What Is Attachment Disorder?

Today, I want to talk about attachment disorders, and the power of healing your own wounds.

First, I’d like to say that I am not THE expert, or the go to authority, on attachment disorder. I have experience with this, and I’ve worked with several parents and teens around attachment disorders, and I have helped them improve their relationships with themselves and others. So, I’m going to share some of the things that I’ve found to help, specifically for you the parent.

I’d also like to clear up a few things about attachment disorder and parenting teens. Unfortunately, it’s a term that’s overly used and misunderstood, kind of like narcissism. Narcissistic personality disorder is actually extremely rare, but the way people talk about it, you’d think it’s extremely common.

Similarly, attachment disorder is rare, and a lot of people throw the term around without really understanding it.

Now, that’s not to say that you’re not dealing with attachment disorder. I have clients right now that are dealing with this and the wounds and pain that come with it.

Attachment disorder is when a child has trouble forming a deep, lasting bonds with parents, caregivers, and other people in their lives. Attachment disorder is rare, but it is definitely a real thing.

Just because your teen is moody or rebellious, which is pretty normal for teens, does not mean that your teen has attachment disorder. Usually, there are pretty severe circumstances that happen during a person’s early years that contribute to the development of attachment disorder, like abandonment, adoption, separation, trauma, and abuse.

Teens with attachment disorder might have a hard time being honest, following rules, standing up for themselves, trusting others, allowing and showing affection, or even feeling safe in every day safe environments. But here’s the thing: as parents, it IS NOT your job to fix your teen’s wounds, especially if they don’t want fixing.

Instead, put your focus on healing your own wounds first. When you’ve done that, you can better help and support your teen.

So, let’s work on ourselves and give our teens the space to grow.

Heal Your Own Attachment Wounds First

One of the things that I see the most when it comes to attachment disorder is the pain and sadness that impacts the parent of someone with attachment disorder.

I’ve seen mothers feel complete disappointment, hopelessness, and sadness because no matter what they try to do to create connection between them and their teen, it always seems to blow up in their face.

Recently a mother was telling me about little incidents where her child did little things from a very young age to push her away and make connection uncomfortable. She even told me about big events where she experienced real physical injury from her child trying to push her away.

The main point is, she told me about experience after experience where no matter what she tried to do to connect with her child, her child pushed away and made it nearly impossible for her to create connection. She talked about the years of feeling like a failure, feeling like she wasn’t good enough, and that there was something wrong with her.

The thing that most people don’t talk about when it comes to attachment disorder is the impact that it has on the caregiver.

If you have a child with attachment disorder, one of the most important things you can do is to heal your own wounds due to attachment disorder before you try to heal your child’s wounds that come with attachment disorder.

I’ll talk a little bit more about this healing process as we go on.

Give Your Teen the Benefit of the Doubt

When it comes to attachment disorder, one of the things that has helped me and others with loved ones with this is to give the person the benefit of the doubt. Choose to believe that they are doing their best. Choose to not let the things that they do and say that are meant to hurt you, hurt you.

I know that this can be hard, but the truth is, you can’t control what the other person does or says, but you can control how you choose to think about it and feel about it.

Rather than thinking, “They’re just trying to hurt me. They don’t love me at all.” Try to think things like, “I don’t understand what they’ve gone through and how that impacts how they treat me, but I trust that they’re doing their best.”

The truth is, if your teen knew how to do better or had the skills to do better, they would.

Now, I do want to say something really important here. One of the things that can happen with children with attachment disorder is harming others, parents, siblings, and even pets. Sometimes they will intentionally and even unintentionally harm people due to curiosity, lack of concern, or out of anger.

I want to be clear on this! You’re first priority is your safety. Protect yourself, protect others, protect your child. If you’re dealing with harm issues, start setting boundaries and enforcing them.

It’s possible to trust that your child is doing the best that they can, while still enforcing boundaries for behaviors that are risky and unacceptable.

Give YOURSELF the Love You’re Looking For

I’ve recently talked to a couple moms who were telling me about specific activities that they did with their children, hoping for connection and some appreciation, but in the end they didn’t get the connection or appreciation that they were looking for.

I get it. This hurts. It can be hard.

But, there’s something very important that you need to understand. The connection and the appreciation that you were looking for can’t come from your child. It has to come from you first.

The problem is, a lot of parents look to their children for acceptance, love, and appreciation, and when they don’t get it from their children, they feel unloved, unappreciated, and like they don’t belong.

So, give YOURSELF the love, connection, acceptance, and appreciation that you’re looking for from your children.

When you do special things for them, catch yourself hoping for love, connection, and appreciation, and love yourself. Remind yourself that you’re doing this special thing because you want to, regardless of how they respond. Appreciate yourself for being the parent of your dreams.

Go Back In Time

Okay, this one might sound weird, but try going back in time mentally to give yourself the love, connection, acceptance, and appreciation that you’re looking for.

I learned this from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. When Scrooge goes through his transformation, it starts with revisiting his past and reprocessing some of the hurtful moments that you’re still hanging onto here in the present.

Maybe you took your child to a movie, and you were hoping for an amazing moment of connection, love, and appreciation, but instead it was a total nightmare. Maybe your child did everything they could to sabotage the experience like throwing a fit, complaining, and being mad at you.

No matter how it happened, you can go back mentally and reprocess the moment. For example, you could mentally go back and appreciate your efforts as a mother. You could go back and compliment your previous self on how well you handled the rough situation. You could mentally go back and give yourself a compliment and express love for yourself, like, “Insert your name, I see you! I see how hard you’re trying. I love how important this is for you. I love how kind you are, even when they don’t appreciate what your kindness.”

Bottom line is, you can do a lot of healing by simply going back and reprocessing events from the past with the strength, love, and compassion that you now have for yourself.

Be You with No Expectation from Others

Here’s one an example that I share all the time when it comes to expectations.

I like to host live events. I like connecting with my clients in real life, doing things that are fun and exciting, and really getting to know them. For example, I’ve hosted live events that have featured river rafting, laser tag, escape rooms, and even board games.

When I teach this concept of no expectations, especially when it’s with people who have been to my live events, I ask, “What do you think my expectations for others while doing this event?”

They usually answer, “Just to have fun, and to connect.” Which is 100% correct.

I then ask, “What if my intention of doing this event was so that you would like me and you would give me more money in working with me?”

They usually answer something like, “Yuck. I wouldn’t like that.”

To which I answer, “Exactly! People don’t like it when you do nice things in hopes of getting something out of them. It feels manipulative and icky.”

The same is true for you. If you’re doing nice things for your teen because you’re hoping they’ll like you, appreciate you, or finally follow your rules, you’re being manipulative and icky.

Instead, do those things for you, because of who you are.

I do live events because I LOVE them. I love connecting with you and other parents like you. I LOVE having fun. I love helping people. It’s me, and it’s for me to be me.

Do the same as a parent. If you’re taking your teen somewhere special, doing something nice for them, don’t have an attachment to a desired outcome. Instead, do it because that’s who you want to be as a parent, whether they appreciate it or not.

This will save you from the disappointment that comes with unmet desired outcomes.

Step 1 – Go take the parent trap quiz!

It’s free, easy, and will take you less than 3 minutes.

Step 2 – Use your quiz results to focus your energy on growing in the area indicated by your quiz results.

Step 3- Come work with me to help you up level your parenting!

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