Category Archives: attachment

Feeling Like No-one Really Cares

Have you ever noticed that your adopted or foster child seems to have held onto orphan thinking? Orphan thinking can lead to choices, statements and behaviors that are troublesome. I’ve learned about seven specific indicators of an orphan spirit or orphan heart (there may be more). Yet these indicators can be found not only in orphaned children with traumatic backgrounds, but in each of us. We are all born with an orphan heart and may display one or more of these indicators. How can this awareness help you? I’m glad you asked!

We humans tend to distance ourselves from those who behave in ways that upset our sense of self, preferring to see ourselves as somehow beyond that particular risk. But an awareness of the orphan heart in each of us and in ourselves opens us up to more and deeper potential for connection to our children — children who may have disturbing thinking and behaviors which on the surface may seem bizarre and difficult to understand, even beyond understanding.

One of the seven indicators of an orphan heart that I have learned of is the following:

  • You struggle to trust that God cares about your cares; that he is working things out for your good.

Does this describe you? Your child?

My children with orphan thinking may think or talk about me as their enemy more than their loving parent, refusing to trust my love and care. This is more than the typical eye roll as a teen gets into that stage of feeling like their parents are out of touch with today’s reality and living in the dark ages. Rather, it is a deep-seated doubt springing up occasionally or constantly near the surface. It’s a doubt that says, not only does your parent not understand you, but they really don’t care, or care enough, about you – – regardless of the evidence to the contrary. It causes them to mistrust and misinterpret the parent’s motives.

But what about you? I want you to do a little investigating. Notice any time you think or talk about God as your enemy. You may not think you ever do this but pay attention. Do you ever talk about how angry God would be if you did such and such, or how he must be mad at you since such and such happened? Do you ever express fear of God’s punishment or reluctance to share your needs with God, refusing to depend on him to meet or even care about them? For example, praying minimalistic prayers like “Oh God, I’m not asking for much and I know you are too busy for me; I’m just asking for a few crumbs and I’ll get by”. Or “I don’t want to bother you God with these needs over here; I know I should take care of them myself”. Do you think you have to do certain things to stay on God’s “good side”? Take a week and notice, writing it down, anytime you catch yourself speaking or even thinking things that express doubts that you have about God’s care. Dig into why you have those doubts and see what God’s Word has to say about it.

If you do notice yourself doubting God’s care for you, you can repent. You can also understand a bit more how your child may be inclined to doubt your care for them. Think about how you feel. You might want to journal about it. Another thing you might do is to regularly repeat an affirmation based on God’s Word that will help revise your thinking.

Affirmation:
“God cares about my cares!”

Cast all your cares [anxieties] on him, for he cares for you.

I Peter 5:7

Write down the affirmation and the verse in your journal. Also write the affirmation where you’ll see it daily and recite it aloud to combat the orphan thinking and doubt of God’s care that you’ve noticed in yourself. Ask God for a change of heart and thinking. How can you reflect this change in the things you say? Write down alternatives beside the items you wrote down earlier that indicated your doubt and orphan thinking.

I hope this helped you understand how our orphan hearts are more the same as our children’s than they are different. The more we can identify with our children the better we can empathize and connect with them.

I plan to share the other seven indicators in follow-up posts. But to get my list of affirmations corresponding to all seven indicators of an orphan heart now, click the button below. Also, I’d love to hear about your experience using the affirmations! Get the Orphan Heart Affirmations list with the blue button below.

Pillow Presents

This is a photo of a pillow in my home office comfy chair. The Curious George pillow, lumpy and bumpy as it may be, is special to me. It was made (by my daughter) from a shirt that my youngest son had worn a lot. I didn’t want to get rid of it when he finally outgrew it. We felt like it was very fitting for him as he seemed so much like the famous little lmonkey character!

On this Mother’s Day Sunday I wanted to share an idea with those of you who have younger children (or even some older kids). They may require “help” in getting a present ready for next Mother’s Day (birthday or Christmas).

You can plan ahead over the course of the next few months or so and notice when your child outgrows a special shirt! You might suggest to him/her that you would like it and ask if they mind if you make it into a pillow and see their reaction.

