Reactive Attachment Disorder -- RAD -- is a crisis of trust. The affected child has not formed attachment to a primary caregiver and suffers relationship and conduct difficulties because of the lack of bonding. Infants display RAD through colic, problems feeding, avoidant behaviour and the inability to be comforted. Emotional and social difficulties only intensify as the child grows older. He will have trouble distinguishing cause and effect and have inappropriate emotional reactions. A diagnosis of RAD can be a devastating challenge to both the diagnosed child and the family. Parents experience extreme stress trying to parent children who are unable to trust them or develop meaningful bonds. RAD becomes a whole-family challenge and treatment must extend to every member to be successful.
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Educate yourself on the realities of your child's diagnosis. Ask your child's psychiatrist or therapist about your child's difficulties. Develop realistic expectations for your child's behaviour and treatment.
Be patient with your child. Treating RAD is a long-term process. Try to see your child's positive traits. Develop a sense of humour when dealing with the effects of RAD.
Seek out support. Understanding friends and relatives can let you vent if you have had a difficult day or even babysit so you can have a break. Consider joining a support group for parents of children with RAD. Talking to other parents who are experiencing similar challenges can be immeasurably valuable.
Contact your state's social services to find out what programs or services are available. Many states offer respite care so you can take necessary breaks.
Take care of yourself. Spend time doing things you enjoy. Relax when you can and try to avoid blaming yourself or your parenting for your child's issues. Be gentle with yourself, accepting your faults and knowing that you are trying your best under difficult circumstances. You may benefit from counselling if you are experiencing depression, anxiety or hopelessness.
Tips and warnings
- If you are so frustrated that you are thinking about harming your child, please immediately call 911.
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- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Reactive Attachment Disorder
- The University of Pittsburg School-Based Behavioral Health; A Parent's Guide to Reactive Attachment Disorder; Robin Sweitzer
- Virginia Tech University: Children Diagnosed with Attachment Disorder: A Qualitative Study of the Parental Experience
- Help Guide: Attachment & Reactive Attachment Disorders
- Mayo Clinic; Reactive Attachment Disorder; Coping and Support