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The one thing my son needs most that I can't give him in any new year

Updated: Mar 2



The decorations are back in their boxes. Gifts exchanged. Another year behind us.


But as other people look toward the future, I’m reflecting on the past. Like so many other parents of children with reactive attachment disorder, I wonder what I could’ve done differently for my son. I wonder what I can still give him now that he's a teenager.

I like to stay up late at night and enjoy the quiet of my home. But in those still moments, I have to stop myself from overthinking. I have to allow myself peace in knowing that my husband and I have done and given our child with reactive attachment disorder everything we can.


RAD Advocates guides parents who have a child with reactive attachment disorder. Learn more.


I know we can’t give our son the one thing he needs most though—a fresh beginning. We can’t erase the past for him. Love and time, sadly, can't undo the trauma he endured before we adopted him.


Living with reactive attachment disorder is like fighting an unseen evil. My son has experienced things I cannot even fathom. The circumstances kiddos with reactive attachment disorder have endured are unimaginable. Tragically, trauma haunts them throughout their lives. There’s no blank slate.


A traumatized child’s fight and will to survive is remarkable. It is an absolute miracle that they make it out of their situations. However, it is these exact survival traits that restrain them long after the trauma is over.


Our son's hyper-vigilance kept him alive as a toddler. It only causes him anxiety now.

Our son’s control and manipulation kept him safer as a young boy. It helped him to keep unhealthy people away. But today, it damages potentially healthy relationships.


Our son’s self-reliance helped him to care for himself when no one else did. But it has gotten in the way of the love and guidance we’ve tried hard to give him.


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Yes, our son’s base wiring is faulty. It no longer works for him. Or for us, his family who loves him. My marriage and our other children have suffered too. It’s also a miracle that our family has weathered the trauma of our son’s trauma aftermath.


As I reflect on this past year and look toward the new year, I’m grateful that our dark, dark days as a family are fewer and farther between. Our son has worked hard over the last 18 months, with lots of amazing professionals to guide him, to rewire his brain.


I’m so proud of our son. I just wish he didn’t have to work so hard to overcome the wrongs done to him. To manage the damage he had no control over.


I will always wish that I could give our son a truly new year. I'd do anything to hand him the gift that most of us take for granted—to naturally experience real relationships, real joy, real love.

But I’ll stand alongside and cheer our son on as he works hard to find that gift, hopefully, for himself one day—a beginning where he is able to let in love.

RAD Advocates helps those raising a child with reactive attachment disorder. Become a member.

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