What does Reactive Attachment Disorder look like?

I could find pictures from every vacation we’ve ever taken since adopting and find matching pictures to the ones below. Our RAD children heal slowly but find comfort in old behaviors. You know, the ones that send their trauma mamas into orbit. I decided to blog about it this year because it is so consistent with my son’s beliefs and fears. Walk with me through our vacation photos.
To begin with, vacation causes M great stress. He frets about it, obsessively things about it and refuses to admit he is anxious.
Here my son is ignoring me and my camera.
Shoulders slumped, eyes on the ground.
 When told to pose like the statue, this is what M did. My oldest son Joshua would have just told me no. (Which would have been okay. I would have begged him and gone on.) Not M. He acts like he’s going to do what I say, then just does the opposite, always with a befuddled look on his face.
 Yeah, S, you’ve got it down!
 Okay, let me demonstrate what I was talking about.
Disconnected.
Connected.
Now, you want me to do what? (After everyone has demonstrated the instructions M still has to be slightly different. Same confused look on his face.)
Now on to family picture taking night. We take group shots and then just all jump in and quickly take some photos of individuals, girls/guys, etc.
Here my M is looking at me like I have four heads.
 Here I’m ready to strangle him because he is so uncomfortable with himself and affection.

Can you see the wall of resistance in this picture? It was HIS suggestion to take a pic of the two of us yet in normal passive aggressive fashion he squints his eyes and looks uncomfortable. In the years before puberty we should have established our physical bond. Even with years of therapy and hugs, my son is still uncomfortable with himself and me. I can only pray it gets better.

M and his new RAD friend. (Apparently the food is fascinating.)

I realize that this all seems nit picky. It is. But it’s the only way my attachment challenged son can express his anxiety and fear. By being manipulative, playing dumb and acting like an orphaned child. My son is NOT dumb but he plays it as a coping mechanism. My son is NOT an orphan. He is loved and wanted, but there is such a difference between him and his sister. She used to have these SAME behaviors until she did the work to attach and believe and transform.

Why would I put all this nonsense out on the web? Because I believe there are moms out there who need to know they are not alone, that I share their frustrations and fears and discouragement. I put it out there to face possible criticism because it’s important to see true healing taking place (my daughter) even if her brother hasn’t come as far. To know that perseverance counts for something.

Comments

  1. Wish I didn’t get this…but I do. Wish I didn’t have photo albums full of this kind of stuff, but I do. It’s enough to make a mama crazy!

  2. Thank you for being such a powerful source of encouragement for us moms. I just love you, that’s all. ((hug))

  3. Thank you for being such a powerful source of encouragement for us moms. I just love you, that’s all. ((hug))

  4. Thank you for posting this. I so wish other people could understand the frustrations of parenting a RAD child but it’s impossible unless you live it!

  5. Thank you for posting this. Like Diana I wish I didn’t get this and yet, I do. I take hundreds of pictures of my kids just to get 1 or 2 of him that are ok. Then he gets mad that I have so many pictures of the other kids and his look “weird.” It’s so painful, annoying, frustrating, and yet somehow validates that I’m not making the stuff up!

  6. I’m not so sure that directly comparing your son to your daughter (“look at the evidence of how bad you’re doing vs. look how awesome she is doing!!” )is the best way to encourage your son to progress in his attachment to you. Rather, to encourage him to WANT to progress in his attachment to you.

    Getting compared to my sibs (when we were in OR out of foster care) was NEVER fun, nor did it seem to produce better results.People have a funny habit of 1) living up (or down) to your expectations and 2) flat-out refusing to play, and doing the exact opposite just to spite you. It took me a loooooong time as a grownup to figure out that doing the latter ends up hurting me a LOT more than than it did my parents/fosterparents.

    Maybe your son doesn’t like being photographed. Or compared to his sister. Maybe he’s self-conscious. Maybe he’s 13 or 14 and the last thing on earth he wants to do is follow mom’s instructions and pose like a dorky statue.

    This really is a nit picky example of your boy’s alleged lack of attachment to you. Is this a battle you REALLY want to fight? Is your day-to-day family life really going to be SO much better if you eventually win this battle??

