Andrea Loewen Nair: Connect-Four Parenting


Attachment Bridging When We Are Away From Our Kids

Maintaining a secure attachment to our children when we are away from them

Ever have to peel a shrieking child off your leg at drop-off time? I have. Wow, it feels terrible.

Attachment researcher Gordon Neufeld says we shouldn't make a habit of the peel-and-run. Although, there is a time to use this technique, which I will write about in a future post about tips to make drop-off time better. I have used some tricks including something called an attachment bridge to help reduce the number of times I am dashing out to the wails of my child.

Just as the term implies, an attachment bridge is using some form of object or words to connect the time you are together over the time you are apart, to the next time you are together again. Combine the bridge with an attachment baton; making sure your child feels a solid connection with the person you are leaving them with. Pass the attachment baton to the secondary caregiver who passes it back to you at the end of the day.

The secure attachment we have built with our children can fade while we are away from them. It is important to note that an attachment bridge does not increase attachment; it maintains it. This means that if you or your child's "attachment tank" is low, the bridge might not be enough to help the child make it to the other side. We know a child's attachment to us is in trouble when they get defiant.

Here are three attachment bridging ideas that we use:

1. Make morning connection time a priority. The first thing our family does in the morning is gather on the sofa for snuggle time. When the kids start peeling away to play or eat, I know their tank is full. *"Hitting the ground running" reduces attachment, and is the first thing I talk to clients about when they say mornings are their least favourite time of the day.

2. Leave a note in the lunch-boxes with a comment about the next time you will see them—paper or otherwise. Banana notes are really cool! Use a fine screwdriver to imprint a note into a banana skin. The imprint will be invisible at first and darken throughout the day.

3. Let the child pick an object of yours to take with them. Before drop-off time, fill the object with your love. We do it like this, "Okay, let me fill up your Love-stone." (I put the stone in my hands, close my eyes and say a silent wish for my child) "There! This rock is full of my love. When you are missing me, you can rub it to get some out." Objects can be: stones, old costume jewellery; any little trinket of yours that can fit in their pocket. We put our t-shirts onto their stuffies for over-night trips.

The key to bridging is that the child needs to know when they will see you again.

You can tell older children the time of day, for younger children use a point of reference like, "I see you again right after circle time." If you are going out of town, plan set times when you will communicate next. "Let's do facetime when I check in to my hotel, which will be around 2 o'clock."