynamics of the first year of life are essential to develop a secure attachment. If they didn’t get it back then, they have to have it now or they will never gain a secure attachment.

Yes, it’s a lot harder now that they’re older, because they can walk, talk back, and hide things that an infant can’t do!  But the struggle to help your child find healing is worth it.

So how do we recreate the dynamics of infancy to have them securely attach now? We have to create a similar emotional environment of the first year of life.  

Once they develop a secure enough attachment to move on to the emotional dynamics of the second year of life, for instance, until they’re emotionally caught up to their physical age. 

If a parent is intentional about this work by making the necessary changes in their life and home, and becomes the super-strong person the child needs, this process will happen relatively fast. By relatively, I mean, relative to how long they’ve been stuck in the disease of insecure attachment.

In just a few weeks you could notice a dramatic change in their behavior, stress level, and relationship with you. Over the next several months, you’ll be able to get past the worst of the battle they’ll put up. Experience has shown that it can take one month for every year of their age to complete the process to an earned secure attachment if a parent employs the key tools, including becoming a super-strong parent.  

Unfortunately, what usually happens instead, is a parent continues their way of life by just using love and kindness. The years go by, and their child doesn’t heal. The child with insecure attachment and attachment disorder has very high internal stress levels, and this is going to result in future physical and mental health problems, and a continued life of relationship and work struggles.  

My experience has shown that the foster, adoptive or biological parents who continue with just love and kindness, despite not seeing their child truly healing, usually have their unresolved attachment trauma and childhood hurts. Unresolved trauma will make being a Super-Strong parent very difficult, because of their own insecurities.

Most Important Key Quality: Becoming a Super-Strong Parent

A super-strong parent is one that can be described as a benevolent dictator.  

As much as they may push against anyone in a position of authority, they desperately seek a person who shows calm leadership.  

They’re determined not to trust you, but to control their environment (which includes you) as if their life depends on it, because in their minds it does. By controlling people, places, and things it helps them to feel like they’re safe and will stay alive.  

For them it’s a matter of life and death. Are you prepared to go against this and also fight for their life?  

You have to super-strong it.  

This means, you have to become a really strong person.  

If you’re tall and are physically strong, you definitely have an advantage. These kids will naturally feel safer with you.

However, they’ll still fight authentic connection and attachment with you until you prove that you’re also an emotionally strong person. I recommend watching this video of parents who share how their children with trauma and attachment issues fight authentic connection!

There’s no doubt that an infant sees their parent as stronger than they are! This is why when a parent provides for their physical and emotional needs in a calm, connected, and consistent manner, an infant sees their parents as God, trusts them, and develops a secure attachment with them.  

The key for an individual at any age to develop an earned secure attachment is by trust developed through a sense that the person is safe (won’t intentionally hurt them) and stronger. You have to create the emotional environment for them to perceive you as stronger.

Become Emotionally Stronger!

The psychology of a person with insecure attachment is so funny, because while they won’t trust you because they see you as weak, they also secretly don’t trust themselves.  

It’s quite a predicament to be in!

Becoming and showing that you’re emotionally stronger than they are is an absolute, non-negotiable requirement for a child with trauma and attachment disorder to develop trust and earn a secure attachment.

The biggest areas in which parents fail in this and prove to be no stronger than the children are, are in regards to arguments and lies.

When we argue with our kids or have them think we may believe them implicitly, we go down to their level, and in their eyes, they’re smarter than we are.  

When we believe their lies, they see themselves as stronger than us.

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

Another area in which parents fail to appear strong enough for a child with trauma and attachment disorder is by not following through on what they say they’re going to do.  

Really watch what you say; make sure you only say you’re going to do something when it’s truly in your power to do it.  

Know what you truly have control over before you say something. If you don’t know, then don’t say it until you do know. Saying “I’ll need to do something, but I am not sure what yet. When I do, I’ll let you know,” are worlds better than saying something and then not being able to follow through later. The first still gives the appearance of you being strong, in charge, and in calm control.  

If you say you’re going to take away a toy or ground them for a certain period of time, then do it. No negotiation.  

Daniel Hughes in his book, Building the Bonds of Attachment, describes the scene of the foster mom as her new foster girl arrives in her home, and how she has to start with firm kindness and no negotiation on the girl who “accidentally” spills her milk and wants more. I really recommend that book, you can find it on here.

