Updated: Apr 30, 2021
Many people start out the new year with optimism—they may look toward a healthier, more financially secure, or well-traveled year. But if you're raising a child with reactive attachment disorder, you aren’t like most people. Family survival is likely your only goal.
And you probably look back on all of your parenting mistakes. Time for a change.
As a parent of a child with reactive attachment disorder—whether via adoption, kinship, marriage, or otherwise—you deserve nothing but support and praise. But that’s rarely what you get.
Since most people don’t understand the disorder, they often point fingers at those raising a child with reactive attachment disorder. They may blame you for your child’s problems, even when those struggles began long before the child even entered your family. And sadly, you may have started to believe that you're to blame.
My family knows this heartache well. Over a decade ago, a very traumatized little boy entered our home.
Our son came to us absolutely broken. And we had no clue. We unintentionally caused our son more damage and heartache because we knew nothing about reactive attachment disorder.
I would have done so many things differently if I had known then what I know now. But I don’t carry “mom guilt” anymore. I know that I did the best I could with the information and resources we had.
Rather than dwell on past mistakes, I urge you to look ahead with a new outlook—a kinder one. Respect yourself and your journey through reactive attachment disorder. Consider the support you need and then expect it from others. With a new year ahead, it's time to start now.
7 new year resolutions to support and honor (not berate) your difficult and honorable journey as a parent of a child with reactive attachment disorder:
1. Trust your instincts as you seek professional support.
If you feel like something is “off” with a therapist or other professional, it probably is. It is most likely not you. Share your concerns. If you don’t get answers that feel right, move onto the next professional. The wrong professional will do more harm than good. Some professionals (admittedly, not many) do “get” reactive attachment disorder. Seek them out, no matter how long it takes.
2. Find your tribe.
There are thousands of parents out there like you, believe it or not. You are not alone. Dig deep (many private groups exist on the Internet). Persist. When you find others going through the same experiences, you will feel validated.
3. Keep educating about reactive attachment disorder.
To live with reactive attachment disorder is lonely. The disorder is hard to explain. You take the time to educate others, only to be dismissed over and over again. But persevere. Our kiddos, and frankly the world at large, needs you to keep going.
4. Share your honest story.
Share it with anyone and everyone. The more people who know, the more change we can make collectively as parents. You never know when your story may help someone else.
If you adopted your child, help people understand that adoption is not unicorns and rainbows. The very essence of adoption stems from trauma and loss. That doesn’t just disappear. Don’t be afraid to stand in the gap and set the record straight.
5. Remember your worth.
You are an amazingly extraordinary parent! Parenting is tough. But raising a child with reactive adoptive is often downright paralyzing. Give yourself grace and insist on some self-care. Even if all you can manage is to head to bed early, do it.
6. Demand change.
The world is nowhere close to understanding the realities of reactive attachment disorder. That’s why kids and families don’t get the support and resources they need to heal. But don’t settle for less. Demand the following:
Children with reactive attachment disorder deserve healthcare that meets their needs, including specialized treatment professionals.
Institutions of higher education need to teach students (especially our future mental health professionals) about attachment disorders, not just attachment issues.
Insurance companies need to understand the true needs of children with reactive attachment disorder. What they need is in stark contrast to what they get.
7. Ask for help.
DON’T DO IT ALONE. Find support wherever you can. And remember that RAD Advocates is here for you. We can stand beside you and help you get your voice and needs heard. We’re committed to offering the help we needed but couldn’t find back in our darkest days.
People often ask me if I’d adopt again. I say it depends.
There's not a chance I'd adopt all over again without knowing what I know now.
But if I knew then what I know now, I'd adopt again in a heartbeat. Not all hope is lost. Even if children come to us broken, the families raising them needn’t break too.
The system meant to support children with reactive attachment disorder and their families is broken. But there’s a way through—it’s relentless education and self-advocacy.
In 2021, be the hero you need and deserve. Speak up for yourself and your family. And remember that you have every right to do so.