Brian and Cindy felt like prisoners in their own home. Friends and family couldn’t take care of their son—he was more than others could handle. They couldn’t take him to public places like the library—their son’s violent outbursts were too dangerous. Over time, they just stayed home. Although it’s critical for parents of children with reactive attachment disorder (RAD) to get a break, finding relief is far from easy.
To care for a child with RAD is like caring for a toddler in a larger body. Since they were “stuck” developmentally at early ages, children with RAD often act much younger than their chronological ages. Imagine taking care of a 2-year-old child for a moment—a child that takes things from others, breaks valuable objects, invades others’ privacy, lies, throws temper tantrums when things don’t go his way, and blames others for his poor behavior. These behaviors are age-appropriate for a 2-year-old. They also fit the symptoms of children with RAD, no matter their physical age and size. To care for a 12-year-old child that acts like a 2-year-old will take its’ toll on anyone. Not many people sign up for the task.
Some parents send their children to residential treatment centers just to get a break. However, that’s not always an option either due to financial reasons or because of the specific nature of their children. For Brian and Cindy, mental health institutions wouldn’t take their child due to his violent behaviors. “The Institute for Attachment and Child Development was the first place that offered respite care that knew what they were getting themselves into and were still willing to do it.”
All parents could use a break sometimes. For parents of children with RAD, however, finding that time is vital for the health and wellness of themselves and their families. Here’s why families with children with RAD need respite time—
- Parents of children with RAD often get post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly the mothers. The parent who tries the most to get close to a child with RAD experiences the most resistance. As a means of protection due to early abuse experiences, the child will do anything to not let that person get close to him. Children with RAD are very tricky, manipulative, and can falsely accuse parents of abuse, etc. Many mothers of children with RAD report that they don’t feel like the people they once were. They say they feel “crazy”.
- Other children in the home feel the effects of living with a child with RAD. Children with RAD require constant close supervision in order to keep themselves and others safe. When parents provide this intense care, they have little time for other children in the home. Simultaneously, parents realistically can’t watch children with RAD at every moment around the clock. They too need to sleep, take showers, etc. Such gaps in care can result in abuse for other children in the home from the child with RAD.
- Marriages suffer as a result of raising children with RAD. Children with RAD are skilled at breaking down relationships between others. Doing so is their way to control their environments—their means of survival. Many couples of children with RAD get divorced.
- Adoptions can dissolve. Some adoptive couples who don’t find support relinquish their parental rights of their adoptive children to keep the rest of their family intact.
Brian and Cindy did, in fact, get respite care at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development thanks to generous donors. That first weekend they received respite care, they did simple things the rest of us might take for granted. “We had breakfast without a battle,” said Cindy. “We breathed.”
Give the gift of rest (if you’re able and rested yourself)
If you’re able, please consider giving the gift of rest to other parents like Brian and Cindy. When parents of children with RAD have time to rest and recover, they are better able to parent with more patience, wherewithal, and compassion. If you are in the trenches yourself, please continue to reach out and speak up. When we collectively raise our voices, we reach more people and advocate for families of children with RAD with greater clarity and strength.
Watch the Parent Talk about RAD full series of Brian & Cindy (the final clip will publish early January 2017):
Catch the final video clip/blog next week to see what Cindy and Brian are up to now.