As the Summer Olympics in Rio ends this Sunday, August 21, we’re reminded of another sort of event in life. Allow us to provide you with a metaphoric explanation. That is, the race of parenthood for children with reactive attachment disorder (RAD). Parenthood shouldn’t feel like a competition. Yet, those raising children with RAD certainly feel overwhelming pressure, disappointment, heartache, and criticism.
Many of those raising children with RAD had no idea about the unique journey they’d face in the beginning. They assumed that they’d just parent the way they were parented as children. Or they figured they’d raise them the same ways in which they parented their other children. They didn’t realize in the beginning that traditional parenting doesn’t work for kids with RAD. No one informed them otherwise. Adoption agencies and departments of human services often withhold background information about children, sugarcoat real issues, and provide minimal training. While their situations vary widely, the one commonality for most people raising children with RAD, unfortunately, is a lack of support.
Many people raising children with reactive attachment disorder have the best intentions from the beginning. They hope to parent well, bond with their children, and make a positive difference. Yet, children with RAD reject parenting. Children who were abused and neglected in early childhood learned early on to rely only upon themselves and to push others away to protect themselves. They deny love, family, and attachment with everything they can. They do so in many subtle ways as well as in big ways. These ways include stiffening up when their parents try to hug them, stealing odd items from their homes, sabotaging family vacations and holidays, running away from home, and getting into trouble with the law. Of course, every child is different and they present RAD in varieties of ways. No matter the unique child and situation, however, those raising children with RAD begin to tire.
When parents realize that they need assistance, they frantically search for a team of support. Yet, they don’t always find it. Instead, they find therapists who don’t fully understand RAD and blame their “parenting skills”. They find family and friends who question their every move and call and visit less. Some even find neighbors calling the police on them. Even though they have the same best intentions as before, they begin to question themselves, feel extremely isolated, and become overwhelmed with fear and worry. They so desperately need a team. Yet, they continue in the long and winding race for their children.
Over time, parenting eventually slows down. The day will come when parents have a chance to stop for a moment and reflect. They will all have run their own unique race. They won’t have perfect children nor will they have been flawless parents. No one is. Hopefully, however, those who did everything they could with what they had will recognize their successes. Some may have persisted and found the support they needed. Others may not have found it. Either way, they gave it all they had while in the race. That is a success.