Saturday, March 10, 2018

How does Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) Develop?

A child with RAD endures enough fear to change the way their brain develops.

Coming from a loving family, it’s hard to imagine how an innocent child can become abusive. As adoptive parents we’re told, “These children have come from hard places.” and yet, it’s still hard to understand what exactly creates children who harm their family members.

So, let's find out about one of the many ways this happens--come with me…

A beautiful baby boy is born, ten perfect fingers, ten perfect toes. A miracle. His mother, who is supposed to love him more than life itself—hurts him, or his mother, who is supposed to love him more than life itself, doesn’t or can’t protect him from abuse.

He cries, but no one comes to feed, change, rock, or soothe. If they do come, his life gets a lot worse. He learns to be silent. He learns that no one will help.

He’s two now. He doesn’t speak. He only hears furious screaming at home. It’s dangerous to make any noise at all. He sits in the shadows, making himself as small as possible.

The massive growth his brain should be doing during this time, slows. Some areas don’t develop at all.

He’s three years old. Nothing he can do can make the fear stop. There is no hope. Time crawls by and the only thing he know is that life is full of horror and the one who should love him, caused it—either directly or by not protecting him from it.

He should have learned connection while being fed, looking deep into his mother’s eyes. He didn’t. 

He should have learned laughter and giggles while playing peek-a-boo with his mom. He didn’t. 

He should have learned that his cries meant something to someone and been held, fed, changed, rocked. He didn’t. 

He should have learned that he meant something, but he didn’t.

What he did learn is that the natural love a child has for his mother only equals abuse and terror. So much terror that it feels like he might die from it.

Eventually, if he's fortunate, someone notices and he’s removed from his mother. He’s placed into a foster-adopt home with a family who immediately falls in love with his cherubic face and who knows that children should be cherished. This child, who has been bathed in fear his entire life, comes into a loving and healthy home. He has experiences he’s never known. Kind, soft words. A warm bath. Clean, dry clothes. As much food as he can eat. He is terrified. What does this mean? At least before he knew what to expect. He has never known love, has never known stability or health. What does he know?

A mother’s love is untrustworthy and terrifying.

His adoptive1 mother quits her job to stay home with him. The family showers their new child with love. Younger and older siblings want to hold and snuggle the tiny toddler. He recoils in horror.

He can’t make eye contact because no one taught him how.

A gentle scolding and he stares off into space, going within to hide.

He rarely cries. Instead he screams. For hours. Every day. For months. His “fury” is evident but no one really understands—he’s not furious, he’s terrified. He can't connect because any connection to mom threatens his instinctual sense of survival.

When it comes to mom and the people, pets, or things that mom loves, he hurts like he’s been hurt and shows no remorse or empathy. His brain didn’t develop in that area.

His behaviors are brushed aside because he’s a child and crashing, breaking, kicking, and hitting happens. But no, not really, not like this.

As adoptive mothers, we are told to, “Love them more. Hold them more. Spend more time.” No one tells us that for some of these children a mother’s love creates a deep, irreparable terror. No one tells us that the more we show our love for these extremely traumatized children, the worse they get and the more terrified they are.

Hi, I'm Julia and I'm a trauma-informed certified Equine Gestalt Coach, artist of 30 years, and Reiki Master. I combine my skills to create an individualized care plan for each client. As an adoptive mother of two (one healthy and one with RAD), I am intimately familiar with the trials and tribulations RAD moms and their glass children face as they navigate the muddy waters of life with a mentally ill child. While I see many types of people in my practice, my heart and my specialty is the health and healing of RAD moms and their glass children. 
Learn more at The Mother Ranch.

1Children with RAD can be bio or step but are most often adopted.

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