Welcome to Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) as we awesome parents like to call it. Take RAD, mix in PTSD, anxiety, conductive disorder and oppositional defiance disorder, add a bunch of good hearted, well meaning adults, and you have the perfect storm for CPS to be called and investigations to be done and false judgment by pretty much everyone that is not in your inner circle.
Children with RAD are masters at triangulating the adults in their lives. They thrive on controlling the situation, and learn from an early age (like babyhood) how to manipulate folks to get what they think they need. If that means turning the rest of the world against the people that love them, who would die for them and are fighting like hell to help them, that’s ok, it’s all about surviving life the way they think they still have too. You can’t blame these kids for it either, it’s how their little broken brains works after their early years of trauma. But, knowing all this doesn’t make it any easier on the parents who are watching themselves become the no longer good parents of the neighborhood, by child’s therapist, at school, with family. These loving parents that would do anything for this child have people questioning their hearts. Here is why, the child with RAD is telling everybody what horrible parents they are with words and in actions, all day, every day, it’s what they believe they have to do. I call it shopping for parents, when the child are trying to charm and manipulate every person they see. But really what it comes down to, we (the parents) are no longer safe, because we are pushing emotions that scare the heck out of them, calling them out on behaviors that are not acceptable, expecting them to be authentic and feel those big scary attachment emotions. Any outside adult, friend, family, stranger, teacher, mailman etc. RAD is trying so hard to convince them all, they are good, cute, perfectly behaved and that you do want to take them home. For a better or perhaps lack of words, they are selling themselves to you.
My son, that has reactive attachment disorder is prostituting out his heart, his mind and his body every chance he gets, not so much in a sexual way, but in a real way, because you are safe to him, he can control you, manipulate you with his charm, with his sweet voice and perfect manners and soon you will start doubting what we as his parents are saying. You will start wondering what it is that we are doing wrong or why he is so good with you and horrible with us. You will soon start to wonder if our hands are just too full with the other kids and your heart will feel such sorrow for him. You’ll think he’s starving, he will eat so much and keep asking you for more that you will start to wondering if we are withholding food from him. He will tell you lies upon lies, all to see yours eyes soften and for you to pull him closer to yourself. He will come across as starved for affection, attention and love. He will be a model child for you and he can hold this façade together for awhile. He did all those things the first few months he lived with us too, it wasn’t until we started catching on to his behaviors and calling him out, while having real expectations of him, did we start to see the real side of him. Once he started to feel emotions and have true expectations, we were no longer a safe place because, he could no longer manipulate us and that’s when our world turned upside down. Every time we have a new evaluation, therapist, doctor, coach, teacher or someone new come into our lives, I feel I have to over emphasize that we are good parents in the hopes they will believe us, because, I know once they meet him they’re going to wonder if what we were telling them, is even true. Until you have been questioned about your ability to parent correctly, you can’t fathom how frustrating and lonely the road of trauma can be. It isolates you. Your circle of trust becomes smaller and smaller and your world is forever different. You have now seen firsthand trauma, brokenness and mental illness in your child, a child that you love more than anything in the world, in such a real, raw way and you are forever changed. You quickly realized how uneducated the world is on early childhood trauma, and the devastating lifelong effects these children have to face and the families have to walk through. So the parents keep outsider at arms length a little more, they protect their family unit and do what they know is right because at the end of the day they are what matter the most.
Welcome to the world of RAD.
This is the very real world of reactive attachment disorder. It’s not uncommon, they’re so many parents that have adopted children or have biological children that have experienced severe trauma early in life and this is the world they live daily. The parents that are walking this road are forever changed and yet, most of these parents would still say they would do it all over again, most don’t regret saying yes, most go to bed each night exhausted only to wake and ask God for extra wisdom, extra patience, and a giant extra dose of love to make it through another day. Mental illness isn’t just panic attack, depression and ADHD sometimes mental illness in children is scary, it’s devastating and it’s a lifelong sentence. Let’s keep this topic going, let’s shine a light on mental illness and early childhood trauma, so more people understand it, more people show compassion towards it and maybe more doctors and therapist expand their education about it.