Your child might be old enough and motivated to get in on the pillow project or even make it themself. If not, you could make it and let them give you the finished product.

For the how-tos just do a Google or Pinterest search for instructions.

Basically just trim the body into a square/rectangle shape (circles are trickier and would definitely require a pillow form) leaving enough fabric to form the sides and seams. Sew your seams inside out leaving enough open space to stuff with pillow stuffing or insert a pillow form to fit. Then turn right side out, stuff and stitch closed. And there you have it! Your keepsake pillow gift.

What do you think? Is this the type of keepsake that appeals to you? Do you think it might be meaningful to your child/children?

I do not tend to be very sentimental about things. There are just a handful. That’s probably a good thing with certain rabble rousing children. The idea of cherishing items from my children’s growing up years may not mean much to them right now. But hopefully in time it will be additional evidence that I love and cherish them.

Mother’s Day can be hard. It was hard today. But I was not surprised. I maintained my calm. Mostly. Lowering the pressure on ourselves and on the rest of the family to make Mother’s Day or any other holiday a picture perfect event can help.

My youngest daughter (whom I have had some extreme relational struggles with) had volunteered to make peach ice cream for Mother’s Day. I strategically waited until yesterday evening to take her to get the ingredients when it would be just me and her and not a regular grocery shopping trip. But the local grocery stores did not have fresh peaches yet and the produce stands were closed for the day. Yikes! But calm prevailed. I got up early and drove about 30 minutes away to “Peach Park” where I knew they would have fresh peaches. It was very much worth it in more ways than one! (Yum!)

Your child might be old enough and motivated to get in on the pillow project or even make it themself. If not, you could make it and let them give you the finished product. Helping them to participate in a way that says “we’re family” can dislodge another brick in the walls of resistance to relationship that may have been built as a result of trauma. There were some small (but huge!) Connections made today that could have been easily overshadowed if we had tried to pull off a larger event (that would likely have been an epic fail).

How about you? Do you have any helpful strategies for lowering the stress levels for holidays and events? Post them in the comments.

Is Your Child ELASTIC?

We know that something that’s elastic like a rubber band will, when stretched, return back to its normal state afterward.  That is the very nature of being elastic, the tendency to return to a normal state of being.  But what does that have to do with my child you may ask (?).

A securely attached child would feel uneasy and tend to seek to return to normal, having had a conflict with their parent, such as a reprimand or correction, a difference of opinion, a blow-up over a misunderstanding or disappointment over unmet or misplaced expectations perhaps.  This child might initiate an apology or “get over” a sour attitude and re-join family activities after a short time of sulking and re-grouping.  They may approach the parent for comfort and get assurance that the parent-child relationship is still intact.

The actual term is to “re-attune”.  I think of a piano out of tune that needs to be tuned in order to have the keys sound the correct notes when played, so the music is pleasant to the ear.

But if our children are NOT securely attached, they may not re-attune very readily and may tend instead to stay stuck in an out-of-tune position.  An ingrained fear of adults can keep them from seeking out reconnection like a limp rubber band that’s lost its elasticity.

“As our children are often fearful of adults and may have had negative experiences, it is almost impossible for them to ‘re-attune” to the parent following an incident” says Sarah Naish in The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting:  Strategies and Solutions.

She adds,

“A child who is fearful of adults, or overwhelmed with shame, is entirely unable to make the first move and will remain stuck, defensive and sad.”

This causes me to pause and recognize what big steps there have been for a couple of my children to initiate apologies recently, and to recognize that their steps of reconnecting, though they may look minor on the outside, are really so huge for them!

Recognizing this, I’d love to grab them up and bear hug them.  For one it would be ok perhaps – – except he’s asleep now and would jump out of his skin if startled!  For the other, it would push her away.  Note to self: Tread lightly, mama – – I am still learning!

I have to keep telling myself, it’s not about me.  It really isn’t.  It’s not about you, either.  They may not even understand it either.  But sometimes we may represent all the adults that have ever hurt them previously, and their brains just cannot – –  in that moment – – discern that we are safe.

But we can wait.  We can wait until their brains catch up and catch on.  Because that’s what we do as parents who love our children even when it’s hard.  Even when they don’t understand it or don’t believe it.

