Monday 25 September 2017

My 11-month-old boy made a little strange with me after a night away, what do I do?

David Coleman

David Coleman

I have a beautiful 11-month-old boy. I recently went away for a night and his dad minded him.

When I returned the following day he was very slow to come near me and wanted his dad.

I felt quite saddened by this. I read that this can be an attachment issue? Does that mean he doesn't think I look after all his needs.

I'm really concerned in case there is something that needs to be sorted as I would like to get it done and make my son feel secure.

I don't think your son is especially insecure in his attachment with you. His behaviour sounds quite normal to me. However, it is hard to comment in detail without observing both the separation from you and the moment of return, as well as having some sense of the quality of your relationship with him.

In the situation that you describe, your son stayed with his dad, with whom I presume he has a good enough relationship. I would guess that your son may not have been too distressed when you left, as he still had his dad with him.

I am assuming that his dad was able to soothe him and meet his needs for security, comfort and reassurance if he did become in any way upset because you weren't there?

Many infants can become distressed when they are separated from their primary care-giver. However, by age 11 months, most infants also have quite solid, secure and loving relationships built up with secondary care-givers too.

In these cases, children might get temporarily upset that their mum, for example, has gone out, but will allow themselves to be soothed by their dad, their granny or by some other person that is well known to them. Naturally, no infant can have any sense of the length of the separation. Nor can they predict when the separation will end and their primary care-giver will return.When you returned the next day, a number of things may have occurred. You could almost think of it as your child temporarily switching allegiances for the time you were away. He had, naturally, less need for your care since his dad was probably doing a great job of meeting his needs.

I often think, also, that children can react a little bit miffed, as if to say "well now you come swanning back here, don't think I'm going to be all warm and welcoming".

However, I do think you will find that his natural warm and close relationship with you (if that is what he had prior to you going away overnight) will return in a short period of time when he again realises that you are available consistently.

If for any reason the apparent "cooling" distance between him and you seems to continue, then there are things you can do to re-establish the connection.

Attachment is, essentially, about trust. Your son, for example, needs to trust that you or his dad will be available, consistently and reliably to meet his needs.

So, spending lots of time with him will help. Ensuring that you have lots of loving touches shared between you will also help. So you can look to increase opportunities for things like massage, cuddles, snuggles while he feeds and so on.

Re-establishing any routines you have with him will also give him a strong sense of predictability in his world. This will also be associated with you and your consistency too.

Make sure you are responsive to him. So if, for example, he cries then go to him and try to help him, sensitively, with whatever is distressing him. This gives him a really powerful sense that you are attuned to his needs.

Overall, though, I think your son was just happy out with his dad and will, most likely, be happy out with you too when he gets used to you being back centrally in his care.

Irish Independent

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