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.
I remember well the days of sitting in parent support groups. As a parent of children with reactive attachment disorder, therapists constantly told me to take care of myself when my kids were young. Our parent support groups were consistently small. I recall thinking that the parents who need the most support are likely the same ones too overwhelmed to make it to the support groups in the first place.
As parents of children with reactive attachment disorder, we often put the task of caring for ourselves on the back burner. We’re easily consumed by the chaos created by our children’s disruptive behavior. We literally have no energy left for ourselves. Yet, if we don’t find ways to care for ourselves then we can’t care for anyone else. I knew I needed to find simple ways to take care of myself so I could stay physically and emotionally well. I tended to the needs of my body, mind, and spirit to sustain and enhance my ability to handle the demands of parenting children with special needs.
Here’s what worked for me. I hope you can find inspiration of your own:
- Tai Chi—many studies show that prolonged stress builds up toxins in the body that can contribute to illness. Tai chi teachers taught me ways to physically move the toxins through my body. I practiced just a few simple movements everyday.
- Swimming—swimming at a local pool a few times a week relaxed the muscle tension in my body.
- Time outside—I found spiritual nurturance when I connected to nature. Just to sit quietly in a natural setting grounded me. If I felt overwhelmed, I could shift at least for a moment into the world of beauty and peace away from parenting drama.
- Meditation—I practiced the ability to let go of the things I had no power to control to cultivate a sense of serenity and calm.
- Writing—Journaling and writing poetry helped me give expression to the big feelings of sorrow and loss that sapped my energy. I could clarify how I felt when I wrote words down on paper. I was able to release the heaviness of my feelings and lift my mood and energy.
- Creative mini-projects—When I focused on crafts, cooking, woodworking, or painting, I felt a sense of accomplishment at times when I didn’t feel like an effective parent. Craft projects also helped me to bring beauty, celebration, and joy into our home. Children with reactive attachment disorder often have a difficult time experiencing joy. Therefore, a negative mood can dominate the family. When I got creative, I felt empowered to bring something good, positive, and often beautiful into our lives.
- Therapy!—This isn’t always simple as a parent of a child with reactive attachment disorder. To find therapists who truly understand the issues in regard to parenting children with disruptive attachment is often extremely difficult. Yet, I found it to be the most important way to care for myself. When I finally found the right help, I established an extraordinary source of support. As a parent of kids with reactive attachment disorder, you may feel isolated and alienated from friends, family members, and the general public. Many people don’t understand the struggles of our kids. Their judgments and critical glances can be very disheartening. Knowledgeable therapists helped to validate my reality and gave me concrete ways to navigate the bumpy terrain.
I believe my therapists were right—the only way I could care for my children for the long haul is to first care for myself. There are countless ways to respond to stress. As a mom that’s gone through the trenches myself, I urge you to find your own ways. Start right now. Take a moment and reflect. What works for you?
Check out our upcoming workshops for support and tips for parents and professionals living or working with kids with reactive attachment disorder at: instituteforattachment.org/events
When we learn together, we can work together to advocate for children and families struggling with reactive attachment disorder!