What’s on My “To Read” List

This has always been one of my favorite sayings.

So many books, so little time. I have multiple topics I love to read about. But within those topics there are so many good books! I try to stay up on what’s current in Reactive Attachment Disorder but obviously self-care is also big on my list! And with August’s current prison stay, I’m now moving into looking for books to help me understand what to expect afterward. But what’s on my “to read” list is a constantly moving target!

In the area of books on RAD, there are not a lot of new books being published on the topic. The work being done on possibly changing the name is still under consideration so no one has published a full book on the subject. Nevertheless, there are some new books that have come out in the last few months. I haven’t read them so this isn’t a recommendation of any sort. But based on my research they look promising.

Reactive Attachment Disorder Books

  • Reversing Reactive Attachment Disorder: Overcoming Cravings The Raw Vegan Plant-Based Detoxification & Regeneration Workbook for Healing Patients. Volume 3– I know the effect of food on RAD has always been a hot topic. When August was little it was food dyes and Dr. Feingold’s diet. This one uses what is now known about the benefits of a plant-based diet focused on RAD.
  • Love Never Quits: Surviving and Thriving After Infertility, Adoption and Reactive Attachment Disorder– This is one family’s story of adopting a child from Guatemala who has RAD. After years of infertility they adopted one, then a second child and that one had RAD. She deals with her years of struggle with all these issues and the emotional roller coaster ride that it takes the family on. It sounds like the story of my life!
  • My Self Healing Journal Surviving Reactive Attachment Disorder: Prompt Journal For Families Surviving RAD/Reactive Attachment Healing Journal/Reactive Attachment Diary– This is a self-published journal and each page includes a writing prompt to help you with getting out your feelings about life with a RAD kiddo. If you don’t have a great support group and need some place to vent your feelings, this may be a good option.

The other topic I keep an eye on is help for school. This one is harder because the issues tend to be more subject-specific or child-specific. But here are a few that looked interesting:

  • Helping Children Manage Anxiety at School: A Guide for Parents and Educators in Supporting the Positive Mental Health of Children in Schools– Anxiety can infect so much of a child’s performance at school. And RAD kiddos who feel shame and have no control don’t have to look far for sources of anxiety. Add to that learning disabilities and they can have so many strikes against them. Managing anxiety can go a long way toward creating a successful school experience.
  • Lessons from the Listening Lady: Adolescents & Anxiety A family guide to making the mind, body, spirit connection– This has the same goal as the previous book but it is specifically targeted toward adolescents.
  • Words Will Never Hurt Me: Helping Kids Handle Teasing, Bullying and Putdowns– This one looked particularly interesting. August had a rough patch with bullying in late elementary school (when your name is also a month…) His quick temper and grandiose opinion of himself didn’t help him handle it well. I wish I would have had a way to better handle talking to him about dealing with it.

The last section is self-care and that is a monumental list that I could write about forever, but the easiest way to help with this is to recommend goodreads. If you’re not there, you should be! You can connect with friends and share what you’re reading, what you want to read and what you’ve read. You can look for what celebrities are reading! And you can browse by subject to get information on what the goodreads universe is reading to see what is recommended in about every genre. I’m not copping out but their self-help section is particularly good. And, of course, there’s an app for that!

Roald Dahl has been and continues to be one of mine and the boys favorite author. If he’s not as familiar to you, Google him. You’ll be amazed!

I am sure there are many more you might be reading and I would love for you to share them! And as I get through these I will post reviews! I will also move these titles and more information over to the resources page for easier referencing!

Until next time,

Shannon

Organizational Ideas for RAD Children

NOTE: This didn’t get done on Friday as I enjoyed my last few days with my youngest. He left yesterday (ugly crying!) so I am back to work! Thank you for your patience while I rearranged the schedule a bit!

One of the biggest issues that children with reactive attachment disorder have is with what is officially termed “executive function”. This encompasses everything that has to do with organizational skills. And for our RAD kiddos this is an area they have a real problem with.

