Written by Denise Kullman, mom of a child with attachment disorder and bipolar
Medication and your child—it can feel like a scary combination. That’s often because you don’t know what your child needs in the first place. And when you do get medication, will it work for your child?
I am here to tell you to hang in there. You can get a brand new (well, maybe slightly modified but in a positive direction) kid! You’ll need a good psychiatrist, the correct diagnosis, the right medication, a therapist you trust, and your awesome parenting skills.
Finding the Right Medication for Our Son
We have a teenage son with a moderate mood disorder. We first noticed it when he was little. He never seemed to outgrow the anxious stage that most preschoolers experience. As he grew into a school-aged child, his anxiety increased. He began to have angry episodes.
Since we work in the mental health field, we recognized our son’s troubles pretty quickly. My family also has a history of mood disorders so we knew to pay special attention. We took our son to see the best psychiatrist we knew (and we know a lot of psychiatrists). Our son was diagnosed with a mood disorder AND attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He didn’t have the classic ADHD symptoms where he bounced off the walls and ran crazy through the house every second so we were surprised. But our doctor knew what he needed. We agreed to a treatment and medication plan. Within a week, we really did have a brand new kid. It was like a miracle.
Difference between kids with RAD and other kids on medication
So here’s the question—
Why don’t we get the same miracles with our kids with reactive attachment disorder (RAD) on their medications? The answer is simple, but the road ahead is more complicated.
My son (mentioned above) is our securely attached biological child. So we only needed to treat his mood issues and ADHD to get wonderful results. A child with reactive attachment disorder needs the same treatment for mental health issues…but it doesn’t stop there.
That’s because you can’t treat reactive attachment disorder with medication.
So what can you do for kids with RAD?
Kids with RAD typically have mental health issues too. They often inherit mood disorders from their biological families. Many have anxiety issues—like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)—as well.
And you simply can’t work on attachment disorder (a.k.a. RAD) until mental health issues are under control. It’s a recipe for disaster.
So the first step is to find the right medication(s) for your kiddo. Once those issues are out of the way, we can see the differences between mood-driven behavior and the purposeful, controlling behavior that attachment disordered children display. Only then can you start to work on RAD issues.
Finding the Right Medications for your Child with RAD
It’s not so simple to find the right combinations of medications for you child.
Here are things you can do to help your child find the right medication(s):
- Keep a journal of medications, dosages, changes you notice, and side effects. Bring that journal to the doctor appointments.
- Be patient.
- Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion—you know your child best.
- Talk to your child about his or her medications. Kids need to recognize and talk about their reactions to medications. It’s our job to teach them and help facilitate communication along the way. I always take the time to tell my kids the names of their pills and what they do. For example, “This is called Lamictal. It can help you to be in a better mood over time” or “This pill is called Concerta—it helps you to stay calm and focused. And then I might say, “You are in control of your body. Let me know if something doesn’t feel right about these medications so we can talk to the doctor.”
- Stay consistent. Remember when to give the medications and make follow-up appointments. Do you own research and keep journaling.
- Be patient (I said it twice for a reason). It takes time to figure out medications for kids with RAD.
Stay the course. In the end, there is hope to hold onto.
How do you feel about your child, their attachment disorder, and medication?