There’s a whole lot of confusion out there about trauma – the cause of reactive attachment disorder (RAD). For starters, many people haven’t even heard of RAD. Those who are familiar with the term typically understand only the basic premise. That is, children with RAD can’t attach to others due to early abuse and neglect. That’s where the understanding ends for most people.
Here’s where the most confusion sets in—people make assumptions about what “fixes” the disorder. They assume that if a lack of love and nurturance created the disorder, love and nurturance will also make the disorder go away. Sadly, it’s not that easy.
Love doesn’t heal the disorder. That assumption, in fact, is detrimental to a child’s healing.
Here are 3 reasons a belief in love as treatment makes RAD worse—
1. Parents wait too long to get their children therapy. The earlier children get effective help, the better chances they have to lead healthier lives. When parents believe they can “love away” early abuse and neglect, they don’t seek professional help. They think they can do it all on their own. Meanwhile, things get worse and valuable time passes.
2. Professionals aren’t focused on real issues. When therapists believe that love fixes RAD, they often assume that parents need to simply nurture more, etc. They focus all of their time on “fixing” the parents. Meanwhile, clinicians miss tackling real issues at hand. Of course, parents are a piece of the overall puzzle of learning how to help their children heal. However, parents don’t make up the entire puzzle all on their own.
3. Friends and family blame parents. When parents’ support systems think parents aren’t “loving enough”, they often take it upon themselves to do so. For example, they bombard the children with gifts. Yet, they don’t realize why the parents don’t do those sorts of things (read here to learn more). Ultimately, friends and family further separate the children from their parents when they undermine their parenting.
Well-meaning parents, extended family members, and professionals want to help children who suffer from the effects of trauma. They want to make up for what they missed. But love, guidance, and nurturance are the very things these children push away the most. It is a profound and bewildering disorder—certainly something that parents can’t just love their way through. They need help from well-qualified professionals. While love is critical, parents can’t do it with love alone.