And with God, we can be patient and wait it out because we know that God is working it all out for good.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose”  Romans 8:28

Comment and let me know if this is something that you deal with in your family.  I’d love to hear any tips you have for reconnecting and keeping the door of invitation open to re-attuning with your children.

Independence Overload!

Does your child with a trauma history seem to go to ridiculous extremes to avoid accepting your offers of help?  Do they seem to value independence over relationship?  I can relate.  And it can be maddening to deal with!!!

When they seem set upon personal failure in order to avoid compliance or obligation to anyone, it can be hard to watch them fail.  But failing forward may be the best teacher.  They choose not to participate in a family activity?  They miss out – – but it is set up in a way that they aren’t going to ruin it for the rest of the family.  And hopefully, they can do it with room to come back around.  I think sometimes my kids dig themselves into a hole and don’t know how to jump out – – how to change gears.

This type of planning takes some thought.  Birthdays, holidays and any type of celebration can bring on negative reactivity from some of our children.  By keeping plans low-key and flexible I am able to make adjustments to avoid their controlling (and ruining) the celebration time for everyone else.

For instance, for our daughter’s birthday, I was keenly aware that she had been incredibly oppositional and was apt to opt out.  It turned out that we had several in the family with accomplishments that were worthy of celebrating so I planned a family outing (we are party-sized without additional guests) to celebrate all of them including her birthday at the same time.  She was teetering on not going to the restaurant at absolute last minute.  We didn’t beg or bribe but allowed for her to stay if she wanted.  I told her she would still receive her present and we would bring food home for her if she chose.  Earlier in the day, I had given her a heads up so it wasn’t a surprise, and when she started in negative, just told her she didn’t have to decide right then, that it would be that evening and she had all day to decide what she wanted to do.  Either way was OK.  I think that was key.  She ended up going after all.

Of course, our disappointment or disapproval of the behavior sometimes shows, but be aware that what they may hear is that you are rejecting THEM, unaccepting of them — not just the behavior but the person underneath.  Because of this tendency, efforts to pressure them to change behavior by showing disapproval backfires.  The more you explain how wrong or hurtful their behavior is, the more they internalize rejection.  (So why do I keep doing it??? Insanity, I know!)  They really do want to please and gain your approval. (I know . . . REALLY!)

As we move full force into the Christmas season, I’m reminded of lessons learned; the “normal” separation and independence-seeking of my children given their ages; and the over-the-top independence that comes from their backgrounds.

The need for family and togetherness that is often at the heart of this season cannot be taken for granted.  It is there, but often under the surface of an outward stance of fierce independence which is fearful of depending on anyone else for anything, no matter how small.  Fearful of being/appearing vulnerable.  We can help them.  Help them anyway.  We can chisel away at the fierce exterior – – a little at a time – – here and there – – over time.  And allow their independence, their confident independence to grow past the fake independence that is a cover for their fear of being hurt.

Setting personal boundaries and keeping expectations flexible in the midst of progress toward relational goals is my go-to mindset for this season especially.

How about you?  I’d love to read your comments on how you are planning to navigate the holidays!

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Dawn

Child-Like or Childish?

It’s normal for children to be both, child-like as well as childish.  In fact, it’s their nature. It is odd when a child behaves more like a little adult in ways that are highly age-inappropriate.  “Childish” connotes a negative comparison to a young child such as with a teenager who throws a tantrum like might be more expected in a two-year-old.  Yet being child-like in certain ways is a positive thing, even for adults at times. We are taught that to have a child-like faith is a good thing, with the trust and wonder and awe of children directed toward our Savior, Jesus Christ.  

 

Matthew 18:3

“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'”

 

Being around children can often help us adults reclaim the child-like view that is so invigorating.  

Yet children are also inherently childish.  These are more negative traits that we might expect they would “grow out of” as children get older and prior to adulthood.  Yet being taught and trained is part of the work of adults as is being teachable the work of children.  Childishness is (1) expected of children, but not always desirable and (2) to be understood as normal yet not permanent in normal development.  Even in delayed development, we should work to help children put away the negative childishness to the extent that they are able.  

