Tag Archives: parenting

What is Attachment?

Happy Family

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Attachment is a kind of bond that endures over time. It is primarily developed the first to third year of life, but that is not the only chance to develop attachment. Attachment figures are those who meet needs of the child especially in times of distress. Attachment shapes a child’s nervous system.

Sensitivity and responsiveness in interactions is key, not merely time together.

Separation from an attachment figure may cause distress, but secure attachment encourages temporary separation and development. Insecure attachment is still attachment, and the child will still seek or monitor the attached figure. Attachment exists even in maltreatment. A child who avoids a parent has not lost interest, but may be angry, anxious, sad, and even feel guilty. If the needs represented by these emotions are met, the child will gradually decrease avoidance. Three subtypes of insecure attachment include avoidant, ambivalent, and a disorganized or controlling descriptor. Parental behavior associated with the types of attachment follow: secure attachment with parental flexibility and stability, avoidant attachment with dismissive parenting, ambivalent attachment with preoccupied parents, and disorganized attachment with overwhelmed parents. Parental capacity is important to consider.

Appearances can be misleading. The parent that looks like the better parent in counseling, mediation, and court is not necessarily the better parent. Where there is high conflict, usually both parents are contributing to the conflict. Another way appearances can be misleading is the way a child acts out distress upon return to a parent. The child is often expressing how upset he or she was to be apart, and not that he or she had a negative experience while apart.

Since primary attachment is crucial to self-regulation, experts recommend primary custody with one parent for the first three years with frequent visits by the non-custodial parent, though not overnight. Between eighteen months and three years, whole day visits and overnights can be gradually introduced, carefully monitoring reactions. The child’s ability to comprehend that they will return to the custodial parent is important. This lays a foundation for future secure attachments with both parents. Items brought from the primary home may help. Longer parenting time can be gradually arranged and completed by the time the child is between six and eight.

What disrupts attachment? Parental conflict. It is recommended that protracted court cases involving high conflict and children be buffered by an ongoing support system, counselor, or advocate. Minimizing exposure to parental conflict is paramount, and providing a transitional space and place can be helpful to the child. Perhaps dropping the child off with a “neutral” third party from whom the other parent can then meet for pick-up, or at least a public place. For more information, see How One Parent Undermines Another Parent and Reunification Therapy with Estranged and Alienated Parents.

Emery (2011) has recently reviewed his longitudinal finding that, twelve years after random assignment to mediation or litigation, non-residential parents who had mediated their parenting dispute saw their children far more often than parents who settled via an adversarial process, and additionally had improved their parenting. Co-parents who mediated reported significantly less conflict (Main, Mary; Hesse, Erik; Hesse, Seigfried. “Attachment Theory and Research: Overview with Suggested Applications to Child Custody.” Family Court Review (2011): Volume 49, Issue 3, pages 426–463).

Is Divorce Mediation Worth It?


Angry wife showing bills

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Two of the main goals for divorce mediation in unavoidable divorce are to save money and time in a long process, and reduce antagonism and stress that can come from an adversarial process.  Two well-attested facts are:
1. Kids are most damaged by the fighting between the parents.
2. The money spent in litigation could be used for more desirable things, and for your kids.

Often litigation is the only option.  But if divorce mediation is used, the benefits are worthwhile. Divorce mediation:

  • Reduces the negative effects of divorce on children
  • Increases satisfaction with the outcome compared to litigation alone
  • Reduces the chance of returning to court after divorce
  • Reduces costs. Mediation can be used for all or part of a divorce.
  • Customizes agreements based on unique situations.


What does a mediator do?

The goal of mediation is to create a way to communicate and resolve issues that are unresolved.  All agreements are finalized without coercion or pressure.  The mediator will document agreements in a Memorandum of Understanding that will be reviewed by your lawyer before divorce is finalized in court.

What does a mediator not do?

Both parties will be encouraged to seek advice from attorneys, accountants, counselors, etc. so accurate information is available.  The mediator does not act in any of these roles.  The mediator also does not break confidentiality unless there is written permission or a legal mandate to do so.

What will we talk about?

Decisions that have to be made in a divorce process include (but are not limited to) parenting, custody, division of assets/liabilities, child and spousal support, insurance, and tax filing.  Blair Counseling and Mediation can mediate all or part of a dispute.

Is mediation appropriate for me?

All parties to a dispute must be willing to participate and capable of informed decision-making based on full disclosure of information.  Each party must be comfortable disagreeing with another party in the same room and not fear retaliation.  Neither party must be subject to domestic violence or threats.