Bonding and Attachment in Blended Families – Part 2

I am so fortunate to know other Blended families who have walked the same path as my family and have the capacity to talk openly about their personal experiences. My friend Amy, who is both a mother of a Blended family and a social worker, shares her continuing experience in developing a healthy attachment to her children. Read on for her second guest installment on Blended. You can find her first installment here.

I used to think of attachment and bonding as a milestone to cross. However, in the past year my understanding of attachment has grown and I now recognize it as an on-going process, not a static state. About a year ago, when our daughter was 5 years old, we began to have intense difficulty helping her regulate her states of calm and excitement.  Transitions from high-energy activities to more mellow activities provoked major melt-downs. These melt-downs were particularly intense transitioning into the car or at bedtime, and would go on for well over an hour. My husband and I tried numerous parenting techniques without significant improvement in her behavior.

After a couple of months, and worn out emotionally, we decided to seek counseling. As we shared with the counselor what was happening at home, she suggested that a component of the issue was related to attachment. To be quite honest, I was offended by the suggestion. I thought, “My daughter is well bonded with us, and we are well bonded with her. Attachment is not an issue!” However, as I continued to ask questions about attachment and read articles that the psychologist gave us, I grew to understand that attachment is a dynamic process that happens throughout the day not just in early childhood. It took time, but I learned to recognize that we hadn’t failed as parents just because we were still dealing with “attachment issues.”

As we moved forward as a family, my husband and I became increasingly intentional about finding ways to connect with our daughter at key transitions during the day. We modified our late afternoon and evening schedule so that after dinner, rather than trying to rush through bath time and story time, we focused on playing games or doing a craft as a family. We found that our daughter loved to hear stories about when she was a baby, so we incorporated “baby stories” into our bedtime routine after the lights were off. We replaced singing to her with “snuggle time.” These were relatively minor changes to our bedtime routine, but within a week the result was dramatic!  What had changed? We were connecting with her better and she felt more secure. Yes, there were other factors at work and we sought guidance on those also, but attachment work was a significant piece in getting the help we needed as a family. And what a difference it has made for all of us!

If Amy’s installments have resonated for your family, she recommends reading: Attachment-Focused Parenting by Daniel A. Hughes

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