1 Corinthians 13:11

” When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

With once orphans, children from hard places as it were, the teachable part may be severely lacking.  So remaining childish long after one would expect these traits to be gone or at least greatly diminished, some children display behaviors more typical of much younger children for much longer.  Alternatively, they may exhibit attitudes and behaviors more fitting to a much older person. It is sometimes said that their emotional age and chronological age do not match. This can be a helpful way to look at it when trying to interact with, be more understanding and helpful to one of the children with social/emotional delays.  And though you may then take a different approach, similar to how you would with a much younger child, I think it is similarly important to remember the goal of helping them gain the emotional maturity and social appropriateness that they are missing out on. The danger lies in allowing their delays, gaps or disabilities to be an excuse for not progressing to the degree and at the level that they are able.

 

Rather than having an all or nothing approach adults in the child’s life need to be aware of the limitations and make needed adjustments in their approach to discipline and training.  Plus: Re-adjustments may need to be made frequently as well, as you reassess how the child is doing and as new situations and opportunities come up. Though it is a lot of work, this type of thorough planning with all the adults in the child’s circle may help tremendously.  It will not be a magic wand and will sometimes seem insufficient. Dealing with the persistent childishness of children who are much older can wear down an adult parent, teacher or caregiver and instead of enjoying the child-like view alongside them we may get cynical and despondent, going through the motions without much felt connection or even more childish ourselves mirroring their behaviors.

 

Having homeschooled for many, many years we are just getting into the world of IEPs with the school system, but my understanding is that this is the place to bring up these type issues and collaborate on strategies to incorporate into a workable plan for each child in the school setting.  As a homeschooler, I have also prepared personal IEPs for our own private use which addresses emotional and developmental concerns and a plan to incorporate specific strategies for each child. I recommend doing an assessment regularly as well, for school as well as regarding home and other settings as they may differ considerably.  Medical issues may contribute and overlap significantly with any emotional/social/ behavioral issues and your plans may need to be made with input from your medical practitioners.

 

A daily journal (paper or digital) can track patterns and be a good memory jogger for assessment time.  Planning how to respond to repetitive behaviors can help parents and caregivers be prepared and also to learn what strategies work best.  

 

There is a whole lot of advice, some good and some not so good, and some just might not be the right fit or best timing for your and your child’s current needs.  List some to try out and give it a go for a set time then reassess.

 

A few examples to start with:

Concerning behavior: Child often tantrums when they are faced with unexpected changes.

Childish or Child-like: Depending on age and degree of behavior this behavior could be normal developmentally or not.  It may be childish or simply child-like in that young children have a more limited understanding and may not have expected a change (like a change in routine for a holiday) that an older person likely would.  Thinking about the root of the behavior can give more clues, but that may remain a mystery and you are left with guesswork. My suggestion is to assume it is child-like at first and respond with strategies aimed at helping them developmentally to deal with the changes while preventing the tantrum by better preparation and understanding ahead of time.

Trial Strategy:  Does your child need a lot of prep time or a little?  Test how much is enough and how much is too much. Do they need help with breaking down the steps of the transition (“time to clean up and go” becomes “let’s get ready to go in a few minutes.  You can begin by putting these toys on the shelf. Would you like me to help you? I will have your coat ready when you are done putting the toys away. Then we can say goodbye”).

When there are transitions that are unexpected even to the adult, having thought through what your child needs will help think on your feet and give help rather than get caught up in reacting to their tantrum. When changes are unexpected to the adult, let the child know that you wish you could have let them know sooner and assure them they can handle it while calmly helping them as much as possible talking them through each step matter of factly (“That’s a surprise that the restaurant is closed for remodeling but there is another one nearby we can eat at.  You will have a choice of burgers instead of pizza. If I had known I would have told you sooner but that’s life. I know you like pizza but we can all eat burgers today.”)

 

Concerning behavior:  Child demonstrates lack of social appropriateness

Childish or Child-like:  Again, it may be either or both.  Children are not little adults and have a different level of what is appropriate in their eyes.  (Burping contests may be appropriate between a couple of 10-year olds but not for their dad’s business meeting).  

