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7 Reasons the Holiday Season is Difficult for a Child with RAD

The holiday season can be the most difficult time of the year when raising a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).

Instead of Christmas being magical, it often turns into an absolute nightmare. 

Christmas and other winter holidays that were once joyous occasions may turn into trauma triggers for all in the household.

Here are 7 reasons why the holiday season is difficult for a child with RAD.

Please know when behaviors occur in these situations, it is not the fault of a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

The brain has been wired to do these things due to trauma in the past. 

What you see and experience is not intentional, even when it feels like it.

7 Reasons the Holiday Season is Difficult for a Child with RAD

7 Reasons the Holiday Season is Difficult for a Child with RAD

Warning: This page contains content related to Reactive Attachment Disorder that may be triggering to some.


Important: Children with RAD are victims of abuse and/or neglect. Behaviors associated with Reactive Attachment Disorder are due to how the brain forms while the innocent child is surviving trauma. It is our goal to support healthy and loving families where children with RAD can heal, if possible.

1. Family, Love, and Traditions during the Holidays

In most homes the holiday season is about family, love, and traditions that bring everyone closer together.

Family, love, and traditions are HUGE triggers for children with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

All three ideas activate the RAD brain, which immediately causes the child with Reactive Attachment Disorder to push back HARD.

The RAD brain feels so unsafe with the idea of family, love, and traditions, it will do anything it can to sabotage experiences that involve them.

The Worst Cases of Reactive Attachment Disorder

This means you may witness or become victim to severe RAD behaviors. 

Be prepared and expect them.

2. Past Holidays included Trauma

Often times a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder has experienced trauma during the holiday season.

Trauma doesn't disappear during the holiday season, instead it increases.

Stress, financial struggles, and so much more contribute to this.

It's rare for the present caregiver to know about and understand this past trauma and what triggers it.

Navigating triggers becomes a guessing game of which caregivers tend to fail miserably at.

8 Differences Between RAD Fits and Autism Meltdowns

It's only after a RAD fit that pieces come together and caregivers can prepare for the next year and the rest of the holiday season.

Caregivers can do their best to avoid trauma triggers but we live in the real world and are only human.

And often, depending on the severity of past trauma, sometimes triggers can't be avoided.

Fore more tips on how to handle situations related to past trauma, check out the resource below.

Reactive Attachment Disorder: How to Handle Past Trauma During the Holidays

Reactive Attachment Disorder: Tips for Handling Past Trauma During the Holidays

Remember you are the expert when it comes to your child with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Do what you feel is right.

3. Changes in Routine and Schedules during the Holiday Season

Holidays include the changing of routines and schedules, often leading to spending more time with family, which is a trigger in itself. 

Like many children on the autism spectrum, children with Reactive Attachment Disorder do not like changes in routine and schedules.

During the holidays, supports and respite are hard to find, and often nonexistent, because people take the holidays off to spend with their own family.

Some families travel, which means long periods of time together in close quarters.

If flying, it means a lot of waiting around with so many strangers.

This is yet another trigger for some children with RAD.

For families spending the holidays at other people's homes or in a hotel, safety can be extremely challenging.

Must Have Safety Resources When Parenting a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder

Other families without children with RAD do not have the same safety protocols in place, nor will they feel comfortable with them.

In these situations changes in routines and schedules can become dangerous for all involved.

4. Expectations of Extended Family during Holiday Gatherings

As a caregiver of a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, you most likely already know that typical parenting strategies do NOT work.

But, that doesn't mean that extended family believes that.

Spending time with extended family can be triggering for everyone, because a child with RAD often acts differently around others.

Extended family may question or put you down for how you parent a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Or extended family members may think they know best and intervene, causing more damage and often triangulation.

It is not uncommon for a child with RAD to lie about you to extended family.

At times a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder will display "artificial charm" in the presence of others as a way to protect themselves, and then lash out at you afterwards in private.

And then there are expectations regarding physical affection from extended family that a child with RAD may be triggered by.

It's often only after extended family has left, that caregivers face unsafe behaviors brought on by extended family functions.

5. Overstimulating and Under Stimulating Sensory Experiences During Holiday Preparations and Celebrations

Like a child on the autism spectrum, a child with RAD is often triggered by sensory experiences that are either too strong, not sufficient for her body to regulate, or are a reminder of past trauma.

The holiday season is full of sensory experiences that can result in significant behaviors.

Often times we can forget about sensory experiences as being a reason for behaviors, because Reactive Attachment Disorder is so complicated.

But, sensory experiences are usually the first to trigger, especially during the holiday season.

Consider the loudness of a family get together and the raising of voices.

Think about the chaos of opening gifts.

Then there's the smells of holiday meals, desserts, perfumes, and body odor of so many in a small space.

Physical contact with others often increases during the holiday season. 

Touch is often a trigger.

Sensory regulation is crucial during the holiday season, yet so hard to obtain.

Christmas Sensory Kit Ideas for Kids and Teens

Christmas Sensory Kit Ideas for Teens and Families

Our family has found holiday sensory kits have been a huge help! 

We always make sure they're available at home and on the go.

6. Receiving Gifts During the Holidays

Many children with Reactive Attachment Disorder struggle with receiving gifts from others.

Receiving gifts is a very intimate affair. 

The acceptance of a gift from others can be viewed as an acceptance of love, which feels unsafe and is a huge trigger for a child with RAD.

Don't be surprised if gifts are destroyed shortly after they have been received.

Many children with Reactive Attachment Disorder do not like surprises.

Unwrapping a gift can be a very triggering and anxiety ridden experience.

Gifts received from others can also become weapons, which jeopardizes a family's safety.

If you're looking for ideas on how to help with this struggle, be sure to read the post below.

How to Help a Child with RAD Receive Holiday Gifts

Remember every child with Reactive Attachment Disorder is different, what may work for some, may not work for others.

You are the caregiver and are therefore the expert. 

We hope our ideas inspire you to determine what is best for your child with RAD

7. Giving Gifts During the Holidays

Family members and friends give gifts as a sign of love and affection.

This is very triggering for a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, especially when physical affection and words of praise are offered as a thank you.

A child with RAD may refuse to give gifts or choose to purchase gifts she likes, so she can take them from those she gives them to.

It may be extremely hard for a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder to take perspective and be empathetic or sympathetic to others.

In these cases, selecting gifts for others can be extremely difficult and stress inducing.

Gift giving expectations can lead to behaviors.

The holiday season often becomes the most dreaded time of years by caregivers of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder because there are so many triggers.

If you are a caregiver of a child with RAD, know that you are not alone.

You're not imagining any of the difficulties you're experiencing during the holiday season.

They are real and very hard to navigate.

Hang in there, things can get better over the years, as you start to understand triggers and struggles, and as your child chooses to heal.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the resources below.

The Cost of Raising a Child with Severe Mental Healht Struggles I Hate My RAD Child RAD Treatment for Children What NOT to Do with a RAD Child How to Discipline a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder Reactive Attachment Disorder Fits: Did I Do Something Wrong?

7 Reasons the Holiday Season is Difficult for a Child with RAD


1 comment:

  1. I am in tears. Yes, yes we are going through this right now. Buying gifts and then they give them away. To the point sometimes “sneaking” things to school to give to others, so they might become her friend.