Saturday, February 9, 2013

Attachment Issues

This is from It's their work, not mine. But it's very important. Most of the time with birth children, bonding and attachment takes place naturally as mom or dad feeds, cares for and meets the baby's needs. The baby learns that mom and dad can be trusted to take care of them. Sometimes that attachment is broken by parents who do not meet their child's needs. It might be due to neglect, abuse or just their inability.

Attachment is super important in every single adoption. Some children learned to bond and attach to a caregiver before their adoptions, other have not. Some can transfer the attachment to a new family, others cannot.

A child doesn't have to have Reactive Attachment Disorder in order to have problems. There are different levels of attachment issues. 

All adoptive children need to learn to trust their new mom or dad to meet their needs. Sometimes well meaning people can sabotage that. Same is true when it's a birth child with attachment issues.

I think the things below are important. Please take time to read them.

Ten Ways to Support To A RAD Mom.

Reactive Attachment Disorder, RAD is one of those things other people don’t really notice. The reactive part is usually seen and felt the most by the primary caregiver–or the mom in most cases. What a RAD Mom needs the most is support from others in ways you may have never thought of.
  • 1. A RAD Mom needs help teaching her child with Reactive Attachment Disorder that mom’s are in charge of taking good care of their children. And that their mom is a good mom who takes care of her children.
  • 2. A RAD Mom needs friends who don’t hug her RAD Child. The best way to help a family dealing with a child who has reactive attachment disorder is to help the child learn to get his or her hugs for mom and dad. The same is true for other intimate things the child might want to do, like sit on laps or give you a neck rub.
  • 3. A RAD Mom needs friends who can support how we respond to our child. No matter what the situation looks like the parents need to be considered the ones in charge especially when it comes to discipline.
  • 4. A RAD Mom needs people who have suggestions, ideas or criticism to talk to us privately when our child is not around. Triangulation is a natural behavior for children with Reactive Attachment Disorder and questioning the parents in front of the child empowers the child.
  • 5. A RAD Mom needs friends who don’t fall into the trap of hearing the child say, “I wish you were my mom, you are much better then the one I got.” Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder often shop for new, improved and better parents.
  • 6. A RAD Mom needs an occasional hour to take a shower or paint her toe nails. A great way to be supportive to someone who is parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder is to offer her a break once in awhile. Even if it’s just to come over and supervise the child while mom gets a break.
  • 7. A RAD Mom needs time alone with a RAD Dad. Often one of the most important things parents of children with emotional or mental health disorders are told they need is respite. Families who adopt children from the foster care system often receive adoption subsidy funds for respite care. RAD parents need a regular break, but they also need a respite provider who can deal with the issues of a special needs child.
  • 8. A RAD Mom needs friends who can remind her about why and how it came about that she is the mother of a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. We need to be reminded that our child came to us this way and that the best we can do is love the child and provide them with the best we can.
  • 9. A RAD Mom needs to be reminded that many children with Reactive Attachment Disorder heal and become healthy adults. We need to remember what the goals are with our children and like other parents we need to hope for the best.
  • 10. Most of all a RAD Mom needs friends. Parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder can be isolating and defeating. RAD mom’s often withdraw and feel alone. The number one thing we need is a friend willing to listen and maybe have coffee now and then.
If you know someone who is struggling with an adopted child, the best thing is to not side with the child, hug or comfort the child. You cannot know what the true situation is. Children with attachment disorders are very charming and manipulative. If you think you're reaching a child the parents can't or you think the child loves you more than the parents, you are being played. If the child hugs you, it's to hurt his parents. It's a game.

Thankfully, our twins are not showing signs of attachment issues. It doesn't mean that they won't later, but that for now they are okay. But we are very careful. There are places we don't let them go--like children's church-- because we know the teens who work there like to hug and hold the children. Fine for those with strong attachments to their parents. Not fine for our twins at this point. And even though we ask school personnel and church people not to hug and hold our twins, they do anyway. Everyone considers himself/herself an exception. 