Trial Strategy:  If they are simply not catching on, then more deliberate modeling and being more deliberate to draw their attention to appropriate conduct may be a good strategy.  Using role play and having them actually act out the appropriate behavior can give them practice and confidence. Pick one or two areas such as greetings and introductions to work on and then review every so often as needed.

 

Concerning behavior:  Difficulty connecting the dots, does not connect cause and effect

Childish or Child-like:  It may be child-like even in an older child whose capability to connect cause and effect is developmentally delayed due to trauma or other causes.  It may be due to mistrust or a real lack of understanding.

Trial strategy:  Communicate consequences clearly and closely relate consequences to the reason for it.  (Example – “Good job” becomes “You followed directions and completed your assignment without any errors” and “You should know better” becomes “I am disappointed that you chose to hit instead of getting an adult’s help.  You hit, you sit until I decide you may join us again.”)

 

Letting go of the “should’s” enough to deal with the current state of things doesn’t mean we don’t work to help things get better with and for our children.  But it does help us step back and assess how things really are, get a grip, and set up a workable plan to move forward. Children are children, not little adults, yet constantly helping them in moving toward adulthood while enjoying their childhood and is a good goal to keep in mind.  While managing difficult behaviors can be a huge accomplishment, we need to be careful that we are facilitating our children’s move through developmental stages to mature as well as they can rather than staying stuck.  Just because a delay is there doesn’t mean that one day it won’t just click and be a huge leap of progress in an area you had been working on for some time.  Reviving your positive, child-like qualities can model a positive outlook for your child and help you both.

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Remaining Calm in the Storm

With children from hard places, there are many who are triggered into rages rather than the typical childhood and teen behaviors such as tantrums and sulking which are unpleasant to deal with but not generally dangerous. In talking with experts about best practices in dealing with extreme behaviors the key is always for the parent (the adult) to remain calm in the midst of the meltdown/rage/storm. It sounds so simple, so . . . logical.

BUT . . . HOW?

Of course, we should be the adult, the one in control when they have apparently lost it. But imagine you are in the midst of a tornado. You remain calm, mostly, and then it is over and you are able to assess the damage and realize no one is hurt badly and there is just a bit of material damage. Then the next day, another tornado. And another after a couple more days. You start wondering each day if there will be a tornado today and brace for the coming storm. Your nerves get a little shaky when the winds howl. You are still cleaning up (and healing) from the previous storms and wondering how much more you can take of this before something gives. At this point, remaining calm may be a stretch.

Prayer and Faith that God is in control and is working ALL things out for good is key for me.

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

In addition, I’ve come up with this list to help me focus on remaining calm in the midst of the storms and realize that it will blow over.  Perhaps it will help you as well.

C. A. L. M.     M. O. M.

C. Self-CONTROL & CONFIDENCE (not reactive)
A. Look AWAY (not in their eyes) & ACKNOWLEDGE their frustration
L. LESS talk. (Wait ’til later)
M. MODEL better behavior & posture & calm with a MATTER-OF-FACT voice that communicates “everything is okay.
M. Get them MOVING with me (if do-able within safe limits) walking, jumping, dancing, etc.
O. OPT OUT if violent or verbally abusive (safety first)
M. ReMOVE myself, others, possible weapons/projectiles away for everyone’s safety.

For [C] I wanted to remind myself to show my own self-control and my own confidence so that it does not appear that I am out of control to my child or others.  If they perceive that I am out of control in the least, or that they have “pushed my buttons” it validates the mistrust of my attachment disordered children.

For [A] I want to acknowledge their frustration if possible.  I need to do this whether it seems to sink in or not.  Look away means I do not need to push them to look me in the eye during their storm/rage/meltdown, which puts added pressure on them (though it comes across as highly disrespectful to me).  I may need to sit/stand beside them instead of in front of them to avoid looking directly into their face.  If they are able to hide their eyes as part of self-calming I want to recognize that that is okay for now.

[L] is a tough one for me because I want to talk them through it and get to the bottom of whatever is at the root of the disturbance.  (Can you imagine trying to discuss with a tornado what caused such a disturbance?)  Less talk is something that is difficult for me and may need to be zero talk to keep me from opening the floodgates, making matters worse.