I know for years August and I struggled to find ways to make it easier for him to keep school papers together and keep track of assignments. It seemed like we tried every combination of folder, notebook, agenda and calendar system we could find both for school and home. With mixed successes because of both his lack of executive function and unfortunately his lack of interest in school. With a dash of ADHD thrown in for good measure!

This can be a great source of stress and tension with you and your RAD kiddo. Because it’s a never ending game of “the dog ate my homework” when you are constantly trying to find assignments and papers. When schoolwork in many cases is already enough of a struggle, just finding the paper shouldn’t add to the anxiety.

So how to make the whole organization process work? There are several things you can do at home. But it really needs to be a school/home partnership to make it truly successful. 

  • Establish A Relationship with the Teacher – Of course you’re going to go to Back to School night or Meet the Teacher night or whatever it’s called where you live. But you’re going to need a method of communicating that probably goes beyond the norm. When August started school I debated about volunteering in his classroom just to be another set of ears. But I decided that it would create too much anxiety for him. But not being in the classroom means you have to have a relationship with the teachers that lets them know you’re involved. You aren’t going to let your child slide but you can communicate their issues and problem-solve together. Sometimes I would tell teachers that their homework assignments were too much for him. It just was. You know your child best. Help them help your child be successful.
  • Write it down – When August was in middle school they issued each child an agenda. They were school year-based calendars customized for their school. They were to be used to keep track of homework and projects. Teachers had the students write their homework in the agendas for that class for that day. Well that works fine if your child knows what day it is and isn’t distracted by well…everything. And fails to write it down. Nowadays I know much more information is available online but that is only if the teacher chooses to use that tool. You can make it a part of your child’s IEP (and if you don’t have an IEP, GET ONE) that their homework notes are signed off on by the teacher. That way they bring home an accurate accounting of what they need to do.
  • Try Different Timelines – When August was in kindergarten, his teacher would give them a packet of homework at the beginning of each month. That way they could work at their own pace. If they had a bad day, then they could take the day off. This is also an excellent plan for our RAD kiddos. Depending on the age, a whole month of homework may not be feasible. But maybe you could talk to the teacher about a week at a time. That way, if there was a day in the week that your RAD kiddo just isn’t in a good place, you have time to recover and move on.
  • Let them be part of the process – When setting up a homework station, let your RAD kiddo help with the location (within reason), design, colors, pens, pencils, papers, etc. RAD is very much about control and the more they feel like they have made the choices, the more likely it is they will use the space. The same will go for other aspects of organization: picking out a backpack, an agenda, folder colors and on and on.

These are some ideas that have worked for me in the past. Here are some other tips for both school and home. And this article helps to teach organizational skills outside of the school environment. Please share your tips and tricks that have worked for you. We all get better when we work together!

Until next time,

Shannon

First Day of School for RAD Children

NOTE: As I enjoy my last few days with my younger son before he heads back to North Carolina,
I have tried to scale back my work a bit.
So today, enjoy a Tuesday/Wednesday combo blog!

We’ve talked all around this for the last few weeks about how to be prepared for the first day of school. But now that the first day is here…what are the best ways to make sure your RAD kiddos have a great first day? The first day of school for RAD children can be overwhelming. The first day of school for ANY children can be! Let’s talk about where the hurdles might be and where to run interference to ensure a great first day experience!

The night before is where you can make a huge impact on how the first day will go. Not only in preparation but in how you set the stage emotionally. As for preparation, consider these tips:

  • Create the “launch pad” (my favorite!) spot where everything for the next day is ready to go
  • Pick out that perfect outfit!
  • Set the alarm with your child (or two or three!)

But here are some other things you can do which can help your RAD kiddo with their fears and anxiety which may be weighing the night before. 

  • Ask them to describe what they imagine their first day will look like. 
  • If they have a friend who will be going to the same school, maybe a phone call or Facetime before bed.
  • If they are smaller, draw a picture of their first day of school.
  • Ask them what you can do that will help them the most. 

The morning of school might seem like chaos and overwhelming for all of you. The best thing you can do no matter what else happens is to keep calm. Focus on your children, keep your cool and make it about their comfort and calm. You can have your nervous breakdown later after they have successfully gotten off for the day.

