When Cindy and Brian adopted their son from Russia, they had no idea about what obstacles lie ahead. They were excited to become parents and knew how much they loved him instantly. They didn’t know, however, what it would take to help their son overcome the trauma he endured before he came into their lives.
Every parent’s story of raising a child with developmental trauma (a.k.a. reactive attachment disorder) is slightly different. Many of them experience similar struggles, however. Listen as Cindy and Brian share some of their experiences by clicking on the video image below.
This is the first in a new video series called Parent Talk about RAD. Please watch the next clip here.
In their interview (please click on the video image above to watch), Cindy and Brian chatted about their specific experiences with the following topics:
- What it feels like to be the “nurturing enemy”
Like many moms of kids with developmental trauma, Cindy became the “nurturing enemy” of her son. Children with RAD often internalize maternal figures as threats. The closer mothers try to get to their children, the further the children try to push them away. Cindy’s son used physical aggression to do so which ended in bite marks in her skin and holes in the walls of their home. Whether the children’s behaviors are overt, such as in Cindy’s case, or subtle, mothers quickly grow weary as they experience the same treatment day after day. Many mothers of children with RAD experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result.
- How children with RAD manipulate others
Children with RAD can quickly manipulate people, including therapists and other professionals. Although Cindy’s son was biting, punching, and kicking her, throwing objects at her, and punching holes in the walls of their home, he was charming and loving in front of their family and friends. Often, the people in the parents’ support systems view children with RAD as the most well-behaved and charismatic children they know. This dynamic is confusing for everyone, including the parents.
- How raising children with RAD begins to break down relationships
As time goes on, the children’s behaviors begin to erode the parents’ confidence in themselves and in one another. Their support systems don’t see the children’s behaviors and begin to question the character of the parents and their parenting skills. A husband may begin to question the validity of his wife’s interpretations of events and of their child. Mothers of kids with RAD often report that they feel “crazy”. Therapists often suggest that the parents are the problem and that they just need to give the child more attention. Family and friends often begin to distance themselves. Relationships fall apart, divorces occur, and parents feel completely alone. Thankfully, Brain and Cindy have gotten through together and are strong.
Why kids with RAD do what they do
Children with RAD seek control of their environments. As Brian said in the video, children with RAD “see debate and start dividing and conquering”. For them, control is their means of survival. They innately avoid any chances of vulnerability and the hurt they once experienced at very young ages.
Parents of children with RAD often do everything they can to help their kids. Yet, they simply can’t do it alone. Love and time won’t “fix” developmental trauma. A good attachment therapist is essential to help keep the family together. If you’re a parent, continue to educate those around you about RAD. If you’re a professional, continue to educate yourself. Those raising children with RAD need strong support systems to keep going, which is the very thing they often lack.