Narratives that Bond,
Heal, and Teach
The first one gave you life. The second one taught you to live it.
The flames of a warm fire gently light the faces of a father and daughter cuddled under a faded star quilt. Entranced, the child listens attentively. She turns the pages as her father reads the story that has become their nighttime ritual. She wants the same story to be read over and over again, eventually memorizing the words and “reading” to Dad. It’s one of those moments that you hope the child will treasure forever.
Story time is a perfect bonding activity. Bonding activities are any actions that increase physical proximity and facilitate feelings of safety, security, affection, and trust. It is a time when emotional connections are formed between two persons. Reading stories, playing games, mealtimes, bath and bedtime rituals, holiday traditions, and simply spending time together are examples of bonding activities.
The parent of a child with attachment disturbances and behavioral disorders may have a different experience of these activities. The child complains, interrupts, wiggles, and fidgets before hopping off to go play with something else. So much for the moment to treasure. Some parents have compared it to cuddling with eight pairs of elbows and knees. They are left with feelings of frustration and disappointment rather than closeness and intimacy.
Family Attachment Narrative Therapy can be an effective tool to help children develop trust, heal from past experiences, and learn new behaviors. The key is discovering the child’s inner working model and meaning of the behavior. Then narratives are constructed to address the negative belief system that drives the behavior. Generally parents begin with claiming narratives, stories which assist the parent and child in developing an emotional bond and a feeling of belonging to the family.