[M] is similar to [C] above, in that I remind myself to be the adult and model better behavior to the child/teen.  Not only do I want to avoid anything that could be perceived as a lack of confidence and self-control, but I want to overtly speak and act in a way that they may copy, such as speaking matter-of-factly with an un-shakeable, assured tone, one that assumes everything is or will be okay.  Not dismissing their frustration or upset but not entering into the fray with them, either.  This is a detached sort of stance that is new to me but may be more tolerable for my attachment disordered children.

[O] is Opt Out, and may pre-empt strategies that require the child or teen’s cooperation to a degree, like taking a walk. When they are violent or verbally abusive I need to be able to disengage in order to keep my calm and safety, and to model healthy boundaries.  This is not a time to talk them through anything or try to reason with them.

The last [M] is another “Move” – – “Re-Move myself and others, along with items that could be used as weapons or projectiles for everyone’s safety.  Not only in the midst of the storm, but in preparation for future storms items may need to be secured and a safety plan for other children in the home, as well as the one with the extreme behavior, parents and pets can be made.  It may seem extreme and out of the ordinary to make a safety plan for when a child or teen is exhibiting extreme behavior, but it is a precaution that can be necessary for everyone’s safety.

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I compiled the above tips for myself in preparing to deal with my own attachment disordered children.  Your children certainly may have different types of behaviors and needs, requiring different strategies from you.

I have found that taking care of myself is key to being able to handle the stresses of an emotionally challenged child or teen who sometimes has extreme behaviors.  Many things have helped, including the use of naturally calming essential oils that are available from Oils for Orphans.  Feel free to contact me for more information on ways they might benefit you.

Battered MOM Syndrome (?)

Many people now are familiar with the concept of “Battered Wife Syndrome” or “Battered Woman Syndrome” as it refers to a woman being in a relationship (married or unmarried) with a man who over time is bullying her to the point that she develops psychological symptoms.  

 

A Psychiatric Times Article by Lenore Walker dated July 8, 2009 (Volume 26, Issue 7) titled simply, “Battered Woman Syndrome”, explains that Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) is a sub-category of PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  While BWS is centered around ongoing domestic abuse from the woman’s intimate partner/husband, I believe that a similar situation exists for many, many women — moms — whose abuse is coming primarily from their children.  Particularly from their Reactive Attachment Disordered Children.  Let’s explore.

 

I am most familiar with BWS from a legal defense aspect.  While not every situation may meet the medical diagnosis criteria of the DSM or the level of a legal defense, it may be helpful to see how these criteria or symptoms – – aspects that have been identified as a result of domestic abuse leading to BWS, line up with that of a mother of a child who himself/herself has a dysfunctional psychological disorder, namely Reactive Attachment Disorder.

 

According to criminal-justice.iresearch.net.com, there are various lenses that differing authorities look through to make a determination of BWS:

 

A law enforcement officer or an attorney might use the legal definition of domestic violence that appears in the criminal statutes, which differ from country to country or even state to state. A shelter worker or domestic violence advocate might use the definition that appears in the domestic violence injunction statutes. A divorce lawyer might use the definition that appears in the family law statutes or in case law in that particular jurisdiction. A medical doctor might use the definition in her or his hospital protocols. (http://criminal-justice.iresearchnet.com/crime/domestic-violence/battered-woman-syndrome/)

 

Further, this same article goes on to mention the inconsistent ways others in the woman’s community may view the situation, as well as fear of being labeled as “crazy” to further illustrate the difficulty in understanding and treating the psychological effects on women who are being battered in their own homes, noting that BWS occurs in all walks of life.

 

As BWS occurs due to “family violence” so does the violence against the mother of the child with RAD.  (RAD is also a psychological disorder generally based on early childhood trauma and itself, often referred to as a form of or having a component of PTSD.)  

 

The family violence that occurs within the context of BWS or what I am going to call Battered Mom Syndrome (BMS), because of the relationships and involved, as well as it’s ongoing nature contributes to the complexities and difficulties in identifying BMS and getting appropriate help.

