So WHO exactly are we fighting? ?
The post-adoptive home can sometimes feel like an ongoing war, like you have to PROVE yourself as parent. (Did anybody ever really doubt that you were the rightful parent of your biological children?) It’s one thing for a legal decree, for a declaration of undying love and commitment, for being there for daily routines, ups and downs, and all that goes with parenting and loving your child, but somewhere deep in the mind of two of mine, they have a deep-seated belief that I am not their mom.
How do I know? Aside from the verbal screaming in hateful voices “You are NOT my MOM!!!” and “I HATE YOU!!” along with other similar endearments (insert sarcasm), my training, research and counseling on Reactive Attachment Disorder. Plus it’s not just a passing phase or exaggerated in the moment push button thing. It doesn’t go away, just maybe hides under the surface a bit. Not every adopted or foster child develops R.A.D, thankfully, but it is a REAL condition.
Things to Learn & Do Right Away
If you have a child in your life who may have Reactive Attachment Disorder, I recommend doing your own due diligence to familiarize yourself with not just the basics, but the practical outworkings and recommendations for steps and strategies to deal with the effects on the attachment disordered child AND the people closest to them who may at any time become a target. And realize that the child may appear VERY different with different people. Moms are primary targets in general, but it can also be dads if dad is the primary caretaker/nurturer.
Boundaries are important, and implementing boundaries BEFORE they are crossed takes some forethought. It is a lot easier to loosen stricter boundaries when appropriate than to tighten them when things get out of hand.
Respite care? Yes that would be nice. Unfortunately, it is not until the stress has mounted or a crisis ensued that it becomes urgent. And if the children are not well-behaved it is a big chore for parents to arrange for regular time apart, for the child/children to be cared for by someone else who may not comprehend all their different needs or issues.
Long Range View & Goals
I recommend a long term view, learning what you can, plugging into a support group and doing the work to set up respite care with regular visits in non-crisis times so that it is available when you most need it. Plan for the worst; hope for the best; don’t be caught off guard.
In addition, I recommend intentional self-care, marriage care and keeping separate time with the child’s siblings on a frequent, regular basis, not letting their issues dominated the household.
Fighting against the child, spouse, friends and extended family? Teachers, neighbors? Legal issues? All of these are all too common in the adoption community.
Adoptive parents as you recall jump through many, many hoops to get through the process and so the bulk of them are not going to just be “bad” parents. Sadly, there is not a lot of support for raising an attachment disordered child and keeping the family intact.
To answer the question posed at the beginning of this post — Who are we fighting? — I’d like to suggest that while it may be anybody and everybody at times, primarily it is and should be recognized to be our mortal enemy, Satan, the father of lies.
1 Peter 5:8 tells us: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Satan lies to my kids and reinforces the lies that they have already believed. Satan lies to parents telling us we are failures. Satan lies to others who are looking for someone to blame and accusations fly. Satan says you are not good enough and that you are not loved.
BUT GOD tells the TRUTH! And I have to hang on to the truth to be able to survive, just as my children need the truth to believe they are loved and valuable and as much a part of my family as anyone else. And that that is GOOD!
I have to know and hang on to the truth that I am GOD’S CHILD, and dearly loved and provided for by him, no matter the lies that I am told. Through any difficulty, God is my strength. I don’t have all the answers, but I know who does!
As my children learn that they are loved by their earthly parents, my earnest desire is that it will help them be receptive to the belief that they are treasured and loved by their Heavenly Father. I believe God can heal them so that they will be open to receiving and giving love without all the resistance they now have, due to the trauma they have endured. Someday they will understand that even then, their loving Creator was sustaining them, and he has good plans for them and their future.
Real life is often emotional and kid’s from hard places often have overwhelming emotions. As a parent I want to help my children learn to use positive coping skills and give them tools to help. There are some natural products we have begun using in our family that make a big difference in helping kids cope with overwhelming emotions, to manage and focus. If you think it might be helpful for your family to learn more about these products feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to fill you in.