Its been awhile since I touched on RAD so I thought I would share. We see RAD everyday in every way and its not just “normal kid behavior”. RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) is a common condition of adopted children or children who have had early childhood trauma.
With a RADling consistency is the key. Same thing, everyday, no changes, no surprises. Get up, go to school. Come home, do homework, eat dinner, shower, go to bed. Nothing else can upset the delicate balance of the day or–(to put it honestly– all hell can break loose (toy breaking, temper tantrums, pants wetting or sibling hurting). Even the common occurrence of a weekend can throw a loop into the daily routine and cause RADness to rear its ugly head. No plans on a Saturday? Whhhaaaaaaat? No matter what reassurances are done or even if you write the schedule on the white board, its not a “normal” day and curbing RAD behavior can be a day long endurance race. Add in a birthday party and over stimulation and the entire day can be chucked as RADalicious.
Now most of us know life isn’t stagnant. It flows, it ebbs and it moves with the tides. But for a RADling these things are terrifying. Their RADness can be based on neglect or inconsistency or fear. Or All Of The Above. Not knowing what the day is going to bring can cause so much anxiety that the entire family has to suffer the wrath of RAD. Now, add in the Holidays……….
The Holidays can be stressful for the most well adjusted, normal person (if there is such a thing). For the sake of argument lets just assume there is such an entity of a “normal” mentally healthy person– Your Average Joe/Jane. This person is in stark contrast to a RADling. The over stimulation, the pressure, the traveling, the non-routine can throw a RADling into a full blown meltdown — on an hourly basis.
No matter the preparation, the discussions, the forethought the RADling is hardly ever ready for the Holidays. The sights, the smells, the large family meals…… its horrible for the parents to watch them suffer thru this time frightened and flailing. The regression of a RADling from age appropriate behavior to that of someone half their age can be progressive or instantaneous. And for the helpless parent it is heartbreaking to watch. There is very little reassurance in the world that can help and that means consequences — yes, a form of “punishment” for the RADness which only adds fuel to the fire and the downward spiral of Holiday RAD behavior.
There truly is no way to curb it- we can prepare and prepare but it the RAD seems inevitable. The RADling has their own agenda of RAD behavior and their own fears/anxiety. And the rest of the family just has to ride the RAD roller coaster and hope the ride ends up more fun that scary. Every year the family hopes the RADling can cope and every year the family endures while the RADling regresses to a point at which they are comfortable; which is usually around the emotional age of 2-4. The height of the “needy” years (yes, sometimes complete with potty “accidents”). It doesn’t matter the chronological age of the RADling, they have an emotional spot they are most comfortable at and this is the emotional spot they end up. Its heartbreaking for both the RADling and the parent.
The Holidays are a slippery RAD slope but even the Daily transitions of life throw the RADling for a loop. The transition of school to home is one of the most brutal times of the day for the RADling. Even if the home life is structured and calm the transition from school to home causes issues, problems and behavior issues. Normally coming home from school, kicking off your shoes and just chilling is a nice time of day. A day to think of all the fun stuff that you learned at school during the day. But for a RADling they have been putting up a “front” most of the day. The anxiety of school builds then when they get into the comfort zone of home all the anxiety lets loose and they vent. If possible, let a RADling run outside and really get that energy/anxiety out before any other activities (like homework). Let them take the day of putting up a brave face and put it into a full blown game of Tag or Football or anything physical that will let that energy out. That will help calm the mind and the body.
For us explaining everything helps the transition a bit but I have found myself saying things like “Yes, I will make snacks when we get home. However, snacks don’t instantaneously show up on the table. They take approx 10-12 minutes so please allow for that time frame”. Because we if get home and that snack isn’t already waiting, look out!! It would then be a LONG 10-12 min because an instantaneous banana ain’t cutting it, the the RADness starts early and starts strong as soon as we get home from school.
We hope and pray that the RADlings sees that the transitions of Daily Life aren’t scary thru repetition but it really is a daily battle. Moving thru the day can be easy sometime and other days its like walking on eggshells. For most of us going thru our day is a mind numbing experience we don’t even take a second thought to, but for a RADling any changes can be filled with anxiety and dread. We have to remember that the RADling has real fears and real anxiety due to early childhood trauma. They don’t necessarily know why they are upset so, as parents, we have to keep cool and coax them back to the here and now. And its hard because what scares a RADling is something a “normal” person doesn’t even think about most days. Just making a split second decision to hit the drive thru for coffee and all of a sudden “where are we going, this isn’t the way we should be going, why are we getting coffee, we don’t get coffee everyday” can start a downward spiral for the day.
So, with all that said, if you are in a family with a RADling please don’t judge the parents during this Holiday Season. They do the RAD dance everyday and handle it to the best of their ability. Undermining them or telling them they are “overreacting” just adds to the daily guilt a RAD parent feels. Now everyone go hug your kids and appreciate them for all they are and all they can be.