Many people in our country woke up the day after the recent presidential election with mixed feelings. Those feelings have continued. Some feel hopeful. Others feel worried. Most people are watchful. No matter whom they voted for this year, no one knows for sure how the next days and years will unfold. Uncertainty is a feeling we are familiar with here at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development. Parents of children with reactive attachment disorder (RAD) face it everyday.
Those parenting children with RAD live with uncertainty in many different ways. They worry about what their children might say to other people about them, as lying and triangulation are symptoms of reactive attachment disorder. They fear the damage their children will cause when they break into violent rages. The biggest uncertainty many feel is how they will fare as parents. Many parents feel afraid that they will fail.
To feel uncertain as a parent of children with RAD is valid given the complexity of the role. Many parents learn the hard way that the template they used to parent their other children doesn’t work for children with RAD. They also find out that love alone won’t “fix” their children. Furthermore, they learn that most teachers, therapists, and doctors don’t have the knowledge necessary to effectively guide them. They feel unsure of where to turn.
Through days filled with uncertainty, this is what we advise parents of children with reactive attachment disorder—
1. Learn about RAD, anticipate, and plan for the possibilities of what will happen next. You must thoroughly educate yourself about RAD. While it’s important for your spirit to have hope, you must be realistic about the road ahead at the same time.
2. Find qualified attachment specialists to guide you. Parenting children with RAD is difficult and you cannot do it alone. The illness itself is the battleground for the fight. Your child will resist fighting his illness, however, because it controls him. You both need help to battle the strong opponent that is RAD. You and love aren’t the cure.
3. Manage your daily home life with appropriate treatment for your child, structure, boundaries, choices, and limitations. From our perspective, such is the only environment in which children with RAD can feel safe. We urge you to stay the path.
4. Acknowledge and accept your own valid and real feelings. Understand that you are hurting too. Many parents of children with RAD have post-traumatic stress disorder themselves. You cannot move forward effectively without mental and emotional stamina of your own. Get help for you too.
5. Separate the illness from the child. Remember that RAD is an illness that children suffer from as a result of early childhood trauma. It’s critical to remember that children with RAD battle with intense fear inside. They didn’t choose their illness. This will help you to remain calm and not take your child’s behaviors personally.
6. Find respite care. We know it’s extremely difficult to someone to give you a break from your child. However, it’s vital to step outside of the chaos and uncertainty to get or stay on track.
No matter how you feel this week after the election, you are already accustomed to riding a roller coaster of emotions. You are accustomed to talking with others who may not agree with you. You are prepared to relentlessly work with others for the sake of children and families. No matter where you are in your politics or walk through parenting, speak up. Walk through uncertainly with your head up and the help you need to keep going.
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