Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tips for Parents of Children With Reactive Attachment Disorder

If you are parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder you have my complete respect, support, and empathy. Parenting a child with RAD can be overwhelming.  I am right there with you. I want you to know that there is hope! My husband and I adopted an 8 year old boy from Eastern Europe. Although it has been a very hard 10 years with him, he turned 18 this month, is living at home, kept a job for the last year, graduated from high school and has just joined the military. I’m writing this to pass on some of the things that we have learned on our own journey and hope it will be a help to you on your journey.

Take Care of Yourself

When flying on an airplane, the flight attendants will always tell you in the event of an emergency, ”place the oxygen mask on yourself first and then on your child.” They know that we have to help ourselves first in order to help our child. Children with RAD drain you emotionally, physically, spiritually, socially, and financially. Keep your healthy relationships healthy. Don’t sacrifice absolutely everything to save this child. One day this child will be an adult. Whether or not he succeeds or fails as an adult, you still will have the rest of your life to live. Hopefully your marriage and your relationships with your other children will still be healthy.

Get Help From Others

Don’t feel like you need to soldier on alone. I think sometimes as adoptive parents we are embarrassed to ask for help. Think of the adoption process. Every agency imaginable scrutinizes our life to see if we will be good parents. Our friends and family pray for us, and follow our adoption story. Many people tell you what a “saint” you are for adopting this child. In their heads they are picturing this beautiful Hallmark movie. The adoptive child comes home and everyone immediately falls deeply in love and bonds together. The child flourishes in your family just because of your love and care. We know that our family looks a lot more like a reality TV show than a Hallmark movie.

Create a Support Group Around You

Connect with other adoptive parents and friends that you can honestly talk to and pray together. Look for family members or friends who can provide respite care. Consider getting a counselor for yourself or talking to a pastor at your church. You are carrying a heavy amount of stress, so don’t be embarrassed about getting some help.

Be Open to Outside Professional Help

With our son we reached the point where he needed to be moved out of our home to a Boys’ Ranch. This broke our hearts. Words cannot describe the pain and heartbreak this caused for my husband and me. Our son was a danger to himself and was big enough that we were no longer able to physically restrain him. For his safety, and the safety of the others living in the house, placing him in a Boys’ Ranch became our only option. This was a painful and expensive solution. At that time we felt like we had failed. We later realized that by removing him from the home we were able to focus on keeping our other three children healthy. We wanted to keep the healthy people healthy. This also insured that our son would be kept safe.

The facility had a staff 24/7 that could enforce the rules. He had to do school and follow directions. If he chose not to obey the rules there were clear consequences. This ranch was also a Christian facility and we knew that our son was being loved while he was in their care.

In the end this turned out well for our son. He returned to our home a few years later. School had been kept up to date so he was able to graduate from high school on pace with his class. His record was kept clean and he was never in any trouble with the law. This enabled him to get a good job and join the military.

Understand RAD

I say this as loving as possible. People who mean well will offer you tons of parenting advice that just will not work with children with RAD. Be respectful of these people, but don’t feel like you have to listen to them, even if they are in your own family.

A characteristic of RAD is that the child will be manipulating relationships and make you look like the bad guy. Educate and communicate with your family and friends. Over time they will see the manipulative behavior.

You Are Not Responsible For Their Choices

We cannot make anyone do anything. Not our husbands, our kids, no one. We can do a lot to influence and help them. But in the end, they choose their actions, not us. So do not take on their failures as your own. In the end it is their choice on how they will live and what they will do. You are doing the very best you can to help them. You have given them loving care, you have raised them as best as you can, and given them an opportunity. Take comfort in that thought. Release yourself from carrying unnecessary guilt.

Redefine Success

 Our older two children are biological and our younger two are adopted. Our older two children are overachievers. We all hoped to add two more kids and basically multiply the love and the fun. Well, the fun didn’t come and we did not always feel the love. This was a loss of a dream for us as parents. We felt like we failed until we redefined what success looked like. Our younger children were not going to be like the older two. This was never God’s design for them. He created each of us to be an original. We are each loved greatly by our Creator. We each have our own strengths and our own challenges.

For our son, success is to love the Lord, to have healthy relationships, to hold down a job, and to abide by the law. Although he does not agree with us on many things, he has a job, friends, and a good relationship with his family. We are praying that he learns to trust the Lord and love Him deeply. It has been a long, hard road with our son but his story is still being written. So is our adoption a success? 
I’d say yes!

Lori Good
Christian Life Coach

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