At seven months pregnant, I remember anxiously waiting for my husband to come home from work. I felt exhausted after a long summer day of caring for five rambunctious boys (read our story). Just when I thought I couldn’t do anymore, it began again—the tantrum of a young boy with reactive attachment disorder.
I was afraid of my 11-year-old boy.
No one can understand reactive attachment disorder until they experience it.
I still remember the sound of his shouting—the booming and powerful obscenities that flew from his mouth at me because he didn’t get his way. I was thankful when he stormed into his room and slammed the door.
But then the pounding and banging began. And I heard the familiar sound of him punching holes into the drywall. I crouched in a corner to protect the unborn life inside of me in case he decided to come out and attack me physically, as he had done in the past. I yelled to my fifteen-year-old son to take the other kids in the house to the small neighborhood park just down the block.
Crouched in the corner, I reached for the phone and called my husband. I begged him to hurry. At that moment, I looked at my life. My life. How did this happen? I was hurt, tired, scared, and angry. I was angry with myself and the little boy who caused our family all of this turmoil.
His amazing acts of innocence made me feel crazy.
Thankfully, I heard my husband’s car pull quickly into the driveway. He heard it too. And just like that, he turned off his switch. No more shouting. No more pounding or punching. Just as my husband runs through the door, he appears. “How was your day, Dad?” he says, calmly.
How do we cope as parents of kids with reactive attachment disorders and mental illnesses?
I felt crazy. I wanted to scream. What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with him? How can he do this to me? Doesn’t he know what it does to us? To our family? The answer? No. He has reactive attachment disorder and is mentally ill.
Here’s the key to parenting a child with RAD: As hard as it is, you must separate the child from the mental illness and reactive attachment disorder.
If we hope for a glimpse of success, we must love our kids. We cannot take their attacks personally. With deep regret, I’ll tell you that we were not able to succeed with this particular child. Several years after that day, we relinquished him. But with two others, we had successful adoptions. We found hope and healing when we were able to let go of the perceived personal attacks and parent the children underneath of their reactive attachment disorders. I have also found this to be true as a treatment parent with IACD. Although, I must admit, it’s much easier to not take things personally as I care for someone else’s child.
Care for yourself as a parent of a child with reactive attachment disorder. Care for yourself. Care for yourself.
I constantly remind parents of kids with RAD to take good care of themselves. It is so much easier to be objective when you are well rested and in a good frame of mind. Have a plan and know you are doing a good thing—each and every day. Mental illness and reactive attachment disorder are tough issues. And, unfortunately, they often come as a package deal. You are brave to take it on.
Remember—you are only human, as is your child.
Here’s what I urge you to remember every day – if you make a mistake, your child will give you a chance at a redo. You will have plenty of opportunities to get it right! None of us are perfect. Find distance and do not take your child’s tirades personally. For me, this mental framework helps me to handle myself in a mature and healthy way. I haven’t always gotten it right. But, thankfully, I’ve learned how to move on and forward. I’ve learned to take care of myself as well as these dear little people who depend upon me. No, it’s not easy. But it’s essential.
Help us spread the word about reactive attachment disorder. Too many parents feel alone with no where to turn.
Our mission to educate and advocate so that you and other parents of children with reactive attachment disorder find hope, help, and support. Here’s what you can do:
1. Please watch our videos and forward them onto your friends, family, teachers, therapists, and others via the social share buttons on each page.