Be careful, because negotiation to them is not what negotiation is to you. Them negotiating is having control over you.  

Therefore, it’s super important to be emotionally calm and grounded so that you’re making appropriate choices of your actions and what is going to happen next. If you’re reactive and punitive, the children will see you as emotionally unstable.  

They will not see you as a stronger person than they are if you’re emotionally reactive and lose control. After all, that’s the same thing that they do!  

Super-Strong It Through Body Language

We know that non-verbal communication through body language is much more powerful to communicate messages to the brain in survival mode than words are. Use this to your advantage!

If you were standing next to a big body-builder who was there to protect you from others, you’d feel extremely safe and invincible!

This is the same dynamic you want to create when healing a child with trauma and attachment disorder.

You can create and definitely enhance the message of being physically stronger by keeping yourself above their eye level.  

If they have to physically look up to you, their brain will start the process of emotionally looking up to you… if you do it right. You have to also give them the non-verbal cues of “I’m on your side” otherwise, they will see your taller physical position as a threat.

The non-verbal cues of “I’m on your side” are communicated through the eyes. This is why it’s so important to have them look in your eyes when there is any interaction, so they can see the soft, loving calm gaze of your eyes.  

If they see angry eyes and you’re taller than they are, you’ll trigger the threat response, they’ll become emotionally dysregulated, and will go into fight or shut down mode.

When you’re taller than they are and have really soft eyes for them, the comfort and sense of safety they get from this will foster the respect, trust, and attachment you want.

The easy way to maintain a taller physical stature and to have them always looking up at you is to have them sit if you’re standing, and to have them sit on the floor looking up at you if you’re sitting in a chair. This is of course, only when they would be looking level or down at you if they were to stand or sit next to you.

Summary

Remember this key phrase, “Benevolent Dictator.”

Your’e in charge, especially of yourself and your emotions. They can’t make you become angry, sad, and definitely not lash out verbally.  

You are in charge, and you need to make the decisions that are in their best interest for healing, whether or not they like those decisions in the moment.  

Being benevolent, there isn’t room for punishment and consequences, just because you can.  Doing that reflects more of your fear and anger, and will take you out of the role of a benevolent dictator who should only be making those decisions on what would help them heal.

There are times when consequences are helpful to their healing, and a benevolent dictator would allow those consequences to happen naturally, not save them from their own choices, even though it would not be easy for the benevolent dictator to watch his/her child experience consequences. You, as the parent, must love them enough to allow those things that will help the healing process, even when it’s difficult.

If it helps, put on an imaginary crown before stepping out of your bedroom in the morning. I guarantee you, this will help you be in better control of yourself and will help you make benevolent and strong decisions.  

A healthy and secure attachment will soon follow!

 

To Inner Strength and Healing~

Dr. Aimie

2 Comments

  1. Adela Stockton February 11, 2018 at 2:51 am - Reply

    Thank you, another really useful article. I wonder what your view is when the ‘child’ is a young adult? Where to start?

    • Dr. Aimie Apigian February 14, 2018 at 8:35 pm - Reply

      Good question, Adela. Also a very hard question!

      In order for parents to be able to heal their children, they have to be able to still create the environment through the therapeutic parenting methods. If the child becomes too old for a parent to be able to control their environment anymore, then the parent’s ability to do therapeutic parenting becomes limited.

      Therapeutic parenting is the requirement for a parent still being able to heal their child, or at least create the environment for them to able to heal. Once a child is too old for this process, the choice and responsibility for healing now shifts to the child/young adult. It seems this cut off is in the early teenage years, though every situation is unique.

      However, the answer is not so much the age, but the ability to control the child’s environment enough to create a therapeutic environment and create the relationship dynamics of the first years of life.

      Once a child becomes too old to control their environment to the extent that is needed, it is up to the child. The child needs to see the problem, want the healing, and be willing to do the hard work. Then the parent can be there for them and be a strong attuning presence for them!

      If the parent is one that contributed to their initial attachment trauma, the parents needs to be prepared for the child to not feel safe going there with the parent, and choose someone else to walk with them through that process.

      I hope this helps, Adela! All the best ~ Dr. Aimie

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