Things I wish I had known in the beginning
I feel your pain. You are not alone. Getting the RAD diagnosis is hard. I fell apart when I finally accepted that my son had RAD. I knew what it was before and knew how incredibly bad it was and how difficult it can be. I had been told by the psych doc that he wouldn't get better at all ever. Thank GOD that isn't true. They CAN heal. It takes a long time and a lot of love, but it can happen.
When I first began this, I wish I had known a few things, so I feel compelled to tell you what I wish I knew in the beginning.
First and foremost, take care of yourself. Find whatever you need to do to stay calm, balanced and loving. Some of us go to therapy ourselves, some of us take antidepressants. All of us need time away from the kids to recharge. It is not selfish, it is necessary for you to be a good mom. Develop a support group. If you can find a group where you live, great! If not, online support is always available day or night, always there to give advice, listen to us vent or cheer us up. BeTA is a great group (www.momsfindinghealing.com) but there are lots of others too. Find one that works for you.
Next, give your marriage the attention it needs. Parenting these kids is so hard and puts so much stress on the relationship. If there are any cracks, they will get bigger. Date nights are a good start, but do whatever you need to connect with your significant other. Doing this is hard, doing this alone is harder.
Read. Read all you can about RAD, not only the causes, but what you can do to help the child get better. Some books on RAD are better than others. I like Daniel Hughes' books, but there are lots out there. Ask for recommendations.
Corporal punishment (spanking) or other painful discipline does not work for these kids and will actually push them further into distrust and separation. We want to connect to our kids and causing them physical pain does the opposite.
Putting them in time-out alone can also be traumatic for these kids. I did this for a long time, only to realize later that this was a trigger and actually made him feel less safe.
Therapy for them can be good, if it is an attachment therapist and the parents are part of the therapy. The goal is to have the child attach to you and that can't happen if you are in the waiting room. Behavior therapy does not work and actually will make the behaviors worse. But more than therapy, our parenting is what does the most good for them. We are with them more than anyone else. What we are striving for is attachment. Once that happens, they will begin to feel safe and the behaviors should subside. They may never go away completely, but they will get better when the kids are better. Look up Christine Moer's. She is big in the therapeutic parenting world and knows her stuff. We have her video.
Relax. We cannot expect the same obedience and diligence from our RAD kids that we do our others. Always put your relationship with the child ABOVE all else, above discipline, chores, homework, everything. If we do this, we may be able to expect more from our children once they are healed. Oh, one more thing, discipline doesn't work. (At least with our child.) Most kids will stop doing something if there will be a negative consequence, our kids don't seem to get cause and effect, therefore, they just don't "get" it. Prolonged trauma, when the brain is in the "fight or flight" mode for too long, causes chemicals released in the brain to cause frontal lobe damage. Some of our kids just can't get cause and effect. It isn't their fault. They aren't choosing this.
Give up control. Our RAD children feel the need to control everything because they feel unsafe. Side-step, go around, find ways to negotiate, but don't try to force your will on them, it won't happen. Practice "Yes, of course, absolutely". Whenever possible say yes. Let them eat ravioli for breakfast or stay up an extra few minutes, or wear shoes without socks. Think about why you are saying "no", is it really that big of a deal? Many kids are triggered by the word "no", so use it as little as possible. Get creative in the yes process, say "yes, you may, as long as you clean your room first." "Of course, just empty the dishwasher, then you may." Remember, giving in a little isn't giving up everything. Relationship is primary.
Document everything. Keep a journal, video tape them, keep good records of everything, you may need it later.
Educate those who are around your kids. Help them to understand what he is going through and what they can do to help him.
Don't expect to have those warm and fuzzy mom feelings toward your child all the time or ever for that matter. It is hard to love someone who is mean to you all the time. Kids who are healthy, give back. They make us feel good about ourselves and make us feel loved and wanted. Our sick kids can't do that. I have had to "fake" those lovey feelings, because I know it’s the only way he will get better. I sing "You are my sunshine" to him every night. And even on days when he is definitely NOT my sunshine, I pretend he is, for his sake.
Stay safe. If your child hits you or is very aggressive you may need to call 911. Mine was 7 when he first hit us. We didn't call the police for another year and only did that at the insistence of his therapist. In our case, calling the police stops the rage in its tracks and got him admitted to the local children's psychiatric hospital. We tried to restrain him, but inevitably, either he or I am hurt during this. For us, the safest option is to call for help. Do what you need to keep everyone safe. If you suspect your child is abusing another child in your home, trust your instincts. It is sad, but it happens. BE on guard even if you can’t fathom that it could happen.
