RadKid.Org: Reactive Attachment Disorder

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Reactive Attachment Disorder: Snuggle Time

A child who has been neglected, abused, has lost - or never had important people in his life ha learned to distrust adults.

When a baby cries, you pick him up, you hold him close to your body, comforting him, and soothing him. You meet his need for human contact, and you assure him by your actions that, although he is helpless, you are there to keep him safe. Trust has developed.

This is what went wrong for many children with reactive attachment disorder. No one has appropriately responded to his cries. Maybe they are yelled at rather than comforted. Or perhaps the person who does come is too often a different person. Sometimes, no one comes at all. The abused or neglected child has learned that adults are not to be trusted. This is what needs to be unlearned, so that he can learn to trust you.

Snuggling, cuddling, rocking, feeling each other?s touch, looking into one another?s eyes; these are the things that promote attachment and bonding. If a child can learn that there is an adult who cares about him, who can recognize his feelings even when he himself cannot, and who is strong enough to handle his behavior yet still love him, then we have a basis upon which trust can be built.

If your child suffers from reactive attachment disorder, it is likely that no one was there for him when he needed it most. However, if your child was deprived of some crucial component of infancy, he still has a need for it.

Even when the child is the most unlovable, you need to show that he is loved.

It?s not too late. Children suffering from detachment disorder need snuggle time. Use it daily to promote attachment and bonding.

Last Modified on: Saturday, August 08, 2009


Snuggle time should be used whenever it is needed, but especially:

  • In the morning when the child awakes, just snuggle into bed with him for a few minutes to a half hour.
  • During the day whenever you sense you child becoming frustrated or stressed.
  • At night. This is a good time to tell him a story or read to him. Telling a story is better than reading because you can make eye contact. Don?t let him go to sleep while either one of you is angry.
  • Any other time that you feel the need, or sense that he has a need to snuggle, but only on your terms. Snuggle time should not be a time of manipulation.

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Although it will vary according to the age of the child, some things that you might do during snuggle time include:

  • Have some juice or warm milk handy, wrap the child in a warm, soft blanket, and hold him as you would a baby when you feed him. Sit in a rocking chair, or in another chair that allows you to rock him with your body.
  • Talk to him, trying to get as much eye contact as possible. Use a soft, nurturing voice, and don?t use this time to talk about things that he has done wrong.
  • Offer him some milk or juice from a bottle, making sure that you hold the bottle. During this time, you want to enforce the idea that you can take care of his needs, and if you permit him to feed himself he?ll receive the wrong message.
  • Do this a couple of times a day, or more if necessary, for about ten or fifteen minutes at a time.
  • During snuggle time, don?t be afraid to treat older kids as if they were much younger. They still need some of this stuff that they never got when they were younger, and you may be surprised to find that they will sometimes accept and do well with it. A baby bottle might be a bit much for a 12- year-old, however. You do not want him to feel as if your intentions were to humiliate him.


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