Parents are often concerned that their child seems to be attaching to one parent and not the other.
Attachment is a process and not an event – it is the key social/emotional task of the first three years of life and goes through many changes. In ALL children, we often see a process called “splitting” where a child may play parents against each other. An example of splitting in normal development is playing parents against each other - if Mommy says “no”, I’ll go to Daddy and ask.
However, in children with attachment issues, the child is distant or actively pushing the relationship with mom away and truly does not have a relationship with the other parent but is just using him to split the parents.
It may be tough to recognize the subtle differences here - but it is very important to help your child and your family. The first step is to make sure both parents have a sound understanding of attachment issues and what may have caused them. Remember that children who come to the family having experienced abuse, neglect, maternal depression, or institutionalization prior to placement are likely to have attachment issues. Understand your child’s history and what may be impacting his or her behavior.
Once you understand where the behavior is rooted, make sure that you are on the same page with your spouse. Have the same rules, expectations, etc. Reinforce your partnership to your child by using referring to the other parent as “my wife” or “my husband”. Saying “I don’t like how you are talking to my wife” sends a stronger message of unity than “I don’t like how you are talking to your mother”.
To learn more about splitting and other concerns parents share, join me for Expert Advice on Your Top 5 Attachment Concerns, Tuesday, February 25.