Session 7/15Page 2/5 Topic Introduction: How children react to loss
Topic Introduction: How children react to loss
Lack of attachment behaviour: If another attachment figure is not offered after separation, or if caregivers don’t respond to the child’s crying, the child may give up crying and apparently become calm, indifferent and withdrawn. This is in fact a signal of danger: the activity of the attachment system may have stopped, but the child may be in a permanent state of grief. It may respond less or not at all to care and efforts to offer intimacy and comfort. This can develop into a state of depression and withdrawal, where the child does not thrive or grow sufficiently. This reaction is common in children who have experienced many early changes in caregivers or attachment figures, and children who have received too little interaction in for example orphanages or hospitals.
Overreaction to separations: Or, if the separation has been sudden and very shocking – perhaps the infant may have been taken away by authorities and police while the parents were crying and fighting – the infant may develop a general state of stress and separation anxiety. Perhaps the infant’s attachment system has become much too sensible and “hyperactive” due to one or more early shocks. So, every time you leave the room or just turn away, the child may be extremely afraid and panic, and need constant confirmation that you will stay where you are. Children who have become hypersensitive to separation may cling to you all the time, have major problems falling asleep and need reassurance and comforting for a long time even after a short and normal separation. This is a frequent problem in the first phase for children placed in foster care.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTIONS AND DIALOGUE
- Did you see withdrawal or excessive fear of separation in your foster child after placement?
- How long did it last (if it has stopped or is less intense by now)?
- How did it affect your feelings towards the child?
- Did you feel depressed yourself or rejected by the child?
- Did the child’s excessive fear of separation make you afraid of practicing normal short separations, such as leaving the infant alone for a minute?
- How did you respond if the child did not respond to you, or was constantly clinging and afraid of you leaving the room?