    You sound like such an awesome mom, and your blog demonstrates how much you really do love and fight for your awesome kiddos. Maybe the holiday photo battle is an instance in which discretion is the better part of valor.

  7. My photo albums contain similar photos . . . lots of photos of kids smiling and laughing . . . along with lots of photos of Little Miss with the angriest look on her face.

    Others that don’t understand, may think you are being nit-picky. Those of us who deal with RAD in our daily lives KNOW this is more about how our children respond to us with or without a camera in hand.

    This isn’t about “being 14″.
    This isn’t about being “self-conscious”.
    This certainly isn’t about the “dorky statue”.

    And … the “alleged attachment”??? Seriously. If she reads your blog at all, she would know it is more than just “alleged”.

    In answer to “susie’s” question (notice she does not link to her profile) …

    YES this battle does matter.

    YES this is a battle that must be fought.

    YES your family life will be 100x better if you eventually win the battle with RAD. Absolutely.

    Keep loving your kids.
    Keep sharing with us other Mamas.
    Keep fighting the battle.
    Keep seeking the Lord and His will for you and your family.

    Hugs!

    Laurel

  8. Big Sis says:

    I usually try to avoid commenting when I see a post that frustrates me. But I’ve walked this path with M and S for YEARS, and as a sister naturally should react in frustration to defend my mom and protect my siblings.

    How an outsider looking in could give direction about HOW to encourage/discourage M and S is beyond me. How do YOU know that she isn’t ALREADY doing that?

    “Alleged battle”. Interesting, so what battle are we fighting again? The battle for his HEART. Seems pretty important to me. Lets just say screw it and give up on him. I wonder where that will get HIM or US. He constanly knows he has a family who will NEVER give up on him…that no matter the cost desire his “attachment”. And yes, day to day life would be better. Because there would be LOVE from him and a RELATIONSHIP.

    Maybe by adding two sentences of encouragement at the end of your post is supposed to make everything you said okay. But until you have your own kids who daily have issues, than maybe you should think before you make such harsh judgements and suggestions.

  9. The photo of you boy and ours is a priceless example of the attachment struggle. Everyone else was laughing and engaging, and our boys were, for the most part, struggling. Like your M, I get such sweet glimpses of attachment, of the boy hiding away inside. It’s what keeps me going. (((hug)))

  10. Thanks for sharing – I’m feeling pretty helpless and hopeless just now!

  11. Anonymous says:

    It is refresshing to read your blog. I have felt so alone as a homeschool mama of four adopted RAD children. Thank-you and please keep sharing. Even as I read and post I am waiting for two of my boys to work through their “momments”.

    Gratefully,
    Michelle

  12. You know your children and you know when they are not acting themselves. My husband and I have 2 children from the foster care we are almost finished adopting and one has severe RAD. Last night was one of the worse nights I’ve ever experienced with him and they have been in our home for two years. It’s so overwhelming because nobody else sees it but my husband and I. Nobody understands it and nobody can give good advice or encouragement. This post brought tears because I know I’m not going crazy! I pick up on so many things with my child that I know are not his normal self, other people make excuses for him but as his mom I know when something’s not right with him. Thank you for putting you and your family out there because so many people, like myself have no support or help where we live.

  13. You know your children and you know when they are not acting themselves. My husband and I have 2 children from the foster care we are almost finished adopting and one has severe RAD. Last night was one of the worse nights I’ve ever experienced with him and they have been in our home for two years. It’s so overwhelming because nobody else sees it but my husband and I. Nobody understands it and nobody can give good advice or encouragement. This post brought tears because I know I’m not going crazy! I pick up on so many things with my child that I know are not his normal self, other people make excuses for him but as his mom I know when something’s not right with him. Thank you for putting you and your family out there because so many people, like myself have no support or help where we live.

  14. Another mom who totally gets it. Thank you for having the courage to post this.

  15. I get it! I have an album full of RAD photos of our child and this child has “only” been with us for 3 mo.

    • I hate that you get this but appreciate the support. You really don’t understand it until you walk in our shoes. I hope your journey through RAD is one that leads to healing and attachment. Thanks for visiting!

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