And last, I want to say, as with anything you read about RAD, take what you want and leave the rest. I don't know you or your child and can only speak from my own experience.
- Sarah R. (BeTA Retreat Alumni and amazing momma)
I needed a bath before I took them to counseling and with every door wide open I heard nothing. I saw my daughter come and sit on my bed and I asked her what she was doing and she told me just sitting here. I hurried up and finished and came out with a towel on and I heard my son crying through his closed door. "I tried to suffocate her and she couldn't breathe". That definitely was not what I was expecting. I should have known.
Seven weeks ago I had to quit my job. At the age of 31 I had finally graduated from college with a B.S. degree and I was working and loving it. It was a vacation to be honest. I worked evenings and weekends and was rarely home. Because of this I did not see how bad things had gotten. Maybe I knew they were that bad and I was in denial? With me working and my daughters dad working we were already struggling and how could I quit my job. The second hole m son put through a door confirmed that I was quitting my job. Talk about a wave crashing in and destroying all of my hard work. The entire time I am thinking about all the love I have given my son and even through the abuse he suffered he still had me and had love. He wanted to live with his dad and I knew what would happen and the courts let his dad have him. It didn't take long for the abuse to start. Before that grandma had him (dad's step mom) and she loved to beat him with things and then tell my son that she did it because she loved him. To think I thought this lady would love and take care of my son. I was attempting to do what was best for my son and to put his needs before mine and it is the biggest mistake of my life. Trust me, I have made some mistakes.
Now my daughter. My little princess is six years old. She is diagnosed as being Bipolar. At the age of six weeks old she had a hemangioma on her bottom that was right up to her butt crack and her girl parts that ulcerated. She did nothing but cry and cry. The ulceration got bigger and the doctors put her on Tylenol 3 and prescribed bleach baths to keep it clean since the dressings would not stay on due to where it was located. My daughter cried and screamed for months and months before I found a doctor that lasered the hemangioma and it finally began to heal and by the time she was a year old it was almost completely healed. At a year old I was taking my daughter to the pediatrician telling her that something was not right and that my child was not normal. My daughter quit taking naps by 14 months old and began sleeping less and less. She would kick things until her feet bled and bang her head against walls. By the age of three I made a hotline call on myself because I didn't know what to do and this three year was stronger than I could be. Right now at this point I know she is Bipolar, but I am also fairly certain that she had attachment disorder from the pain as an infant. She is healing and aside from everything else going on she is doing well. Low and behold since my son has been gone she has slept at least 10 hours every single night.
This is what I have been living with. I was taking antidepressants knowing that it was keeping me sane. I had to quit my job and I cant afford insurance now for myself so currently I am going through some lovely withdrawal (brain zaps etc) while I am dealing with all of this other stuff. On top of driving hours away twice a week for family therapy with my son my daughter decided it was an excellent time to throw things at school. Thursday she threw a pencil and got a one day suspension and this Tuesday it was an even better time to throw a chair and currently has three more days of sitting at home. I don't even want to think about next week. She hates school and wants to be home so I am expecting the phone call already.
During family therapy today my son informed me that this (him hurting my daughter) has been going on for a long time. Most of the rest of the therapy session was useless. He didn't respond or would tell us to quit talking because we were making him mad and would go into a rage yelling and pulling his hair. Yes, this is the child that is baseline and is ready to come home.
I called my mom the other day. I told her I can't do this and I need a break. She told me to pray. As I am sure you all can assume I have been praying every single day almost the entire day. I read about parents needing respite. Well, my family certainly isn't going to provide that and we can't afford it. Not even sure how we are going to pay the bills at this point. I literally am preparing to lose everything and wondering what we are going to do financially. I have talked to a counselor and during just a chat she said that people who want help for their children are willing to sell homes to take their children places and to go to seminars. Well, I don't have a house to sell and I don't have any money in the bank, so I guess that means I don't love my kid enough. That is anyway, how I internalized the comment on top of going oh shit what are we going to do? How do people do it? I obviously can't work and we have an income of less than 1,800 dollars a month. Not to mention my daughters dad has had to take off work the past two weeks as well so we can now lower that income. I am waiting to have a mental breakdown. There is a limit and I am at it. If you don't have family, who do you have?