For now, Rick coaches the teams our twins are on. Starting next fall, he probably will not, but we will still be at practices to watch for inappropriate interactions with the coaches (we've had a lot of "butt grabbing" in the past).

I provide the kid's food. That's not to say they can't occasionally get a treat from someone else. But they only get hot lunch on rare occasions and I make sure they know I am paying the ladies to give them food because I am their mom and I take care of their needs. The lunch ladies were slipping them treats and they were unnaturally bonding to them.

But thank goodness the twins have not tried to mom swap or play the, "If I lived with you I just know I'd do better, be better, be happier etc". I have been through that before. And I've been through the tell adults whatever they want to hear or play on their sympathies by lying about not getting food or clothes or cool toys. Been there way too much. 

All this to say, if you know an adoptive families who is struggling, be part of the solution, not the problem. And if you are going through this, don't be surprised if other's don't understand or take it all wrong. I gave a list like the above one, but dealing more with food issues to my "RAD's" teacher, and she turned it around to say we were trying to starve him into submission. Sigh.

So, if you feel like you're going crazy, leave a comment. If you've been there, leave a comment for those who are there now. If something has worked or not worked, please share. If you want to be nasty and critical, please go read a different blog : )


Karen said...

Kathy, I didn't know about those points. Thanks for sharing.

Kathy C. said...

I wish I'd known about attachment when we got Jeff in '98. It wasn't talked about much and internet was new.

One Crowded House said...

I had a fellow adoptive mom stop by for a quick visit (the only time I've ever met her, but she has two from Haiti adopted from Steven's orphanage)... anyway, Steven had only been home with us a little over a year... She was hugging on him (she had met him in Haiti) and making a deal over him and then said, "your just so cute I could take you home with me"... the little booger ran to get his shoes. He was going to go home with her. I cut him off at the pass before he got out of his bedroom.
After they left, we had to sit down with him and explain what she really meant, and that she knew he was our son.
Almost five years later, he has definitely attached to us, and that wouldn't be a problem... but back during those first three years- he would have gone home with anybody.

Mama Ds Dozen said...

Definitely walking this walk . . . and my kids have been home 5 years. So hard. So sad.

Funny thing . . . I wrote a post last night (which will actually post on Monday) with a link to this exact post (which was actually written in 2006). Guess the Lord put this on a few minds this week. Bet you read the same blog that I did on Thursday (that linked to this, as well).

:) :) :)

Kathy C. said...

Tanya--I'm glad he's progressed to where he wouldn't go! People don't realize that saying that to a newly adopted child probably isn't going to be a good thing! I'm not sure what my twins would do at this point.

Mama D-I didn't see the blog but I saw it on Dawn's facebook page. I haven't seen any posts about attachment lately but I'm not following any of the RAD blogs. It seems like a lot of them have gone private.

Rose Anne said...

Cathy, you are right 10yrs ago when my son came home everything was looked through rose color glasses..So many parents could have used this! I was one of the lucky ones....but I kept him home for 8weeks and only took him to have his doctor visits.
I worked at the same clinic, and had already had a talk about how for them to act with he would attach to me only..

Kathy C. said...

We are almost going to the other extreme where every behavioral problem is labeled an attachment issue when there are so many other issues. But at least people are starting to talk about it and find support. I wonder how it might have been different with Jeff if Internet had already been established and all this information and support available. We dealt with counselors who gave us all the wrong info because they based it on "normal" children. One therapist gave Jeff a chart and told him to put a star on each day he didn't steal or lie. Duh. He put a star on each day and collected his prize and when I pulled his sheet off to wash it, there were 54 wrappers hidden under it. I mean really. She believed she had a relationship with him that would cause him to be honest with her. That was our last visit to her.

Tara said...

I'm preparing to bring home my third adopted daughter soon, so these are good reminders! When I brought home the first two, in 2007 at ages 7 and 2, I did what was natural and that has worked out, but I know SO much more about adoptive bonding and attachment now because of blogs like yours and others who go through it.

Unfortunately, not much from the professionals that should be guiding you through the process!

Thanks again!!