As a 4-time adoptive parent, I know that my weakest spots are where my kids will press the hardest. And a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) will find that button and keep pushing as long as there is a reaction to it.
A few years ago, for the safety of our other kids, we had to make a painful decision. We decided to find alternative placement for one of our children. And then again, for the next child–this time at her (very loud) insistence. She was successful in her new placement, to varying degrees. Until she wasn’t anymore. Then she wanted to return home.
Being a mom with my own hang-ups and a need to be needed, I played right into this. So, feeling optimistic with the changes we had seen in her, we brought her home a few months ago. Things seemed idyllic at first. A little too idyllic. Those of you with toddlers understand. The too quiet syndrome? Ah, yes, that.
Well, then it happened. And she pushed all my buttons: “I don’t want to be with you,” “I never wanted you for a mom,” “I never asked to be adopted.” That last one always makes me laugh a little on the inside. Because, yeah, baby, you actually did ask, specifically, if I would be your mommy! And all of those zingers she knows find their spot on my heart.
So, parents, how do we inoculate ourselves against the verbal tirades? For me, talking to my oldest daughter helps put things into perspective. She reminds me how many times I’ve been here before. How many times I have survived it. And how many times this child has returned to me, hat in hand. This child is hurting, so she lashes out to hurt me.
And for kids like her, for whom attachment is such a hard thing to accept, not getting their way, not having control over something seemingly minor, feels like a life or death matter to them. This wasn’t a minor thing. It had a gigantic risk for the outcome; she was going to war.
I don’t have the answers. I don’t know how long she will be with us this time. She turns 18 in a few short months. And neither of us are ready. I am very hopeful that none of these outbursts result in her leaving and making rash decisions with permanent effects. This is all part of the journey of the heart we take when we sign on to love kids from hard places. It also can make us realize we have a few things to work on within ourselves.
Adopting and raising a child with emotional disabilities has its challenges and rewards. This page on trauma has helpful information as does this parenting article on adopting children with emotional disabilities.