I’ve mentioned that I recently finished reading Building the Bonds of Attachment by Daniel Hughes. The first time I read it was before we had our children home and it didn’t really hold my attention. I mean, really, what were the chances that I would have a child with an attachment challenge? When I picked it up recently, I couldn’t put it down; I read it cover to cover, pencil in hand, underlining as I went.
One of the key aspects to Hughes model of therapeutic parenting is what he calls, The Attitude. This attitude is maintained by the parent as they interact with the child and sets a foundation for healing.
The Attitude has five features: playful, loving, accepting, curious, and empathetic.
Our children with histories of trauma and attachment missed the normal experience of being parented this way when they were babies and toddlers. Think of how we interact with our babies – we are playful with them and loving. We think they are adorable and we accept their feelings and actions when they are hungry or tired. When they cry all afternoon, we say they are fussy, and give them extra nurturing. We carry them in front packs and make sure they feel safe and warm. As they begin to learn and change, we watch them, curious to see how they understand things and what they are able to do. It’s not difficult to be empathetic to our children, even when their behavior is challenging.
When we apply The Attitude to our interactions with our children from hard places, we create an atmosphere in which they can heal and grow. I know how hard this is with really tough kids. I’ve been working on it with Bee and Eby, and it takes a lot of energy. The key is that my emotions are not controlled by their behavior. I can be curious about why Bee says or does something, but I try not to let it affect me in a way that makes me want to pull away from her. When I do that, even subtly, she feels it and it sets us back in our journey toward secure attachment.
The trick for me, and probably for many of us, is maintaining this attitude while still having empathy and connection. If we detach in the, “too bad for you; live with your choices,” way, we allow sarcasm to creep in, and we increase our children’s deep core of shame.
Question: Of the five features: playful, loving, accepting, curious, and empathetic, is there one that you struggle with more than the others?
Have a great Monday, friends.