Just two different kinds of love.
On a warm spring morning Todd and his wife, Melissa, were walking through a park to meet a colleague for breakfast. She is a child psychiatrist who has worked in the field of attachment and bonding for many years. Over granola and a large latte, she asked about our work with maltreated children. After a brief explanation of what we do, she leaned forward and asked incredulously, “So parents tell them stories and they get better?” Again and again, professionals and parents ask us some version of this question. Yes, it sounds too easy, too good to be true. But stories indeed make a difference.
At the Family Attachment and Counseling Center, we specialize in working with children who have trouble connecting with their parents, families, and peers. These children typically have suffered from early care that was insensitive and inconsistent at best, neglectful and abusive at worst. When early life relationships do not provide the kind of emotional and physical care that is required for optimal growth and development, children may face difficulties in how they see themselves, others, and the world. This basic sense of security or insecurity forms a model or pattern for relationships with people. This inner working model affects a child’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
Parenting children with an insecure attachment and a negative, mistaken model for relationships is extremely challenging. Loving them is not always enough. Likewise, thousands of attuned, caring responses may not be sufficient to repair the damage done by traumatic early experiences. The most talented, insightful, and experienced parent may want at times to give in to total despair, thinking that they can never reach their child. When parents live with a challenging child, every day provides a never-ending supply of “incidents” that motivate their search for help. We are not exaggerating when we say that most parents we