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To Be a Mother of a Young Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder

I have sat down to write this post more times than I can count.  My hands shake as I type.  Emotions are high, and I can no longer stay silent. 

Everyone needs to understand what it’s like to be a mother of a young child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). 

Even if you can’t fathom it, if you think it’s fake, or if it’s too much to bear, you NEED to know.

Why?  Because though you may not believe it, you most likely know a mother who has a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. 

Or worse yet, your child has a classmate with Reactive Attachment Disorder and could become their next victim.

Whatever the case may be, this is something everyone must know.
To Be a Mother of a Young Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder

To be a mother of a young child with Reactive Attachment Disorder

Tonight was another rough night at our house.  One of my RADlings went into a rage, calmed down long enough to catch her breath and then decided to go a second round. 

I was home alone with the four kids while my husband was at work.

Everyone in the house knows the drill.  The goal is to get her safely to her room.  When not in her room, anything can be used as a weapon.

That’s why all sharp objects are locked up, all plates, cups, and bowls are plastic, safety plans are in place, and we have adopted a minimalist lifestyle. 

If you’re upstairs when she starts to rage, you stay in your room and shut the door.  If you’re downstairs, you either go to your room or get to a safe place out of her reach until it’s over. 

This isn’t just the protocol for the children of the household.  My husband and I do it too, once she is in her room. 

We fall victim to her attacks just as often, if not more than anyone else.  But we know if anything is going to stop her and help the situation it’s that everyone has left her alone. 

She hates being alone.

Then we wait. 

I often pray.
  
Will she calm down?  Will she choose to stay safe?  Will she remain in her room?  Is there anything I can do to snap her out of this?

Oh please God let everyone stay safe and help me know what to do!

We listen to her.

“I want to kill you!  I wish you were dead! I wish everyone in this house was dead!”

Sometimes she can calm down.  Most often not so much. 

There are times when she will choose to stay safe on her own without intervention.  But there are so many times she doesn’t. 

And staying in her room…  Oh how I thank God for the times she does decide to stay put.  Because when she doesn’t things just get worse.

Distracting her doesn’t work, she’s too determined to pick a fight. 

Mimicking her behaviors to show her how silly they are only brings about more rage. 

Giving her a hug causes her to be violent.  

Ignoring the behaviors means someone else gets hurt. 

Sometimes yelling above her blood curdling screams may get her attention, but sometimes that doesn’t work either.

At times threatening to call the cops or taking her to the hospital brings her back to reality.  But then sometimes it doesn’t, and she could care less.  We’ve almost been at the point where we needed to, but it’s always a last resort.

Because let’s be honest, what would an uneducated police officer or doctor think when you call for help regarding your young elementary school aged child with Reactive Attachment Disorder? 

It’s not until the child is eight years old that a hospital emergency mental health on call worker might consider your plea for help.  But that’s very rare.

It doesn’t matter the child’s size or strength.

And heaven forbid if your child has calmed down by the time the police arrive, or you get to the hospital, especially if she’s absolutely adorable and knows how to work the crowd. 

You must have evidence whether it’s someone or something.  There must be a victim to be believed.

What’s more common is you being criticized for your parenting skills if not in person, then behind your back. 

And if you’re really “lucky” whomever you see may call child protective services too.  Not because they’re concerned about your safety and wellbeing, but because they’re worried about the child you’re so desperately trying to help, but can’t. 

Because in the end, children will always be innocent… 

Even when they’re not. 

It’s always the parent’s fault. 

Always. 

It all comes down to discipline, right?

Discipline…

We ran out of options years ago.  Keeping everyone safe is the only goal we have now.  This is not because we’re incompetent or are horrible parents.  It’s because we’ve tried EVERYTHING and then some, and nothing works.

We’ve talked to therapists, doctors, and specialists. 

We’ve gone to the parent training classes again and again. 

We’ve had case workers in our home. 

None of it worked. 

The only benefit to all these appointments and trainings is that we have more documentation that it’s not just us.

This brings us comfort, only because we can show this documentation to the police and to child protective services when they knock at our door.  It’s only when enough others say there’s a problem with our child, that they might believe us.

One case worker who visited our home regularly described our plight as being held hostage by our child.  Yet when she worked hard to find resources and help for our family, government red tape stopped every single bit of progress.

