A Day in the Life of a Parent of a Child with RAD
Mothers of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) have totally different experiences than mothers of attached children. People with no experience with RAD often think the mothers of children with RAD are just exaggerating their parenting problems.
I totally understand what other mothers of kids with RAD deal with day-to-day. My daughter was a mystery to me. She never responded to me like my nephews responded to their mother, my sister. I was not someone she really wanted to know. As far as she was concerned, I was just an annoying caretaker.
Knowing what I do now has given me a much better picture of what happens in the daily life of mothers of children with RAD. Mothers of kids with RAD are almost universally targets of their disturbing behaviors. Those behaviors can include telling lies, stealing, rages, screaming, hitting and any number of behaviors their mothers have never had any experience with or even heard about.
Children with RAD are incredibly intuitive. They can take a couple of days or less in a new home to figure out how to manipulate and triangulate their new parents. If there are other children in the home, the new kid also figures how to get to those kids within days.
“What about the dads?” If the dad works outside the home, he rarely sees what the mom has gone through during the day. This causes a rift between the parents that may eventually lead to major disagreements and maybe even divorce.
The following is a typical day in the life of a mother of a child with RAD. (RAD child)
At 6:30 AM, it’s time to get the children up and get them ready for school. The two older children are grumpy, but moving. The ten-year-old RAD child starts screaming “No, No, I’m not going.” Mom tells the child to get up.
The child gets up and his bedding is soaked. Mom asks the child to remove the sheets so they can be washed. The child starts shrieking and jumping up and down. Mom removes the sheets and tells the child to get dressed. The child starts throwing clothes out of the closet.
Mom decides what the child will wear for the day. The child eventually gets dressed. Next comes an argument over what to have for breakfast. The mother tells the child eat what’s there or go hungry.
All three children go to school. About 10:00 AM, the mother gets a call from the school. The RAD child decided to tell the teachers, the mother is not feeding her child as punishment. The school may have to report child abuse unless the mother can explain why she told the child that.
The school personnel don’t understand the RAD behavior. They want to believe the child because the child already knows how to manipulate the teachers and tells the story with the straightest of faces. Mom explains what happened and teachers agree not to call CPS this time.
It’s 4:00 PM, the children are all home now. There’s homework to be completed. The other children get to work. The RAD child has a massive meltdown. The home work is too dumb, too hard and the child basically refuses to do anything except scream.
The mother sends the RAD child to their room, which makes the child even more angry. The child starts threatening the other kids or the mother with harm. The RAD child threatens to run away, jump off the roof or try to kill themselves by running in front of a car to end their misery.
At 5:30 PM, the dad comes home. The house is in an uproar. The older kids are yelling at their younger sibling. The mother is crying and trying to calm all the children down. Dad yells for quiet and then asks the mom, “What’s for dinner?”
The mom tries to explain what’s happening, but dad has no patience as this happens almost every day. The RAD child has convinced the dad that mom is the reason for all the troubles.
After a few more minutes, the mom cooks dinner. It’s not a pleasant experience. The RAD child gobbles down the food and then runs out the door to get away from the house. The parents take a quick break, clean up the kitchen and then decide it’s bedtime for the children.
The RAD child is nowhere to be found. That child has run away again. This is a continuing nightmare for the parents. The parents begin arguing and call for help. The child is eventually located a few streets over and brought home.
The day isn’t over yet. Now it takes another hour to get the RAD child for bed. The bed needs to be remade. The child balks at the pajamas. The parents put the child to bed and dad stays until the child drifts off to sleep.
Once all is peaceful, mom and dad get a few minuets to discuss the day. The discussion doesn’t go well for mom as dad cannot understand why mom has so much trouble with the RAD child.
The above scenario is just an example, not all families experience all of the behaviors, but mothers do seem to get the brunt of the child’s anger. There has been speculation that the child transfers the feelings of abandonment experienced when taken away from their biological mother to the adoptive mother.
For more information on Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), please submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
N. Ann Lamphere, MSW