Attachment Issues(17 Posts)
I'm looking for a bit of advice about DD who is 15 months old. In terms of her development she is meeting the relevant milestones (walking, saying a handful of words, interacting with us) with no concerns in that respect, and she's generally a happy little girl.
I'm increasingly worried about her attachment to me, and don't know if I'm worrying over nothing. I went back to work full time when she was 8 months, which was really hard as we were barely apart during my maternity leave. I was luckily able to go part time when she was 11 months. When I'm at work she is cared for by my PIL.
DD has never, ever cried when I've left her, and when I pick her up she actively ignores me, not making eye contact etc for at least an hour. She will happily go to MIL and enjoys spending time there (always playing happily when I pick her up), but equally is not outwardly pleased to see her. She is the same if DP drops her off or picks her up.
On my days off (and after DD has warmed up to being at home) DD is happy, interacts with me, will shove books at me to read, play with toys with me, brings me cuddly toys, will cuddle up to me at times etc. When we go out to soft play or baby groups she is cautious when taking everything in, but then will interact and explore confidently. At home she doesn't get upset or concerned when DP or I leave the room, and if she follows it's more out of curiosity than anything else, sometimes she will happily carry on playing with her toys.
I'm worrying because I know from friends that their toddlers are normally really pleased to see them at pickup, and no one seems to experience the 'ignoring' that I describe. I have stupidly started reading about attachment theory and am really concerned that DD sounds an awful lot like avoidant insecure attachment in terms of her behaviour when I leave and return.
I hate thinking this, but could something be wrong? Could it have been my going back to work (before we were both really ready)? Or am I worrying about nothing?
I know in the grand scheme of things there are a lot worse things, and think I might be being silly, but I keep worrying and it's eating away at me a bit, so wanted to ask. Thanks for any words of wisdom!
I don't think anything is wrong. My daughter is the opposite and doesn't want to go to nursery or be left with anyone but me or DH and it's awful because it makes me feel so sad every time I leave her!
She just sounds like a confident girl. My daughter has got more affectionate as she's got a bit older. I don't think you need to worry, just be glad she's happy with her baby sitters!
I bet that must be hard! I feel silly for wishing she'd cry, obviously I don't want her to be upset but at the same time I worry that she's not securely attached because she doesn't get upset. I would worry less if she was happier to see me! We've been hoping she'd grow out of it for seven months now, if anything it's become more obvious.
My dd and ds would do the ignoring thing. It's their way of letting me know they're not happy and also I think it was them hiding their emotions in front of others.
However a lot of it was in my own mind as well I suspect.
Now they're 5&7 and spend a lot of time telling me they don't want me to work and miss me. I occasionally get ignored when other people are around and I'm saying goodbye but not often.
Very famous psychological experiment about this exact thing. Google "strange situation".
Believe Did it tend to last for awhile after you got home do you recall? It's reassuring that you don't seem to have had any long lasting issues from it! It is upsetting, sorry you had similar.
Titty I think that's why I've started worrying having read all of that. DD fits the description perfectly of ignoring the caregiver when I leave / return, though other elements of the profile don't fit her. No idea how she'd behave in that situation with a stranger though. But my (limited) understanding is that attachment issues are generally caused by neglect / abuse / failure to meet needs, none of which applies to DD in the slightest. And the behaviour is only when I go to work - DD is currently climbing over me, hissing like a snake and saying "hey" and keeps giving me a book to read!
DP and I were discussing it last night, and he said that just before I went back to work when he took DD up to his parents for an afternoon she was hysterical, which I remember him saying at the time now. That's the only time she's ever been upset and I really do worry that it did some damage.
The thing that I think is unhelpful with the article, which I've read after reading your post, is that it doesn't seem to offer any sources for assistance if yiu think your child has an insecure attachment.
I have just experimented a touch at home by quietly hiding behind the sofa when she wasn't looking (she quickly noticed, came to find me and gave me a cuddle when she did - not something she does often) and round the corner in the kitchen out of sight, and she seemed confused when she couldn't see me and didn't come barging into the kitchen like usual, just stood in the hallway looking. When she could see me she happily toddled up to me. So I feel a bit better, just wish I could understand why she ignores me after work!