A trauma experienced therapist who met our RADLING, as we begged for her to be seen, said our daughter was too unformed to work with.  Therapy isn't an option until the child is developmentally ready.

The developmental pediatrician told us she wasn’t an expert and couldn’t help us much past diagnosis but knew this was going to be the hardest thing we’d ever done. 

This doctor did sit with me through a few rages that occurred in her office though, complimenting on how well of a job I was doing as I had to restrain my child for safety reasons. 
   
I was calm.  I was kind. I was trying to help.

At least I wasn’t alone that time, and I had more documentation.

This doctor has also seen our RADling almost every 6 weeks since she was three years old and has worked feverishly to diagnose all issues and help us navigate the world of medications and other supports.  The problem is there are no medications that treat RAD and there are no supports.

Believe it or not, there are some children who don’t respond to any form of parenting techniques.  Instead they provoke, harm, and hurt others.

Believe it or not there are some children who do not feel remorse or have a conscience.  Instead they get a high from causing harm to others.

Believe it or not, medications don’t fix everything, and the wrong medications make things so much worse.

Believe it or not trauma experienced in the womb and during those first years of life can cause permanent brain damage and can completely change a life.

To be a mother of a young child with Reactive Attachment Disorder means you learn these ugly truths first hand.

What does a mother do?

So, what does a mother do when she needs help but can’t get it?

What does she do when she’s being abused by her own young child? 

There are laws in place that protect a child and spouse from abuse, but none that protect a parent from the abuse of a child, even when there are bruises and documentation and worse…

What does a mother do when she’s doing all she can to teach her children never to be okay with an abusive relationship, but then must live the realities of an abusive relationship in the presence of those same children, not because she wants to, but because she’s the mother of abuser, who happens to be one of their siblings?

What does a mother do when she’s taught her children to call the police if they’re ever unsafe, yet when the police are called because a sibling with Reactive Attachment Disorder is being abusive, the police do nothing about it and instead tell the mother to control her kid?

What does a mother do when she’s taught her children that doctors are helpers and are in the business of saving people, yet the doctor the mother has gone to won’t help in the case of Reactive Attachment Disorder?

What does a mother do when she’s taught her children to speak out and ask for help, yet they watch her do that every single chance she gets, and no help comes?

What does a mother do when she’s taught her children to tell the truth, yet when they do, no one believes them or instead reports the mother to child protective services?

What does a mother do when she’s reached out for help but instead child protective services is coming to investigate and interview all her children to prove that she is the problem? 

Because once again, it’s always the parents, right?

There are so many things wrong with how our society chooses to handle Reactive Attachment Disorder. 

So many refuse to believe it exists. 

Others may know about it but choose not to consider it their problem.

Doctors and therapists lack education and experience, often misdiagnosing the condition and making things worse rather than better.  They implement treatment plans that won’t work and prescribe medications that make things worse.

It’s considered a mental health issue, which means that nobody wants to take responsibility for it. 
There are very few resources out there and insurance almost always WON’T cover it.

To be a mother of a young child with Reactive Attachment means you are alone, isolated, and without support.

Unless it’s something related to improving your parenting skills, as if you don’t have enough of a complex already.

And gosh darn it the worst part of all of this is, despite how angry and fearful and exhausted a mother of a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder feels, we still try to do the best we can. 

We try to fill our days with hope, tallying up the good moments, for when things are so bad. 

We give all our love, even when it’s never received. 

We fight for our RAD child, even when we’re the ones being hurt. 

We lie awake at night filled with worry that never seems to go away.

We implement safety plans, educate, and advocate, no matter the cost.

And then we fight for our children some more. 

Because just maybe this time someone will listen and believe us.

Maybe someone can actually help before things get worse and it’s too late.

Because there is a time when it will be too late. 

Victims won’t just be family members. 

Our worst fears will become a reality.

Everyone will have failed. 

This is what it’s like to be a mother of a young child with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.
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To Be a Mother of a Young Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder

1 comment:

  1. I don't have any advice or anything. I have a child with special needs and a younger child with regular needs... I just want to encourage you in some way... God sees you. When you cannot fathom how He possibly cares for you. He does. I'm sorry I can't give better words. Here is a big long virtual hug. It's such a painful journey and so much darkness and so much valley. And you just keep crying out. He hears and He cares.

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