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.
Perhaps you looked forward to fall—the time when your child with reactive attachment disorder could return to school after summer break. Now, you may find that’s not going well either (again!). Some children with reactive attachment disorder disrupt at school and, admittedly, you feel embarrassed. The teachers and principal look to you as the problem and the person responsible to “fix” it. Yet, you’re looking to them for help.
Other children with reactive attachment disorder charm the adults at school. The teachers and principal don’t see the behaviors you do. Yet, your child comes home to disrupt your home and family—in a big way.
Whatever your specific situation, parents of children with disrupted attachment can benefit from support in regard to school. No matter how they express it, children with reactive attachment disorder don’t deal well when they need to give control to adult authorities. The result is an array of complicated and disruptive behaviors in or outside of school.
Here are some ways you can navigate school issues for your child with reactive attachment disorder:
- Develop resources from experts and professionals. Assemble easy-to-read and concise talking points in regard to the typical behaviors of children with reactive attachment disorder (see our resources for reactive attachment disorder).
- Advocate for your child. Inform school officials about traumatized children and attachment issues so they can interact with your child more effectively.
- Inform teachers about your child’s specific struggles. All children are different from one another, no matter their similar diagnoses. Let your child’s teacher know about your child’s individual needs and triggers.
- Get your child’s mental health assessments and advocate early for an IEP (individual education plan). Children with early trauma often have difficulty with concentration, focus, impulsivity and cause-and-effect thinking. Research the criteria for an IEP and address your child’s issues through strategies in an IEP.
- Bring a solid support person with you when you request special school services. Prepare yourself for resistance from school personnel. In my state, we had a group that supported parents of special needs children (PEP). They provided experts to attend the school meetings with us.
- Avoid school battles at home. What goes on in school stays in school. When your child gets in trouble in school, keep his or her natural consequences there. Explain this parenting philosophy to your child’s teacher so he or she does not expect you to remedy school issues at home.
- Explain the idea of “splitting” to your child’s teacher. If your child is inclined to lie about you and your home life to others, let your child’s teacher know early on. Children with reactive attachment disorder typically lie to “split” relationships between parent/teacher, spouses, etc. to gain control. Make sure you and your child’s teacher are a team to avoid this dynamic.
- Ensure homework is your child’s responsibility. Give your child the structure of a certain time of day for homework each day. If your child doesn’t complete the work, do not get in the way of their natural consequences. Children with reactive attachment disorder often use homework for control and infuriate their parents.
Do not tax yourself with worry about your child’s education. It may take a long time, but if and when your child decides to do the work to learn, they will.