I’m the parent of “that kid”—the one who gets in trouble at school, runs away from home, and gets in trouble with police. My child has reactive attachment disorder. My husband and I have traveled through an overwhelming, lonely, uncomfortable, exhausting, and humbling road of parenting.
It’s overwhelming to parent a child with RAD. We have pretty much had to do all of this on our own. Most therapists don’t really understand RAD. We’ve spent a lot of time and money on therapists, medications, etc. that haven’t worked. In fact, it’s made it all worse. My child’s schoolteachers, principal, and counselor meet with us to figure out what they’re supposed to do with our child. We’ve run out of answers. When the “professionals” don’t know how to help, it feels especially daunting.
It’s lonely to parent a child with RAD. No one really understands our child, his diagnosis, or our parenting style, including our friends and family. Symptoms of RAD include lying and manipulation. As a result, my child presents himself differently depending on the specific person and what he can gain from the circumstances. While he’s charming with my parents, for example, he’s completely different with me. Many people think we parent too strictly or are the cause of our child’s problems. A lot of people in our support system, including our church friends, have turned their backs on us. I understand why no one understands. Yet, we feel isolated and it stings.
It’s uncomfortable to parent a child with RAD. I understand the odd looks and missed party invitations. Other kids think my child is weird and they don’t want to be his friend. Parents don’t want their kids to be around “that kid” either. In fact, those parents don’t want to be around me. Maybe I’d feel the same. Heck, I have felt that way with my other kids. Up until now, I’ve been the mom of the “good kids”—the ones that teachers and other parents gush over. And because they are “good kids” they considered me a “good mom”. I’m not that mom anymore and I feel out of place.
It’s exhausting to parent a child with RAD. I used to exercise when I had time, go on dates with my husband, and take walks with my kids. Now, we feel like prisoners in our home. I hear all the time that we need to find a break but it’s impossible to find someone who can take care of our son for us. Our family won’t watch the kids anymore and we’d need to hire a highly specialized professional to care for our son. We can’t find that person nor do we have the money to pay him or her if we did. We go to work, come home, make dinner, clean the house—while all the time remaining extremely vigilant so that our son with RAD doesn’t harm our other kids or dog. My husband and I don’t have time alone together. When we do, we tend to argue about what to do about our son. When I find a rare moment alone—say in the bathroom—I usually cry. I need to rest, to laugh, and to live again. I want to feel like the person I once was.
It’s humbling to parent a child with RAD. My husband and I adopted our child when he was young and without much preparation or information about his diagnosis. We’ve learned the hard way. None of us are at fault for his predicament. My husband and I didn’t do anything wrong (though I continue to reassure myself of that everyday). And while my son is absolutely responsible for his behavior now, he is not to blame for the early abuse and neglect that resulted in his diagnosis. Despite the looks and whispers, we must walk with our heads high as parents, know that none of us are perfect, and that we’re doing the very best we can.
We’re hiring therapeutic treatment parents. Read about a “day in the life”.