The Challenges of Parenting a Child with RAD

Reactive attachment disorder, or RAD, is a rare but serious condition in which infants or young children don’t establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. Parenting a child with Reactive Attachment DisorderRAD can be a challenge, but with treatment, children with RAD can develop stable and healthy relationships with caregivers and others. The keys to parenting a child with this disorder are to educate yourself about it, encourage positive child and caregiver interactions, create a stable environment, and perhaps most important, obtain psychological counseling and treatment.

Understanding Reactive Attachment Disorder

RAD is a rare disorder that typically begins in infancy. It is particularly challenging because it can be hard to distinguish from other conditions such as autism spectrum disorders. Common signs include a child who will not make eye contact and is reluctant to initiate or accept comfort and affection when offered, especially when the child is in distress. RAD is likely to occur in connection with abuse and neglect, but this is not necessarily a basis for making the diagnosis.

If you suspect your child may have RAD, a qualified psychiatrist can determine whether the behaviors are normal developmental challenges or if they point to a more serious problem. Children with RAD can be challenging to parent because they have difficulty connecting to people and managing their emotions. This can lead to a lack of trust and self-worth, fear of becoming emotionally close, outbursts of extreme anger and demonstrating a need to be in control. A child with this condition feels unsafe and alone and acts out as a defense mechanism.

Survival Skills for RAD Parents

Parenting a child with RAD can be draining and exasperating. It can be especially difficult to give it your best every day without the encouragement of a loving connection with your child. You may often wonder if your efforts are worth it, but you need to know that they are. Time, persistence and determination can help to repair attachment issues in your child, when done in conjunction with professional intervention. Learn to remain calm by managing your stress and taking care of yourself. If you cannot stay calm in the interactions with your child, she will not feel safe, and earning her trust will be difficult. Calm yet firm interactions are the key.

By learning to manage your stress, you can better focus on your child’s needs. Realistic expectations of the situation are important as well, because you may be in for a long, arduous process. Fostering your own sense of humor and joy will help keep you energized in the midst of this challenging situation. Find support and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Making Your RAD Child Feel Secure

Safety is the biggest issue for children who suffer from reactive attachment disorder. You can help to create a safe environment for them by setting limits and boundaries, remaining calm when they misbehave and reconnecting after conflict. Always be willing to recognize your mistakes and repair them as quickly as possible. Establish routines and schedules and stick to them, even when it seems impossible. Above all, make sure your child knows how much she is loved.

RAD is not an impossible situation, although you may sometimes perceive it as such. Professional intervention is a requisite, however, if you hope to put your family back on the path to healing. Havenwood Academy specializes in residential treatment programs designed to help girls who suffer from RAD. Contact their caring, professional staff today to learn more about how they can help you with parenting a RAD child.


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