Some things to plan for that first morning:

  • Make sure there’s a good breakfast (protein is important for good brain function!)
  • Ask them what they want you to do at school. They may want you to be with them all the way to the classroom. They may be ready just to be dropped off. Be OK with their choice.
  • Make sure the morning is about joy. Even if it’s pouring down rain. 
  • Make a plan to celebrate after school is over.

Here are some other fun ideas on of all things a marriage site! But don’t be afraid to let your children – even your RAD kiddo lead the way on what they need on that first day. 

 

What Happens to You When School Starts

It may seem like parents get released from summer prison when school starts. No more trying to entertain bored children who don’t seem to want to do anything you suggest. No more endless family vacations inevitably wrecked by meltdowns or horrible weather or fights or any of a million other possibilities. And school couldn’t start soon enough. But somehow it seems you’ve just jumped off the teacups and onto the roller coaster! Now there’s carpool and homework and after school activities and lunches and summer already seems light years away. So what happens to you when school starts?

It can be very easy to go on “automatic pilot” at the beginning of the school year. We get that schedule humming and feel like we’re hitting on all cylinders because we’ve not left anyone sitting on the curb at school after soccer practice (yet). And there haven’t been any calls from the dean’s office (yet). So far none of your kiddos has had a sick day (yet). But in all of your amazing planning and scheduling you’ve left out the most important person in the equation – YOU.

If you manage to keep this schedule running like clockwork you’ll be dead by Thanksgiving. There’s no way to go full steam ahead all day every day with RAD kiddos plus siblings in tow through a busy school year and not take intentional time to decompress. And I can almost guarantee on that master schedule on the kitchen wall is no “ME time” anywhere. Go look. I’ll wait.

When school starts back up and the whole world is depending on you it is the absolute best time to double down on your efforts at self-care. Especially if you find yourself with some kid-free hours during the day. If you work an additional job on top of the parenting, then those hours may be taken, but we will figure out a time to get in some quality self-care, I promise.

First let’s look at what might have gotten lost in the shuffle. I’m going to guess reading for pleasure, sleep, exercise, healthy eating, quiet time or meditation. Losing any or all of those can start to weigh on you mentally and physically after just a few days not to mention weeks if you are deprived of them.

But you may feel guilty about trying to spend that much time when the schedule is so overloaded with the chaos of school. So we will have to move into “wild” self-care; finding time for yourself in the maybe the more unlikely of times and spaces!

  • Reading in the carpool lane – I always kept a book in the car. Even if I was reading something else in the house. I kept something in the car to read while I was waiting to pick whoever up from whatever. Now not everyone may be able to read multiple books at once but if you can, this is a treasure. You’re alone, it’s quiet, bring a cup of tea, leave earlier than you need to be there (you get my drift…) When both boys were in school every once in a while I would be too tired to read and my youngest would read to me (if the book was appropriate). I’d close my eyes and he’d read to me. It was heaven. That’s how he got hooked on The Hunger Games at eight years old!
  • Getting Exercise – getting to the gym may not be anywhere on the schedule but it doesn’t mean you can’t get in some cardio around the kiddos’ activities. Soccer practice? Walk the track while you wait. Is school close? Walk there with the kiddos when the weather is still nice out. Or stay after school with them one day and bring a basketball and shoot hoops. Make a game out of math homework with hopscotch for the little ones. Particularly with RAD kiddos, exercise and homework seem to be a good pairing I have found.
  • Healthy Eating – The temptation to make yet another run through “insert fast food restaurant name here” is great when school is in. I know. When you have two hours between the end of play practice and the beginning of choir practice to get the kiddos home, fed and homework done, those golden arches can be your best friend. And those little body metabolisms may not take much of a hit, but boy you know you will! So what’s the answer? Make the instant pot and crock pot your friends. Throw something in there in the morning and let it cook all day and then serve it up the minute you get home. You’d be amazed and what those things can create! Also meal prepping on the weekends and freezing things that can go in a crock pot or quickly in a skillet. My kids love meatloaf. I’d make them in muffin tins and freeze them. I took them out of the tins and put them in big ziploc bags. Take out how many you need and put them on a baking sheet, bake (takes less time because they’re smaller) and throw together a salad and you’re good to go!

