A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar put on by the Alberta Play Therapy Association. It was on Attachment Theory as perceived/developed by Dr. Gordon Neufeld. http://www.youtube.com/user/neufeldmedia The clips aren't long but do give a clear idea what he is about.
I was quite enthralled with it. I somehow have misplaced my notes, so no quotes. He did surmise that all behaviour issues with kids stem from a break in the attachment of the child to a parent/caregiver. I see what he means, but I also see potential for wailing and gnashing of teeth from parents that don't think or didn't really connect to their child--and especially so if that child suffers from a mental illness.
If he is correct, then what? Reconnect them. Or connect them to someone who will be a constant in their life. How to do that? It is more than bonding in the early days or months of the child's life. It needs to continue and develop further. Get to know them, play with them, eat with them, talk with them.And don't stop when they start school, be it pre-school or regular school. That is when it is even more important to remain connected to them. Dr. Neufeld suggests that we develop a relationship such that the child wants to please us, to obey rules. He states that by doing so we will be giving them the freedom to be independent. I don't think he was talking about 'helicopter' parents. That is being too involved in your child's life. If the child is secure in the knowledge that their parent(s) will always be there for them, then the child will have the confidence to try things.
What if a child still strays? I'm not sure what his stand on that is...I'm of the thought that children are born with innate characteristics...personalities that is. As long as you did the best that you could, at the very least ensure they know that you will always love them.
A scene that is often played out is when the parent(s) leave the young child someplace and the child cries when they try to leave. Some children stop shortly after the parent leaves...and gives the impression that the crying was only for the benefit of the parents. Or they continue to cry and after they stop their behaviour isn't socially acceptable.
To assist with the child's 'connectiveness' with the parents, they could give something of theirs for the child to keep. We stay connected with others by touch, smell and presence. Since presence is not an option, letting the child have something that feels or smells like (or both!) the parent that can be kept in their pocket will provide that intact contact that is so needed. I have not had a chance to try it, but isn't that similar to the security 'blankie' or stuffy some children demand to keep with them? Logic says that could also work with the straying teen, let them have something small that they can carry with them always. A necklance, ring, photograph...something that will help remind them that they have a family that unconditionally loves them. It is worth a try anyways.