Dealing With a Lack of Bonding in Older Children

Tips for Dealing With a Lack of Bonding
Find common ground and go from there.
Find common ground and go from there.

Trying to deal with a child who has an attachment issue can be scary and stressful. The good news is that it's never too late to work with your child to help him assimilate into his environment a little better.

The main issue for children with attachment problems is safety. They don't feel safe in the world, which makes them distrustful and distant toward others. They keep up their guard as what they perceive to be a necessary defense mechanism, but it also keeps them from accepting love and support. In order to improve their sense of security, it's important to establish boundaries and routines. This way, they understand what is expected of them, what behaviors and actions are acceptable, and what the consequences will be if they don't follow the rules. Ultimately, this helps them understand that they have more control over their lives than previously thought. And, routine provides comfort that they're not used to having.

Conflict can be especially stressful to children with attachment issues. After an event where you've had to discipline your child, be sure that you're available to make up as soon as he or she is ready. You child needs to know that you love him or her no matter what, so being available to reconnect following conflict is very important in your journey. This also means taking responsibility for your own mistakes. Sometimes, your frustration may get the best of you, and you may inadvertently say or do something insensitive. It's important to own up to it immediately and make amends. This will help your child understand that you're not perfect either, but regardless, you love him or her.

And for all of this, a healthy dose of patience is required. The process may not happen as quickly as you would like, and this can be frustrating and demoralizing. It's important to have realistic expectations, which may require altering your picture of normal. The best way to do this is take one day at a time. Make a point to recognize and celebrate small improvements along the way rather than focusing on the big picture. Kids can pick up on your feelings, and if they think you're discouraged, they will probably become discouraged, too. So, take care of yourself and manage your stress, so you can be the best you can be with them.

Related Articles


  • "AAMFT Consumer Update. Children's Attachment Relationships.", 2010.
  • "Attachment and Bonding Info for Adoptive Parents.", 2010.
  • "Attachment Disorders & Reactive Attachment Disorder.", 2010.
  • "Attachment Explained.", 2010.
  • Perry, Bruce, D. "Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children: How You Can Help.", 2010.