These are just some ideas of how to reclaim your self-care in the chaos of the school year. If you need something to put next to that master schedule, here’s a great checklist! I’d love to hear your ideas of how you keep YOU in mind when school starts! 

Until next time,

Shannon

Getting Out the Door!

If you are like me, one of the constant challenges with your RAD kiddos is getting out the door in the morning. And whether you have one, two or twelve children, the chaos and stress seems to be the same. Someone isn’t dressed. Another hasn’t finished eating. One might not even be awake yet. And don’t get me started on missing homework, projects, permission slips, pens, pencils, phones and other necessities of school life!

I liken trying to get our kiddos out the door to this sweet little one. Her mom took this picture of her before her first day of preschool. Which I call our dream of what our children would look like heading out the door:

Then she took a picture of her at the end of that same first day of preschool as she was coming home. Which I imagine is more the reality of how many of our kiddos look on their way to school:

Certainly it’s not for a lack of trying. If you’re like me, you’ve woken up early, and tried tons of tricks and bribery to get your children moving earlier and faster to get the day started with less stress and…let’s admit it, screaming. But more often than not, no one is speaking to each other by the time you hit the car. And there’s a lot of door slamming with no one hearing the sarcastic, “I love you” that you yell as they leave for the day and you breathe a sigh of relief. It’s OK to admit it. 

But we never want it to be that way. Children are little for such a short time and we would love to have these precious morning times. OK we’d at least love for them to be less tumultuous! I have found some ideas from the experts but here are my suggestions of things I think are sure-fire things to make mornings go smoother. If not at first, maybe in the long run.

  1. The Launch Pad: I have mentioned this before but it is the essential element of the busy family. And as I have aged it is also the essential element of the middle-aged mind! It is the one place in the house that everything that needs to leave the house must go. Maybe each of you has a basket by the door. Maybe that’s too chaotic a space and you find baskets elsewhere. But keys, phones, backpacks, school papers, lunchboxes, EVERYTHING that has to do with coming and going gets put here.

    Which means if your son hands you a permission slip to fill out and you don’t put it back in the launch pad? That’s on you, not them. If they come home and drop their phone on the couch and it gets lost in the cushions and can’t be found when it’s time to leave the next morning? That’s on them. When it’s time to head out, everything that needs to be had should be ready to go on the launch pad. Including your stuff.
  2. Picking out clothes the night before: I watched a friend argue with her daughter for 40 minutes over a dress for church. They were visiting and it was the only dress she’d brought. Her daughter was tall for her age and my friend was 6 months pregnant so it wasn’t very fun for either of them. Clothes can be a harsh battleground for some kids and not a hill to die on at 6:30am. Picking out clothes the night before can eliminate one potential morning battle. Even narrowing the choices to two can get you closer to the promised land. 
  3. Sleeping medicating: I talked about doing this with August. We used to give him his ADHD meds while he was basically still asleep. He’d take them then sleep for another 1/2 hour while they kicked in. It was, if I must say, a brilliant move on our part because the child that woke up was calm, engaged and willing to follow directions. Unlike the unmedicated child who would be difficult and aggravated by everything. I highly recommend it.
  4. Natural consequences: This is a biggie. Would it kill your teenager to have to go to school in PJs? Nope. They might think so. Would it kill your straight A student to go to school without that homework that they can’t find? Nope. But they are much less likely to make those mistakes again. And it doesn’t make you a monster parent. Some natural consequences aren’t worth it. But every now and then you can find those that teach the valuable lessons your RAD kiddos need to learn. They can learn while still knowing you always are there to back them up. Send an email to the teacher about why the homework isn’t coming that day with a picture that it was indeed finished. Bring clothes to school for later. 

Here are some other ideas which I thought were thoughtful (not just because they have the same first idea I did!) I think the key is to try your best to stay calm. One way or another you’ll get out the door. You don’t have to compare your kiddos or your parenting to anyone else. Success is what you decide. And remember, breathing that sigh of relief is OK!

