Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Reactive Attachment Disorder and Hope

When I started this blog, I knew that I had experiences in my life that could be helpful to others, yet sharing those experiences might embarrass or otherwise cause distress to certain of my children.  This past week, however, my middle daughter gave me permission to share a bit with my readers.  I hope that this might give hope to any who might find themselves in similar circumstances.

Our middle child arrived last to our family, as a school-aged child. We knew of some of her challenging behaviors at the time we adopted her, but "knowing" and "living with" are not the same. We couldn't know at the time just how long she would struggle to settle into the family.  It wasn't too long after she arrived that she was diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder (RAD). 

Reactive attachment disorder develops when a young child fails to trust those closest to him or her to adequately meet his or her needs. Often (but not always), the child has experienced neglect.  In normal development, a baby will cry, mom or dad will respond, and baby learns to trust.  With RAD, a baby will cry to no avail, and the baby learns that family is not to be trusted.  Reactive attachment disorder develops as a survival mechanism.  Children learn to depend on the mercy of strangers, but do not learn to develop lasting, meaningful family relationships. Children with RAD are superficially charming, and lie and steal without remorse.  They have difficulty relaxing, as they are constantly on alert for perceived danger.  They become skilled at manipulation. 

Healing from reactive attachment disorder takes time, but it is possible.  Parenting a child with RAD demands the development of a great deal of patience, a healthy dose of humor, and persistence.  I'm not a perfect parent, but I try to be a quick learner.  After our daughter joined our family, we all looked forward to the day when life would settle down a bit.  As it turned out, the roller-coaster ride went on throughout the time our daughter lived in our home.  Still, we did all we could to get her the help she needed, prayed, and hoped for the best for her.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, my daughter recently had a baby.  The experience of becoming a mom has caused my daughter to reflect on her life, and she recently posted on facebook:

All these years I held something against my mom because I thought she gave up on me. I had been through quite a bit. I realize now that it was I who gave up on myself. I gave up trying to belong in the family. I set myself up to be the outcast. My mother helped me so much this last week.  I already had a lactation consultant for [the baby], but my mother beat her to it! By the time she showed up, my mom had already gotten [the baby] to latch on. My mom was there when I gave birth even though I thought she would be there just to judge and critique me and my lifestyle.  She has been nothing but nice and accepting of my Fiance. I love my mom and am proud to have her  I love you mom.

That took me off guard.  I was not expecting such a public compliment, freely given and without ulterior motive, and with her accompanying realization that I truly do love her and did all I could to help her through the years. 

When I read that, the years of worry and worse faded a bit.  I asked my daughter if I could please share her words on my blog, not to set myself up as a supermom, because I'm no different than millions of other moms, but rather to provide hope to those moms who are currently trying to help children who seem incapable of bonding. 

So, if you are struggling with a challenging child, take heart.  There is hope that eventually, the love you are giving will be taken, and even reciprocated. 

Graphic found here: http://graphicsfairy.blogspot.com/2012/05/vintage-mothers-day-clip-art-mother.html
Thanks for the resilience of children, and for hope.


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11 comments:

  1. How wonderful for the both of you Kristi. I hope your daughter continues to heal and the bond between the two of you become closer. Having a baby certainly changes ones perspective. Congrats to her.....and you!

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  2. When you become an adult with something like that it is called disassociation disorder.When someone hurts you or does something bad to you ,you become unattached to that person and situation.I know I had that RAD and now I have this.People want to judge others when they think that the person is acting out of "their"norm and perception of life.Its a good thing it was caught early Kristi and yes sometimes it does get better.Hope yours does{{HUGS}}.

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  3. Blessing to you, your daughter, and your grand daughter.

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  4. Ditto on what Debbie said! I'm so happy for you and your family!

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  5. I'm guessing there were many difficult days where you wondered if you were parenting your daughter the right way. How wonderful that your daughter told you how she feels. That adorable baby brought so many blessings with him.

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  6. I know this was hard to write Kristi but thank you for being so open and honest about a painful subject. blessings, marlene

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  7. Oh wow Kristi, what a wonderful post and compliment from your daughter. Got goosebumps when I read it.
    I'm sure that someone, somewhere will read this and will not give up on their self or their kid.
    I applaud your daughter and I applaud you, for sharing.

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  8. Hi Kristi. This was a beautiful post. I am also raising a "RADish". He came home to us four years ago tomorrow at the age of nearly 14. So much progress has been made, but we have certainly been through the ringer! So nice to read this perspective of someone who has come out the other side.

    Thanks for linking this up with the TALU!

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  9. Funny, this is the second post I'm reading today that relates directly to a conversation I had with an old friend today I haven't spoken with in years. He has been dealing with this for several years and is still looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. I will have to forward this post to him so he knows it's really there. Thanks for sharing. [#TALU]

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  10. what a wonderful sentiment. I hope your daughter is able to heal herself a little more each day. TALU

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  11. Thanks for sharing this with me. I will be writing more about my time as a step mom soon. Hope we continue to share as mothers.

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Thanks for making this a conversation. I love to hear your comments!