Children who have trouble bonding and those who have an insecure attachment need to hear people from outside the family praise their parents. Mom and dad can say, "I love you, that is why I don't allow you to do xyz," or "Mom's who love their children keep them safe," but it won't mean nearly as much as when someone else says it. Children who learned early in life that adults particularly mom, are not to be trusted, need constant reminders that mom will keep them safe. However hearing it from their parents isn't nearly as effective as hearing it from people outside the immediate family.
Yesterday our neighbor was at our place. As we stood outside chatting, Kiana was swinging from a huge vine that was growing in the woods. It broke, dumping her unceremoniously onto the ground. As I held her while she cried, our neighbor said, "Isn't it nice to have a mom who loves you and takes care of you? Some moms don't take care of their children, imagine that?" She and I exchanged a smile over Kiana's head, because this lady is fully aware of the struggles we face in the bonding department.
In therapy Kiana and I have been working on our bond. Anyone else out there dread the hard work of therapy? Her therapist has a gift for using the exact same words Dean and I use when we are working through an issue with Kiana. Many times when Mr D is talking, Kiana gives me a sidelong glace that speaks volumes.
If you are relating to a family with children who are attachment challenged there are a few things you can do to encourage the bond between parent and child. The bonus for you is that once the bond is more concrete and stable, you will have more opportunity to interact with the child. When a bond is fragile, there are multitudes of innocent actions and comments that can deliver a staggering blow to a bond that has been slowly beginning to form. As parents we know it isn't done intentionally but we also know how much work has gone into the bond and how much work it will take to repair damage that was done in unintentionally. That is why we are so very protective of our children's interactions with others.
WAYS TO ENCOURAGE A BOND BETWEEN PARENT AND CHILD:
-Always affirm mom and dad (even when you don't really agree with their way of handling a situation)
-If a child asks for a drink, snack, or wants you to read them a book and the parent is present, send them to the parent. The parent will know if it is "safe" for little Johnny to sit beside you for a story or not and they will guide the situation accordingly.
-When you see the parent helping their child, a comment such as, "Your mom/dad does such a good job taking care of you," may be just the words needed to strengthen the bond. A word of caution, don't say it if you don't mean it, our children are masters at sensing artificial words/actions.
-If the child asks for permission to do something while in the presence of his parents say, "That would be a good question to ask your mom/dad." Our children are good at getting things that they know are against the rules from other adults. They also know which adults mom and dad are willing to stand up to and which one's their parents will tend to avoid a confrontation with.
-If the child is being ornery for their parents, don't try to draw them out of it. This can be helpful for the well attached child, but not for those who are not fully bonded. The child will assume you are on their side thus against mom/dad and this will only feed the fire. The best thing to do is simply ignore the child, he will quickly sense whether or not you are willing to engage in his silent fight against mom and dad.
We have had situations where a child was really having a hard time with the relationship necessary between a parent and child, when someone stepped in and said something like, "Isn't it nice to have a mom/dad who knows just what you need?" The child gives us a sheepish grin and we silently bless the speaker.