I know very well that to raise a child with reactive attachment disorder is hard work for both moms and dads. I remember clearly the early days of parenting when my husband Chris worked 14-hour days and came home to collapse on the couch, eat dinner, and go to bed. On the weekends, he had to work twice as hard to fit in that family time. He made every moment count when all he really wanted to do was sleep. I felt worn out too. I spent my weekdays alone with kids who abused me verbally and physically. I felt completely alone. Although we were both working extremely hard to support our family, it still wasn’t enough. That’s when we came together and made changes for the sake of our marriage and our kids.
Here are 4 things my husband and I did to save our family:
1. The most important thing Chris has always done is support me as a wife and mom. I had to include this before I got into the changes we made as a family because it’s the most important thing dads of kids with reactive attachment disorder can do. Sometimes it’s the most difficult task as well. Dads don’t always see the same behaviors from their kids that moms do. Kids with RAD tend to save all of their aggressions for their moms when dads aren’t around. I used to call Chris at work when the kids didn’t realize it so he could hear what went on when he wasn’t home. If you haven’t yet, make sure to read: How an adoptive mom becomes a nurturing enemy (the unfortunate effects of reactive attachment disorder). It’s also good for husbands to look out for signs of depression in their wives, another common issue for moms of kids with RAD.
2. We made drastic lifestyle changes. We moved to a place where we could get the support and therapy we needed to raise our kids. We changed jobs so we could both be home more. (If you’re curious, you can read our story about how we got to Colorado). No, it’s wasn’t easy. We didn’t just pack up and move overnight. It took serious commitment. We feel strongly that to raise children with reactive attachment disorder requires adjustments, just like raising any child with a serious illness.
3. We made sure to take respite time as a couple to connect. To be strong parents, you need to take care of yourselves and as a couple. I know it’s not easy to find childcare for children with reactive attachment disorder but it’s vital to find a way.
4. We educated ourselves about reactive attachment disorder and trauma so we could make better decisions. We took every class we could and read every book and online source of information we could. We didn’t know it all but every day moved us in the right direction.
Every dad is unique and special in his own way. I am very aware that I simply couldn’t get by each day without my own special and unique husband. He’s a fantastic dad. I know I am supposed to say that, but he really is. He supports the kids in their interests, no matter if it’s football, baseball, or dance. He backs me up with the kids when I give directives. Even if he doesn’t agree with me, he waits to let me know about it when we are alone. He lets the kids learn from their own mistakes when I want to jump in and rescue them. He carries a quiet air of authority that the kids respect and seldom challenge, even the kids with RAD.
Whatever you’re doing to support and love your family in your own special and unique way, I commend you. Although I know not everybody can take all of the drastic steps we took, I urge all parents to continue to seek the changes they can make to make life run more smoothly. Happy Father’s Day. Wherever you are in your journey, keep up the good work Dad.
-Dyan, therapeutic treatment mom at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development