Everyone I thought that, loads of articles about attachment type, no "here's what's you should do to improve things." The most useful things about improving bonds that I've found have all been aimed at adoptive parents, some good ideas but obviously a different situation!
An afternoon wouldn't cause the kinds of issues you describe.
Perhaps she is just more introverted than other toddlers!
Bertie You may be right, I'm a bit of an introvert myself so wouldn't be surprised!
Thanks all for reading and replying, I've been worrying about this so much it's just nice to be able to talk it through with people!
She might not cry when you leave as she feels 'secure' in that you will return, as you always have - secure attachment. I have done some work on attachment theory and behaviour though mostly in older children (teenagers). As a parent part of us wants the child to show some degree of upset at being left as we want to feel needed but the fact your child appears content would say to me she feels secure. Her other interactions appear positive - the ignoring might just be her getting used to your return, she probably interacts differently to you than her Grandparents so is just adjusting
Dd1 happily went to other people until she was about 2yo without any tears or anything.
Dd2 wouldn't go to anyone except me until she was about 2yo.
As teens they're the opposite way round now. Dd1 will happily take me with her to anything, and dd2 has been marching into parties from about 2.6yo saying "you don't need to come in with me."
Sounds like my ds, i went back to work when he was 3 months and he used to ignore me when i picked him up from childminder. I went p/t when he was 8 months and started working from home when he was 2 and dd was born, he went to nudery. He would cry at drop off there .
He is 21 now and we are very close.
He was an independent boy and i asked him once why he was so happy to go off to uni etc. He said mum im its like immegration , im being pulled not being pushed.
Hi OP, I'm a social worker and worked with lots of kids with attachment issues - your daughter sounds healthy and happy to me. It's amazing the worries we get stuck in as mums isn't it. Insecure attachments are a result of abuse/ neglect and not just from some incidents of separation. I think some children just have more separation anxiety than others. I think it's helpful to think of your child always being involved in activities that are either seeking refuge in you, or going out to explore. You describe this with your wee one being cautious initially then going out confidently. She couldn't do this if insecurely attached, she can explore because you are her safe base from which to do this. I also have done a lot of googling about things that have worried me about my 15mo and concluded that it usually increases my anxieties and should be avoided! I think some things must have been simpler as a parent pre-internet, where you just asked your mum about any worries, and that was that! Try not to worry. The fact you are fretting about this shows you are tuned in to what she needs.
Thank you so much all for the reassurance, you are all so lovely!
Running That's true, I think I definitely want her to show some emotion, as selfish as it sounds. I was a wreck when I went back to work full time and she was ignoring me, neither of us was ready and my options were limited so I've always felt guilty over that, and its made me quite paranoid over her ignoring me. It's easier now I'm part time and know that it's only for a few days! I do agree her other interactions and behaviour seem normal when I see other toddlers of a similar age from my NCT group.
Witch Interesting to know its not always a set in stone behaviour, thanks!
Bruffin Three months must have been so tough. I'm sorry to hear you had the same behaviours, but I'm really glad to hear that you're close, that's incredibly reassuring! (I am not close to my parents, probably another reason why I have been worrying so much about this, so that's great to hear).
Smelly Thanks for sharing your professional experience, that makes me feel a lot better! You're right, Google can be dangerous. It doesn't help that I'd also asked all my Mum friends and no one really was having the same behaviour and most described children that were really happy to see them when they picked them up.
Having thought about things a bit more, I've realised that managing transitions maybe something that helps as she gets bigger. The evenings when she is less off with me is generally when I pick her up and we sing to each other on the drive home. Sounds silly, but I wonder if a bit of transition time is helping. Other days sometimes her Dad picks her up and I just appear at home, which must throw her! Also it's much worse after I have a holiday from work and then go back, which I guess also throws her. I am very much a creature of routine so completely understand that!
Thanks so much for all your comments, just talking it through has really helped hugely.
I just wanted to come back to this and update as you were all so lovely, and in case anyone else has the same issue and finds this thread.
DD has, for the last month or so, been so much more affectionate - when I go to pick her up she now runs up to me with a big grin and cuddles me. She loves cuddling our legs, will sometimes kiss us voluntarily, and has completely snapped out of the ignoring me after work phase, which was the worst bit. So completely just a 'needed more time' issue!! I'm not worried at all about attachment anymore. Hope this helps anyone else with the same issue who reads this!
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.