Thursday, May 10, 2018

8 Ways to Help Families Who Have Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder


There is a horrific facebook video that the Post Institute put out recently. This is what they said:

Trigger warning! A friend of mine who is a teacher shared this. She shared it to help remind her fellow teachers of the source of distrust and reactivity of some students. 
It’s heartbreaking when we see with our eyes. There is benefit in allowing it to break your heart a little.


The video is from a nanny cam that was set up, and caught the nanny aka "a primary caregiver," throwing, beating, kicking, and stepping on a toddler. It is horrifying and I was immediately sobbing. The sharing of it by Post was to remind teachers (or clergy, friends of families who have a child with RAD, etc) why some children might be acting the way they are. It is not meant for families who have kids with RAD. We know (or suspect) what happened to make our kids the way they are. But maybe those family's tribes need to be graphically reminded why so many abused kids go on to abuse others.

Their facebook community was up in arms, furious that they would post such a horrendous thing. People were in tears, not understanding why they would put that out into the world.

I understand why they posted it--because people don't get it. Teachers don't get it. Churches don't get it. Family members don't get it. Friends don't get it. Unless you are a parent of a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) you don't fully understand the severity of a) what kind of abuse these kids might go through (not all kids with RAD were abused) and b) what might happen after (not all kids who were abused have RAD.)

My heart breaks for this child in the video and what this will likely do to her as she grows. It's very possible that she will never feel safe again--and then...how will she cope? Will she shut down and never return to who she is in her soul? Or will she heal and go on to change the world? 

My dream for her and all the others out there is that someone will scoop her up and hug her tight and that she will learn to accept that love, even want it, and go on to heal the world in her own way. I wish that for my own daughter who was hurt by someone before she came to us.

As parents of children with RAD we try scooping, loving, and connecting but it turns out, "just loving them more" and "more connection" isn't always enough--it can make some of these severely traumatized children more afraid and they lash out in even scarier ways.

Someone recently told me this: Let's say you are a child who has lived all of your life in a loving family. Suddenly, you are yanked out and placed in a meth house. Everyone tells you this new life is okay, how lucky you are. Therapists tell you this life is "normal."

See where I'm going with this? Now, let's say you're a kid from an abusive home. You've only ever known abuse. Your mother was abused while she was pregnant with you. Literally, from conception, you have only known abuse. Suddenly, you are yanked out and placed in a loving home. Everyone tells you this new life is okay, how lucky you are. Therapists tell you this life is "normal." How can anyone expect that these kids can just put it all behind them and move on into their new lives, accepting love and safety as the norm?

If only loving them was all that they needed. What happened to these children is so horrific that "just" love isn't enough. They need so much more help. If you are like most people, you want children to succeed. Your heart cries out when you hear the stories of abuse and neglect.

Your empathy is your strength--you can help! Let your heart cry and then learn more. There are so many ways to help families who have children with RAD. Here are 8 simple ways to help:

1. Listen. The next time a parent complains about their kid, just listen. No advice is needed (unless asked for.) You don't know what's going on in that house, even if you live in that house. Many fathers have no clue what's happening in their own home because the abuse doesn't happen when he's there.

2. Support. Help brainstorm. If you're given permission, share their story, ask for help. Start a gofundme so they can get the therapy they need--the whole family needs it, not just the child with RAD.

3. Share what you're learning with others. Tell the stories you've heard (but don't use names or locations.) Stories change lives. The people who love and trust you, will believe you. That belief spreads and makes a big difference in the lives of RAD families.

4. Accept that mental health is an issue that touches every family tree.

5. Set aside judgement. Just for today, set aside judgement when out in the world. Watch this and have a giggle :-)

6. Offer to take the child/ren with RAD so the parents can be with their other children for a few hours. 

7. Have extra money? (Yep, believe it or not, many people do!) Help out a family who has a child with RAD. Find people who work with RAD families and donate to them. Here are a few:

-RAD Advocates. 3 RAD moms started a nonprofit to help RAD families find the services they need.

-Discovery Horse. Sara is an amazing coach who works with children with RAD and RAD families using the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method and Natural Lifemanship principles. You can donate to her work by clicking here. Make sure you put "Discovery Horse" in the description box.

-The Mother Ranch. A RAD mom (Is it tacky for me to add myself? I've decided no! :-)) who supports RAD moms and glass children in their quest for healing trauma, using the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method and art therapy principles.

-Know others who help support RAD families? Good! Give to them!

8. If you are falling back on the old, "Kids are resilient--they'll bounce back no matter what happens to them," check out this study done by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente--it's all about ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and it's eye opening.


Parents of kids with RAD: You have the right to know your children's background and feel horrified and sad and angry...

and

you have the right to feel safe in your own home. Your other children and pets have the right to feel safe. Just because you understand the abuse that happened to your child with RAD doesn't mean that you have to accept abuse from your child with RAD.

I wish someone had told me this when I was in the trenches.

You and your entire family deserve to be safe. How that looks may or may not be what you expected.


Are you a RAD parent looking for support? Join the facebook group the Underground World of RAD We are a group of RAD parents and caregivers who insist on safe and nonjudgemental support. In-person groups spring out of this larger group all the time (those are the best!)

Are you a RAD mom looking for in-person support? Join the facebook group RAD Mom Summer Camp! Wishing you could just get away from it all and relax? This summer there are two camps held at my Colorado ranch!


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 with Reactive Attachment Disorder and one "glass child"), 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.