Four Phases

Four phases have been identified in family abuse according to Peoples-health.com (http://www.peoples-health.com/battered_womens_syndrome.htm):

  1. Denial – the phase in which a woman makes excuses for the abuse, not anticipating it happening again.  *When a child is the abuser, the mother may continue to try to teach, train, parent better, serve, modify expectations in the home, excuse them due to their traumatic history or diagnoses or other limitations.
  2. Guilt – the phase in which a woman questions herself and feels guilty over not being able to be good enough for the abuser in some way.  *When the abuser is a child the woman/mother will tend to feel guilty for not being a better mother, and that guilt may be reinforced by the child, the husband, outsiders, even “helpful” friends and parenting advice which is completely insufficient for the situation in her home.
  3. Enlightenment – the phase in which the woman wakes up to the fact that the abuse is not her fault, that it is not justified, but is instead related to the abuser’s psychological problems. However, she is still committed to preserving the relationship.  *When the abuser is the woman’s own child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, the relationship with the mother/mother figure is the trigger for the child’s own disorder.
  4. Responsibility – the phase in which the battered woman realizes that the abuser must take responsibility for their own problem and behavior, that she cannot solve their problem.  In a battered wife situation, this is when she might decide to leave.  But when there are children involved it becomes more unclear as to which course of action will work best to keep them safe.  *When the abuser IS a child or teen, keeping them and others safe may be very difficult.  

Cycles of Abuse

There are also cycles of abuse that get repeated over and over again in BWS, which generally correspond to three phases:  Tension building phase; Battering phase; Honeymoon phase.  

Taking these in reverse order, the Honeymoon phase with a RAD child may be one in which their behavior seems more compliant and reserved, even “normal”.  

The Battering phase, may be physical abuse or threats to the mother or another child or even themself, knowing that the mother will be distraught over their self-harm, whatever they can do to hurt her even if it is self-injury.  As in a spousal abusive situation, a child or teen can be verbally and physically abusive in a variety of ways, including damage to the home or possessions that they know will cost the parent.  

The Tension building phase may be one in which they are less compliant, more oppositional and verbally aggressive.

Effects on Mom

Similar to the effects of the Battered Woman/Wife Syndrome (BWS), there can be effects on the mother with BMS such as reduced self-esteem, PTSD, injuries and health problems resulting from the abuse, feelings of guilt and shame, all of which she may need help with even after the abuse has stopped.

 

Finally, getting into a stable living situation and stopping the abuse can be financially difficult.  Treatment for the child identified as having RAD may be cost prohibitive and may sap any financial resources that might have been available for help for the mother. The state of the mental health resources for children, adolescents and adults in this country are woefully insufficient.  

Many mothers, like myself, have adopted children with the commitment to love and protect that child, only to have the child turn on them out of their own psychological dysfunction.  And after years of sacrificing for their children and families find that they, themselves, as well as their children are in danger.  

Because of the inadequacies of our healthcare system time and again, some of these parents are finding that to protect themselves, their child and the rest of the family they must relinquish their parental rights to this RAD child in order to get them in a (hopefully) safe facility.  But this does nothing to help that child recover from RAD or mend the relationship and further defeats the mother.  In addition, the justice system is resistant to get involved with domestic violence of any kind until there is irreversible damage.  

 

I hope to help you recognize if you, yourself or a family member or friend seems to be dealing with any of the issues of family abuse, yes even from their own child.  And to prompt you to recognize that there is help available and you are not alone.   

 

God, God’s Word, Prayer, and God’s people can help you identify the problems, get out of isolation and get the help you need.  Taking steps to help yourself will help your family as well.  You cannot help them when you have nothing but an empty bucket to draw from.  

 

My Personal Tips:  911 is your ally; always keep your cell phone handy; maintain a relationship with a friend or two you can safely confide in and seek helpful counseling for yourself as well as treatment for your child; keep a journal and photos of all injuries and damage; keep all your records, get copies of medical records (you and your child), police records if any, and school documentation especially of behavior issues.  Have a safety plan for yourself and other family members.  

And know you can find rest in God —

Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened; and I will give you rest.”

 

Disclaimer:  This post is for educational purposes and nothing herein is to be used as medical or legal advice.  Please check with appropriate professionals as needed in your particular situation.  

 

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