Until next time,

Shannon

 

Talking to Your Child’s New Teachers

So it’s the first day of school and your RAD kiddo is starting with a new teacher. Now if you’ve done some pre-work, hopefully you’ve picked the best possible teacher match for your child. One who will understand your child’s special issues. But you still haven’t been able to talk directly to them. Now that you have the chance, here’s how talking to your child’s new teachers will be the most effective.

Depending on the age of your RAD kiddo, it may be important to consider what “baggage” may have followed them to their next grade. One of the reasons we changed schools with August after third grade was because we didn’t think he’d get a fair shake in fourth grade at the same school. And it was a good move because he had a great fourth grade year. Hopefully a new teacher will start the new year clean but it’s always hard to know.

Next you might want to make sure you have all your RAD kiddo’s “tricks” laid out for the new teachers to understand. For example, if August couldn’t be right he liked to be first. He’d always finish his tests first even if he got the answers wrong. He thought that made him seem just as smart as getting all the answers right. Something I shared with his fourth-grade teacher. Other specific learning issues can be shared in an IEP meeting but there may be some things that are not necessarily learning-related that the teacher needs to know. These things may be more about RAD behaviors than learning so you will want the teacher to understand.

We made a plan with his teacher to give August an “escape plan” for when he feels overwhelmed in the classroom. A way for him to get out of the room (he was in a trailer due to overcrowding) when his anxiety level got too high. And we did the same thing in high school. These are conversations to have as early in the year as possible. The more systems in place, the better chances for success.

If your child has any quirks or eccentricities, make sure the teacher knows about them. August preferred to stand. He would stand next to his desk rather than sit down. It wasn’t disruptive but he did it starting in kindergarten. So I made sure teachers knew he might do it so they wouldn’t continually reprimand him. It wasn’t a big deal and it made him calmer.

And definitely make sure you talk about RAD. Manipulation, triangulation, hoarding, control, impulsivity…all the big guns. One of the posts I see most on Facebook during the school year is from parents who have been called into school or worse yet by DFS because the child has made claims to their teacher about their treatment at home. Or that they aren’t being fed. Since they spend so much time at school and teachers are mandatory reporters, RAD kiddos can triangulate easily with a teacher to get parents in trouble over false claims. Make sure the teacher is aware, particularly if it has happened before. Write it down if you have to. Write it down anyway.

For a great letter to teachers that I probably have shared before, click here. And to cover all the bases, here’s one for bus drivers and bus monitors! 

While I’ve never used any of Nancy Thomas’ methods personally, the letter I’ve linked to above is from her website and it is incredibly thorough. It covers a lot of things I would have never thought of like: don’t be alone with the child, do not sympathize with the child, if you hear something from the child that sounds weird call the parents, make eye contact and many more. Use it as a checklist to remind you of behaviors of your own RAD kiddo that you want to make sure you talk over with the teacher.

Now all this may sound like you’re going to leave the teacher with a picture of your child as a devil-child. One that is going to scare them to death before the first week of school is even over. That is not at all what I’m suggesting. Make sure you are balancing their story with lots of information about what they are great at and what they are passionate about. That will help tons when they might need to be redirected or they’re feeling overwhelmed and need to take a break. And the more the teacher knows your child, the more comfortable they will feel when maybe things go off the rails. You know your child best; laying a good foundation with their teacher will go a long way to ensuring a successful school year.

Until next time,

Shannon

We Have A Mental Health Crisis

This is not what I planned to write about today. But this weekend has rocked me as I’m sure it has affected all of you. I do not want to be political or take a stance on gun control. What I want to talk about about it the state of mental health treatment.

As I write this, it has been barely 24 hours since the shooting in El Paso and less than that since the shooting in Dayton. The second one occurred maybe 40 minutes from where I grew up. There is information being delivered on 24/7 news channels about victims and timelines for first responder activities. There are broadcasts of tip lines of where families can check in who still have loved ones missing in the aftermath of these tragedies.

