What is your earliest memory? Is it something sweet like your mother teaching you to tie your shoes? Could it be your Father playing ball on a hot summer evening? Either way it probably is one That is wrapped up with love and care.
Children with RAD don’t have that privilege. You see, their memories go back to when they weren’t fed enough or when a man came into their room at night to do things to them that no child should ever know about. Sometimes it’s a memory of the smell of alcohol on the person responsible from them. Did you know that even trauma in-utero or a mother’s thoughts of ending her child’s life can cause a separation?
We say that children are resilient and to some extent that is true but what happens when a child doesn’t just “bounce back ” after a traumatic experience or abuse?
Here’s the truth. When neglect or separation from a birth mother happens it messes with the brain. When a child has a need and that need isn’t met it throws the child into survival mode. They must find ways to survive because in their mind the adult they trusted couldn’t protect them. Before I go any further I want to point out that when I’m writing I tend to share from an intentional trauma standpoint. Please note that biological children can have RAD too. It could come from chronic sickness,trauma during birth,or something totally out of their parents control. Unfortunately babies and little children can’t decipher the difference. So please note that not all children with RAD have been harmed by their biological parents.
When a child has had that bond separated (for whatever reason) they lose connection with their front part of their brain where logic and reason takes place.They literally get stuck in the back portion of the brain where flight,fight,and freeze takes place. At this point they are not reachable. They in a sense are in survival mode. Who’s going to hurt me? What can I do to keep them from loving me because love hurts. How can I be in control. How can I prove that my adult isn’t going to let me suffer? In a lot of ways in my opinion they become like an animal.
Imagine with me for a moment. You are a happy family with two children at home. Your family isn’t perfect but it is a loving environment and you think now is a great time to add to your family because of all the love you have. You go to whatever avenue available maybe its foster care or maybe an orphanage overseas. You meet your son or daughter for the first time and you fall in love. You know instantly this child is your own from the moment he/she looks up at you and says “I love you momma”. You get home and the first week is bliss. He/she seems to fit perfectly and is the missing puzzle piece to your family. Ah you can almost imagine the white picketed fence around your storybook home. Church family comes over to meet your new son/daughter. They feel invested because they have walked beside your family throughout the adoption process. They say “Oh your son/daughter is so charming!”
No sooner do the guests leave and the door shuts does the light switch of RAD turn on. It’s been on but hidden behind the superficially charming smile and impeccable manners. After all cute things don’t get hurt. The child might be starting to feel something. Something warm and fuzzy something that..could hurt them. So out of no where your child starts to be disrespectful,”accidentally” stepping on the cat, or is really clumsy and breaks things that are important to you. You find yourself walking on eggshells and making excuses to your other kids for the bad behavior. Finally enough is enough so you reach out to someone in your local church only to be greeted with accusations or pet answers. One friend might say “Just fill them up with more love.” The pastor might say “This is so normal! They are adjusting. In due time you’ll see how over concerned you are.” You feel lost and angry. The community that urged you to adopt is now turning their backs on you. The child that should be thankful for your love hates you. Your biological children don’t understand why this child gets all the attention. Your spouse gets a break at work or just plain doesn’t see the behavior. Things come crashing down one day when you are alone with your child. He/she has been raging for hours and you’re at a loss what to do. Then you hear “I’m going to kill you! I hate you!”
This is the reality of many families with children with Reactive Attachment Disorder. No two children with RAD are alike but they all must get a heart transplant and brain healing before they will ever be able to deal with their trauma and work on bonding with their family. We as the church and as communities can rally around these hero parents in several ways.
1. Be available to listen without judgement. You have no clue what it is to walking n the shoes of a parent fighting for their child’s life.
2. Read up on RAD. https://www.nextgenerationattachment.org/store Here’s an excellent no nonsense book that spells RAD out for you. It’s only 70 pages long and chalked full of information for you to be a supporter.
3. Go online to watch Child or Rage or watch the movie The Boarder . Both give a realistic view point on RAD.
4. Send a card with encouragement or prayer to the mother of a child with RAD. You could also send flowers too!
5. DO NOT INTERACT with the children. They feed off of your pity. They know exactly what it does to their parents when they come up and hug you/show affection to you. Don’t be tricked.
6. Hug the mom and dad! Yes, I know it can be awkward, do it anyway. Do it in front of their children. This shows the child that you support their amazing parents.
7. Don’t ever contradict the parents in front of the child! Never as in ever! If you do then it gives the child room to doubt their parents capability.
8. Bring over a meal.
9. Offer to stay home with the kids while mom and dad go to church or on a date.
10. Respect the parents when they give you instructions about their child. They know their child more than you do. Often they are working with an attachment therapist and a team. Do not cause them doubt.
11. Here’s a bonus one. DO interact with the healthy siblings. They need healthy interactions and a support system too! Offer to take them somewhere fun or just hang out with them. Send them something to bring them a smile too!
After all, having one RAD kid is the equivalent to having five healthy kids. Don’t stand in the way of a child’s healing. Be the example of Christ and walk along side parents in this journey. These children are so worth the fight. There IS healing available but it is a slow process. It doesn’t just go away in a years time.After all there is no time limit on growing a heart. These moms and dads are surgeons,janitors,parents,super heroes,and Jesus to their kids. These parents are worth the fight too! Sign up to be a Warrior in the battle that is RAD. Don’t leave your brothers and sisters hanging out on the battlefield alone. With an army we can heal the broken hearted.