How Adoptive Parents Can Bond With Children Who Have RAD
- Understanding the Condition
- Modified Parenting Techniques
- Responding with Love
Adoptive parents may struggle to connect with their children who have reactive attachment disorder. RAD may develop when a child experiences trauma or neglect as an infant or small child. While it may sometimes be easier to treat when it is detected earlier, some children may struggle with RAD throughout their childhood.
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1. Understanding the Condition
Understanding RAD is critical for parents who want to connect to their adopted children who have it. Because of the severe neglect or abuse, they have experienced at a very young age, children who have RAD are deeply distrustful of others and even of their expressions of affection. Therefore, parents must understand that while loving and supporting their child with RAD is important, it is not sufficient. Children with RAD need specialized treatment to connect with their adoptive parents and parents must understand RAD in order to work with their children effectively.
Experts generally recommend therapy for both parents and their children with RAD. There is no definite consensus on what kind of treatment is best, but parents and their children need an individualized plan. Since psychotherapists generally only see children for an hour or a few hours each week, they will also focus on teaching parents skills for dealing with their children. Therapists for parents to deal with their own feelings and frustrations and support groups may also be helpful.
3. Modified Parenting Techniques
One difficult element for parents who hope to connect with their adopted children who have RAD is that what has worked for their other children generally does not work for children with RAD. For example, a parent might see a “time-out” as a low-key form of effective punishment, but a child with RAD may feel abandoned by a time-out. Instead, as one therapist suggests in Parents, having the child take a break from the activity but continuing to hold the child can help the child continue to feel nurtured and loved. There may be a number of other actions parents think of as innocuous that may need to be modified for a RAD child.
While structure is important for all children, it is particularly important when adoptive parents wish to connect to their children with RAD. A regular schedule is one way of helping a child feel the world is a more secure and predictable place. Getting sufficient sleep at regular times, eating healthy meals frequently and maintaining certain routines even during vacations can help.
5. Respond with Love
All children need expressions of love from their parents, but adoptive parents of children with RAD may need to modify those expressions depending on their children. Showing physical affection is important, but parents may need to introduce this slowly. Parents should also be aware that the emotional age of a child with RAD may be much younger than the child’s actual age. This means parents may need to soothe and express love to the child in ways that they would for a much younger child.
Children with reactive attachment disorder may grow up into adults with personality disorders, but with patience, love and the help of experts, this does not have to be the case. The approaches above are just a start, but they will help parents begin to connect with their adopted child who has RAD.