And inevitably there are the stories of the shooters. So similar. White boys; early 20’s. Conversations with friends and neighbors describe them as loners, overly interested in guns and the military. Maybe they were treated for mental illness earlier in their lives. Maybe their parents saw them as “a little off” but never really did anything about it because teenagers go through things. It might come out that they were not great students or they were bullied at school because they didn’t “fit in” with the social norms of high school.

I love this quote…I wish I knew the answer to the question.

Any or all of these things could be true. On top of the motive that made them ultimately pull the trigger. Because no one can deny that someone who makes the decision to commit mass murder is not mentally stable. And I don’t need to let you know that this becomes an issue that doesn’t get addressed because of the cloud of gun control arguments that take center stage.

Mental Illness is a crisis in this country. Besides your RAD kiddos and possibly yourself, I am sure most of you can think of several people who have been treated for a mental illness. But it continues to be the secret, taboo, non-disease that no one will talk about, let alone take on as a legitimate issue. Insurance coverage is hit or miss. Parents are reluctant to address it with their children. Schools don’t have resources to handle children whose mental health issues move too far outside the box.

Statistics show that over half of all inmates in jail and prison have a diagnosed mental illness. That shouldn’t be surprising. Once an untreated mental illness spins out of control, it is very hard to bring it back under wraps. When children turn 18 and don’t have to listen to their parents any more about medications or therapy (if that was happening at all), behaviors can become exaggerated or even violent. It doesn’t excuse their actions, but to a degree, they are not responsible for their behavior.

I know for a fact that there is a breakdown in the effort to get help for children who belong in treatment not jail. Even with families who are supportive and have the means. When August was in the juvenile system he was given referrals to the behavioral health intervention that worked with the courts system here. We couldn’t get someone on the phone. When we could get someone on the phone they would say they weren’t the person we needed. When we did get someone and got an appointment the red tape was insane. And then even if we did get through the process, and with a diagnosed mental illness already, he never got a day of treatment.

These boys are a result of a system that has failed them. A healthcare system, family and friends, the government who refuses to make mental health a priority and many more. And I’m sure you have experienced this in your efforts to help your RAD kiddos.

There have been a few advocates for mental health awareness. Tipper Gore was a great one.

I don’t have any answers to all of this. It breaks my heart to have to see these boys whose brains aren’t even done growing yet having their lives cut short because of a disease. Mental illness is a disease. Like chicken pox. We need to treat it with the seriousness it requires and keep this from happening. Protect our children.

Until next time,

Shannon

Changing Routines with your RAD

One of the things that it is hardest to make happen with any child is changing routines. But now that the start of a new school year is looming, big changes are about to come. If you’ve taken it easy this summer on bedtimes and wake-up times, on mealtimes and studying, then getting back in the groove will be challenging. But changing routines with your RAD kiddo will be even harder. Why is this? Because these children don’t like change and they LOVE control. They want to be in charge because it makes them feel better since they do not trust the adults around them.

So how you deal with changing routines with your RAD? If you’ve dealt with this for a while, you’ve probably got a long list of things that DON’T work:

  • Reward charts
  • Time outs
  • Negative reinforcement (traditional punishment)

So what will work for changing the routines so that school starts with ease for both your children and you? Here are some tips that I used when August was younger as well as some ideas I’ve gotten from friends and social media.

  • Start getting bedtimes moved to school times – I always start getting bedtime and wake up times moved to school times about a week before school starts. This was particularly painful when we lived in Oregon where it stayed light until 10:30pm! It seemed to stay light out forever after I put the boys to bed and did I hear about it! But sleeping was always hard for August. He took medication to help him sleep so getting him on the right schedule was important.
  • Practice morning routines – There is a lot more that happens on a school morning than a summer morning. Getting up and dressed, eating breakfast and getting out the door. Maybe you just head to the library or to run errands but it gives you all a chance to “remember” what getting out in the morning is like!
  • Get the kiddos involved in planning – Pick your “launch pad”. This is the place in the house where everything goes: backpacks, homework, keys, purses, lunches, permission slips, projects, ANYTHING that has to go to school. 
  • Try sleepy medicating – We did this with August and it was one of the best discoveries ever. In addition to RAD he has ADHD. We found that waking him up a half-hour before he had to get up and getting his ADHD meds in him and letting him go back to sleep while they kicked in made a huge difference. When he woke up he was calm and responsive. If he just woke up and started spinning, mornings were so much harder!
  • Make a short list of “Don’t come down here until…” – Depending on the age of your children, if they are old enough to dress themselves and brush their own teeth and hair, make a poster or a list for the top of the stairs that lists the things that have to be done before they come down. It may just be 3-4 things like: dressed, shoes, teeth, hair, make bed. Sometimes that’s all it takes to give them a little reminder of what needs to happen.

