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Therapeutic Care

How to Heal Anxious Attachment

While the primary goal is to help children feel more securely attached, some unfortunately develop anxious attachment styles due to early insecurities and trauma. However, with empathy and support, healing can begin to unfold.
How to Heal Anxious Attachment in Children

Attachment is one of the most crucial aspects of the relationship between a child and their caregiver, playing a pivotal role in shaping a child’s emotional wellbeing. For some, this path may come with challenges, particularly when faced with anxious attachment styles. According to John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, it’s critical for children to develop a secure attachment to a primary caregiver at a young age, but for those in foster care, this might not always be so simple. In this guide, we’ll explore what anxious attachment looks like in children, its impact, and more importantly, how to heal and nurture secure bonds, helping to lay foundations for their future relationships.

Understanding Anxious Attachment

While forming secure attachments is certainly important, many children develop anxious attachment styles, which can expose them to lifelong challenges. This is especially true for children in care, who frequently suffer from distress after experiencing neglect or abuse, often resulting in them being confined to their comfort zones. Consequently, these children tend to exhibit clinginess, fear of separation and heightened distress when faced with uncertainty. This manifests in various behaviours, including excessive crying, tantrums and difficulty calming down, even with reassurance.

Recognising signs and symptoms

It’s critical that caregivers are able to recognise signs of anxious attachment if they want to address the issue effectively. Children may display symptoms such as reluctance to explore new environments, seeking constant reassurance, or being avoidant in social situations. If you recognise any of these symptoms as a caregiver, it’s important to observe them with sensitivity and empathy so as to not overwhelm your child or young person.

The impact of anxious attachment

Failing to address anxious attachment will not only immediately disrupt the relationship between carer and child, but it will also have far-reaching implications for long-term social and emotional wellbeing. Research into the topic has linked attachment insecurity to increased risks of mental health disorders, relationship difficulties and sleep disturbances.

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Strategies for Healing Anxious Attachment

Create a safe environment

A secure and predictable environment is fundamental. Establishing consistent routines and clear boundaries provide a sense of safety and stability for the child, alleviating anxiety in the process.

Encourage emotional expression

Foster open communication by validating your child’s emotions. Encourage them to express their feelings openly, without fear of judgement. Active listening and empathy are powerful tools for building trust and security.

Promote autonomy

Empower your child by allowing them age appropriate independence. Encourage them to make choices and solve problems autonomously, boosting their confidence and sense of self worth.

Seek professional support

Don’t hesitate to seek guidance from therapists or counsellors who specialise in childhood attachment. Professional intervention can provide tailored strategies and support for both the caregiver and child.

Can Anxious Attachment Be Cured?

While anxious attachment can pose challenges, it is possible to guide your child through it. The journey to healing requires patience, dedication and unwavering support, but with the right assistance, significant progress can be made. Though there is no such thing as a complete ‘cure’, children and young people can learn coping mechanisms that can help them form more secure attachments in the future.

At Compass, we believe that every child deserves the opportunity to form healthy, nurturing relationships, which is why we offer all of our foster carers a variety of different support and training to best equip them with the tools they need to help them thrive. Together, with compassion and commitment, we can pave the way for a brighter and more secure future.

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