Dealing With a Lack of Bonding in Older Children

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Human relationships are, perhaps, the single most important thing in our existence. One of our most basic human needs is to feel a meaningful connection to others. The bond with our parents or caregivers is the first and most important relationship in our early lives. It makes a profound impact on every part of our being and establishes the groundwork for how we relate to others throughout the rest of our lives.

Bonding isn't something that people can do by themselves. It requires all parties to be fully committed to the process. In normal circumstances, babies instinctively seek the safety of their parents. And it's the parent's instinct to recognize his or her child's cues and respond appropriately. The hugs, kisses, eye contact and attention make the baby feel safe and loved, long before they understand the words that express these feelings.

Parents and children influence each other, working together to form this important bond. Children who have learned how to form healthy attachments have a life full of intimate relationships with family, friends and romantic partners. But infants who don't form these early attachments are deeply impacted and have trouble forming meaningful relationships of any kind. They may exhibit avoidant and distant behavior, or the complete opposite, and be anxious and clingy. In severe cases, they often find little to no pleasure in being connected to others. They're emotionally distant and have few friends, if any. And the behavior gets more noticeable as they get older.