Here is a blog post from NetNanny on some other ideas for morning and after school routines to help diffuse the chaos!

As we get into the school year, making the routine simple and easy will go a long way toward making the learning go well. I wish you all good luck as the new school year gets underway!

Until next time,

Shannon

Empowering Your RAD Child

“Empowering your child” is a phrase that is used for all children to describe ways to help them learn to use their voice and find their individuality as they move through the world. But for children with reactive attachment disorder this may not look the same. Luckily for me, some super-smart people have thought of some excellent ways to help parents with the task of empowering their children. My job here is to take those ideas and put the RAD spin on how they will work for our special kiddos as well.

This article compiles a great list of ways to give your child the tools they will need to start school confident and strong. Following is my “RAD-ified” version of that list to help with adapting the list to include consideration of RAD behaviors.

  • Give your child a choice – RAD kiddos are control freaks. This is one of the hallmarks of the RAD diagnosis. But choice doesn’t mean running the show. Don’t give them the whole closet to choose from; it’s the blue dress or the red one. And it’s not the whole fridge; it’s peanut butter or ham. Your sanity gets a role here too!
  • Listen to your child – This was huge for me when August was young. One day he got in the car after school and he was complaining about his shoes. He was so angry! He went on and on about his shoes and some kid and just was word salad yelling for 5+ minutes and I didn’t even move the car. I just listened and let him go on and asked a question here and there. And finally I got to the root of the problem…he didn’t make the football team. After he got there and got that bit of news out he was fine and much calmer but he needed to go through that process and have that catharsis.
  • Teach Your Child Body Safety – If your child might have also had some sexual abuse this is huge. There is no age too young to teach about what is acceptable and what is not. Do NOT be afraid to have the tough conversations where this is concerned.
  • Allow Your Child to Take Risks – This is a tough one for our RAD kiddos because they do not have a great sense of boundaries. And they usually have no fear because they have experienced more in their little lives than a lot of us will ever know. But finding their confidence and learning that you will always be there when they step out of their comfort zone requires that they test the limits a little. So you have to let them.
  • Use Your Words Wisely – RAD kiddos are hyper-vigilant. They do not miss a beat. So what you say and do are measured constantly. I have experienced that with August many, many times. Don’t blow smoke but make sure that they know their efforts are seen and you are proud of them no matter what. 
  • Encourage Your Child To Follow Their Interests – Want your child to follow in your football footsteps but they love art? Well, deal with it. Children will stick with those activities which feed their passions. And as much as we don’t want to waste the year’s worth of art supplies, it may not last and we need to understand that. RAD kiddos do not always have the long-term attentions that other children do. It may take them longer to find their “thing”.
  • Allow Your Child to Greet Other in a Way They Are Comfortable – RAD kiddos will not form the same attachments to all relatives and family friends. If they prefer waves or “knuckles” to hugs that’s fine. Also make sure teachers know this as well. While schools have stopped allowing hugging, many elementary school teachers still do it in the lowers grades. If your child doesn’t like it, make sure the teacher knows.
  • Discourage Gender Stereotyping – This one isn’t RAD specific but it’s pretty self-explanatory. Children should know that whatever they want to do and be is not dependent on their birth gender.
  • Encourage Perseverance – August had ADHD in addition to RAD and this is common in a lot of kiddos. Sometimes sticking with school projects or subjects that are harder for them are tough. August hated reading; it was really difficult for him. Keeping him working on it was a constant project.
  • Teach Your Child the “Pirate Stance” – I hadn’t heard this one but I think it’s a hoot! I think having your child stand like they rule the world whether they’re a RAD kiddo or not is a great way for them to feel like they have it together and can conquer anything that comes their way. 

