This story is one of a series written on behalf of a mom who placed her children at IACD years ago. She writes from a place of love as a woman who has endured the feelings of love and loss after adopting children with reactive attachment disorder. Her boys are now grown men. These are her reflections and memories from life experiences and the wisdom that time bestows.
It may feel too far off in the future. However, the day will soon come when your children will morph into adults, for better or worse, and leave your care. It will be a moment when you have to surrender your parental grasp and give them the distance they need to go out into the world. They will make mistakes and, hopefully, eventually find their way. Meanwhile, your spousal relationship will have survived the extreme stresses and demands of those parenting years . . . or not. Unfortunately, the effects of raising a traumatized child tragically destroys too many marriages.
As parents of children with reactive attachment disorder learn, their children can quickly create drama and pit parents against one another. It is easy to fall prey to the bait. Your child’s manipulation and the emotional trappings within the family can hook you. Remember, your child probably has little remorse for the stress he or she creates. Your child’s adaptive need to control makes a vulnerable spousal relationship an easy target.
What does all of this mean for you? You and your spouse must be vigilant and not allow your child’s pathology to consume and devastate your marriage.
Based on my own marriage, here are 5 tips to take care of your relationship during the toughest times:
1. Never argue or even disagree with each other in the presence of the children. Rather, discuss your issues in private. We often used noise machines to insure that nothing could be heard. We know that hyper-vigilant children have a keen sense of hearing.
2. Make time for each other. My husband and I worked hard to not allow our children’s problems to inhibit our efforts to spend time together. It was a challenge to not be consumed by worry, especially during the teenage years when their noncompliance often meant we had no idea where they were. But, especially during these stressful times, our capacity to make time to take a walk, go to a movie, or go out to eat was a way to nurture and deepen our relationship.
3. Give one another a break. In addition to making time together, we took turns with the children so that each of us could also have a break. This care and support for each other gave us each some respite. At the same time, we were cultivating our commitment to tend to each other’s needs and build a healthful parenting partnership.
4. Find support together. We had a shared willingness to seek support. Parenting children with reactive attachment disorder is an emotional roller coaster. If we hadn’t accepted the support and wisdom of a knowledgeable therapist, the emotional intensity could easily have strained our relationship (READ: 6 questions to screen & find a qualified therapist).
5. Communicate and regard one another’s feelings. It is common for parents of traumatized children to feel depressed and overwhelmed. We did our best to attune ourselves to each other’s moods and offer empathy and support.
You are your own best advocate for yourself and your family. Stay informed. Speak up. Watch our videos to learn more about reactive attachment disorder, dynamics within the family, and other important information.