Say nothing at all. Sometimes a lot of help is…well, too much. Particularly in the early days of a RAD diagnosis, there is a lot of confusion and chaos as decisions are made about what is best for the child and the family going forward. And with RAD being so unknown, many well-meaning friends and family can offer a lot of unsolicited advice. Being the friend who offers to talk about football, music, cooking, books or anything that reminds us of the happy things in life can be invaluable. Or maybe offering to just come and sit in the quiet. You have no idea how amazing quiet can be.
Fall back on a heartfelt cliché. Here’s the honest truth, not a fan of this one. Anyone who’s ever been in my life knows I hate birthday cards that rhyme so naturally clichés wouldn’t work for me either. But in a pinch, they work. A sincere, “I’m sorry for what you’re going through,” can go a long way for tired, sad parents. Don’t be afraid to reach out even if that’s the most you’ve got to say.
Acknowledge specific pain. Parents of children with RAD didn’t ask for this. And they didn’t cause this. And neither did their child. They are dealing with the results of either early abuse or trauma prior to the child’s adoption or early medical issues which prohibited infant bonding. But quite possibly the behaviors their child exhibits may cause shame as if they should be “better parents” and that they should be embarrassed over how their children are acting. This pain over feeling this way about their own children can be overwhelming. Listening to your friend or loved one and helping them take away its power will help it dissipate.
Open the door to conversation. When a family has a child with any kind of special needs the instinct is to hide away. It’s just easier. So as a friend or family member, one of the nicest things is to keep them in the light. Don’t let them go down the rabbit hole of being consumed by the child or crisis of the moment. Giving the opportunity to talk of successes or accomplishments will help keep the balance and remind them that it’s not all chaos and disaster.
Say (or text), “Dinner is on your doorstep”. So not everyone is a social butterfly. Some people would rather pull off their fingernails than initiate a conversation. If this sounds like you, but you’d still like to find a way to help out those families with a child with RAD, consider trading words for deeds. Taking a meal is a great option. If you have children of a similar age, offer to take the non-RAD kids for a movie or overnight. If you are a neighbor, shovel the walk when it snows. These may seem like small efforts but you have no idea how much relief they bring a family who is in crisis mode 24/7.
I’d love to hear other ideas you may have about what has helped you when you’ve needed it most. When you’ve got a child with RAD it can feel very isolating because the disorder is not very well understood. Thanks for reaching out. We love you friends and family!