Here’s wishing all the RAD super kids great years this year as well as their super parents!

Until next time,

Shannon

 

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RAD Self-care Sabotage

As parents of trauma-affected children, we live in a constant state of awareness. All our efforts are focused on taking care of them, their siblings, our partners, our jobs, the house and often last and least, ourselves. But what are our RAD kiddos focused on? Sometimes it seems like they have one goal and only one goal: sabotage. 

I know this sounds like an evil plan hatched by a demented Dr. Frankenstein. But there were occasions when August was little where it seemed just that devious and planned out. And  yes, I know it wasn’t. But when you’ve waited all day for a bath and a little quiet and that’s the time he chooses to pee all over the plastic kitchen set in his room, you just have to wonder!

So I want to talk about RAD self-care sabotage. What it might look like. What it might mean and how we can react to it when it might feel so personal to us. 

  • Does it feel like they only need you when you’ve gotten on the phone?
  • Do they talk to you through the door while you’re going to the bathroom?
  • Do they refuse to eat what they ordered at a restaurant but your food looks awesome?
  • Does the one sound they know drives you nuts get louder as soon as you ask them to stop it?
  • Has your favorite shirt, sweater, necklace, scarf been ruined by an “accident”?

I’m by no means implying that all RAD children are lying in bed plotting and planning. However, two of the most recognizable characteristics of reactive attachment disorder are that these children are control freaks and manipulative. They want to push our buttons. They want us to react and explode and get mad. Because that reinforces their beliefs that we don’t love them and we don’t want them. And to sabotage the self-care moments that we most treasure in our chaotic lives is pushing a very big button, don’t you think?

So why do our RAD kiddos choose these moments to inject themselves into our lives? Why are they so skilled at finding the times that we need the solace and relief of our daily grind and pick that time to ramp up their behavior? Because it’s when we’ve let our guard down. Our defenses are weak. Think about it. When is it easier for you to respond to your child having spilled a gallon of milk on the floor, when you are loading the dinner dishes into the dishwasher? Or when you have sat down for the first time all day to read a book for 30 minutes?

Now again, I can’t say for sure that all the times that August did those things that made my head explode, he’d waited in the tall grass for me to relax and look the other way. But there were more than enough examples for me to think it was more than a coincidence. And I think if you look back you might find the same is true for you.

So what do we do? Self-care is vital to our well-being as well as the success of our family. So not doing it is not an option. But making sure it happens even if your children are home might mean making some changes. Here are my ideas:

  • Tag team with your partner. Make sure one of you is covering the kids so the other can get in the needed self-care time and then switch. This may not be an option for everyone but caring for special needs kiddos needs to be a team sport as much as possible.
  • Depending on the age of your children, try and help them understand your plan, your timeline. Just a warning, sometimes this can backfire. But try to phrase it like, “I’m going to relax for 30 minutes and then we’ll go to the park so what would like to do until then?” Because this way you’re giving them control over that 30 minutes (within reason). Not just go away until I’m ready for you.
  • Let them self-care with you. Again, this is one of those that could backfire. But maybe you and the girls could all paint your nails or do mud masks. Or you and the boys could all go for a walk. I know the real point of self-care is time away from the children but the main point is that it is stress-free time and these are activities that for the most part shouldn’t end up in arguments and yelling (I hope!)
  • Confront them with the truth. If they’re old enough, they may know exactly what they’re up to. They know you can’t talk to them or help them when they’re on the phone or in the bathroom. They know how little time you take for yourself. Sitting down and having an honest conversation about your needs and the benefits to the relationship between the two of you and the entire family might just clear the air and get a different attitude going forward.

So take some time to think on whether your RAD kiddo is doing some self-care sabotage in your family and think on some ways you can intercept those efforts to make sure you’re getting the quality care you need. Please feel free to share your stories and ideas. I don’t know everything and we all benefit from everyone’s input!

Until next time,

Shannon