Mother’s fail­ure to bond is cause for con­cern

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - COFFEE BREAK -

DEAR AMY: I am mar­ried to a won­der­ful man. I have an adult daugh­ter from a pre­vi­ous mar­riage who I love and am close too; we bonded well when we were alone af­ter the di­vorce.

In my sec­ond mar­riage, we have two young chil­dren who are 8 (daugh­ter) and 5 (son).

My sec­ond daugh­ter was my now hus­band’s first child. He did ev­ery­thing from the mo­ment she was born. He has doted on her, which is nat­u­ral.

Al­though I did share in her care, I feel I have never bonded with her and find I feel no deep love for her.

It is very hard to ad­mit. I do care for her but not even close to the same way I feel about my older daugh­ter and my son.

It does not help that she has be­come very dis­mis­sive of me, and only lis­tens to her fa­ther. She tries my pa­tience. This is caus­ing a strain on our mar­riage, as it is be­com­ing more ev­i­dent that there is a deep di­vide be­tween my daugh­ter and me.

I have tried talk­ing with my hus­band, but he feels I am just cal­lous and cold to her be­cause I choose to be. What can I do? I would like to go to coun­sel­ing but can’t af­ford it right now. I feel like a fail­ure as a mother.

— FAILED MOTHER

DEAR MOTHER: The fail­ure to bond is a tough thing for a mother to own, but it is more com­mon than you may re­al­ize. Please un­der­stand that your girl’s be­hav­ior (be­ing dis­mis­sive of you) is likely a re­ac­tion to her acute aware­ness that you fa­vor her sib­lings. An 8-year-old has limited ways to ex­press her own emo­tions, anger, and con­fu­sion about the re­la­tion­ship. You both need help.

Your lo­cal Depart­ment of Fam­ily and Chil­dren Ser­vices should of­fer low-cost par­ent­ing coun­sel­ing and sup­port. You and your daugh­ter could at­tend ther­apy together, and you should also pur­sue in­di­vid­ual coun­sel­ing. Your hus­band also has an im­por­tant role, and he should try to help you, rather than judge you.

It is pos­si­ble that your hus­band’s “dot­ing” dur­ing your daugh­ter’s early life con­trib­uted to your own fail­ure to bond (there are many other pos­si­ble causes, in­clud­ing post­par­tum de­pres­sion). Those early days of feed­ing, hold­ing, bathing and read­ing to a baby can help to cre­ate a bond that the par­ent builds upon through­out child­hood.

In ad­di­tion to pro­fes­sional help, you should de­lib­er­ately seek to spend in­di­vid­ual time with your daugh­ter doing some­thing she en­joys.A moth­er­daugh­ter book club where you read to each other and meet with other moth­ers and daugh­ters is one idea. Pro-so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties such as scout­ing and theater could be good for her.

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