Does Your RAD Child Do Sports?

Having a RAD kiddo involved in extracurricular activities is several blog posts worth of conversation. The pros and cons of whether to and how to have a lot to unpack. But I wanted to focus on this particular question…does your RAD child do sports? Because sports had a special set of potential pitfalls for the RAD kiddo that some other activities do not.

As we have discussed, our RAD kiddos are control freaks. They want things to happen when they want, how they want and the way they want. This makes team sports especially difficult when selfless play is valued or it’s the policy of the league that everyone get a chance to play. And they may not be on board with all the rules the coach requires be followed for practices, particularly if you are also dealing with additional ADHD or ODD disorders.

Then there’s the impulsivity side of RAD. Sports which don’t have constant motion like baseball or football or track can be difficult for a child who may not be able to control his impulses for action or outbursts. Sitting for long periods of time or standing in an outfield may not match a child prone to unchecked impulsive behaviors. Riding on a bus to an away game may be difficult for a child who cannot keep their hands to themselves.

August is naturally athletic. Has been since he was little. He has boundless energy and is extremely coordinated. And fearless. And he wanted to do everything. Baseball, swimming, basketball, ice hockey, you name it. But he didn’t want to learn any of it. He loved ice skating and was very good. He wanted to play hockey but we told him the league required that he take lessons to learn how to play the game and learn the rules. August said he knew how to play. We said it didn’t matter, that was the rule; he wouldn’t budge and never played hockey.

He was good at basketball but he was a ball hog. He was good at baseball but not the best on any team and quit because he kept getting put in the outfield. August thought he was better than the other kids on his team. We had some good success with lacrosse. It very closely matched his favorite non-sport activity which was whacking at things with sticks. And it was constant motion. But his off the field behavior finally got in the way of that as we had to move him to a school with no team. And eventually to a treatment center.

So, what is the answer? Of course, as with everything, you know your RAD kiddo the best. What is doable this year may not be next year and vice versa. But of course it starts with excellent conversation. If your child is young and wants to be on a city soccer team, it may mean a parent steps up to assistant coach. If that’s not an option, then an in-depth conversation with the coach is necessary so they understand your child and their particular issues. Not as a warning, but as a way to continue the treatment you provide. Make sure the language is the same from all the adults who interact with your RAD kiddo. Same as you have with teachers.

Also, consider which sports might be easiest. For August, I thought sports where he was an individual contributor but in a team environment might be best. Swimming, track (except for the down time), golf, tennis (more whacking!). Of course, things got bad before we could ever explore those avenues (though we did do golf lessons) but that always made the most sense to me.

Whatever sports your child chooses, make sure you are their biggest cheerleader on the sidelines and support their dreams. Seeing you rooting for them will be a great boost in your bond!

Until next time,

Shannon

Fall Family Fun

August at home our first Fall! I’m not sure they had Fall leaves in Murmansk. I think it went from a week of summer right back to winter!

Maybe it’s because Autumn is my favorite season that I love thinking of all the Fall Family Fun there is to have. And it may be why I’m able to think more positively and hopefully about family activities this time of year. For the most part we always had a great time doing Fall family fun adventures. August liked being outdoors so much which helped things a lot. So I thought I’d offer some ideas of fall family fun which might be good ways for your family to enjoy some time together before winter drives you all indoors (depending on where you live!)

Here is a list of 50 wonderful Fall family activities for you to try with all the information you need to pull them off. I could create a list but it would include all these activities and it wouldn’t be nearly this thorough! My personal favorite is going to an actual pumpkin patch to get your pumpkin and doing everything else that goes with that. The hayride and corn maze; the apple cider and caramel apples! The boys always enjoyed doing that also. For August the scary haunted corn mazes were his favorite. He had no fear; I should have picked up on that!

We could almost get August to participate in raking leaves just for the benefit of jumping in the piles. But jumping was so wild with him it was like no raking took place so it was kind of a wash. But looking back, anything that was an engaging family activity makes a fond memory.

That is the take-away from the change of seasons and what can be the fun of Fall. Some of these ideas are small, like reading a book. Some are more involved like going camping. But the key is everything you do together as a family is a memory. And as I’ve said before, when times might not be so memorable, having these to think back on may make a huge difference for you and your RAD kiddo. Bring them up when to your child when you feel the Grand Canyon sitting between the two of you. Share the memory and watch the Canyon disappear.

Make sure you take advantage of your Fall family fun time. The weather is great and it can be done easy and most of the time for not much money. Enjoy the views and make some memories!

August whacking at things with sticks, his favorite thing to do!

Until next time,

Shannon

When you get “that” phone call…

It took about two weeks most years for me to have the phone number of August’s school memorized so that when it appeared on my phone I knew who was calling. And you all know that feeling. You may be shopping, working, at the gym, anywhere when you get “that” phone call. And your breath gets tight and your skin crawls and you think just a bit about whether or not to answer. Right?

I confess, I have not answered more than once. Just to have a couple minutes to collect myself. And then called back and apologized. Because I just couldn’t get hit with whatever “it” is. Maybe I’d go sit in my car if I was somewhere in public, just in case. But I didn’t want to be blindsided always by whatever was on the other side of that phone.

So what could happen when you get “that” phone call? Well it could be anything like the simple, “Your child forgot their lunch” or, “Your child isn’t feeling well.” But with our RAD kiddos there is an equal likelihood that it’s something way more complicated. With August it was the interesting things he chose to bring to school like the pocket knife and the water bottle full of vodka. Or the behaviors like looking in the women’s restroom or run-of-the-mill anger. Then there were some bigger issues like the stolen cell phone or when he ran away from the residential treatment center.

So what do you do when you get “that” phone call? I think there were days when we immediately would have sided with our child and blamed the teacher. Or sided with the teacher and blamed the child. But those of us with RAD kiddos know that nothing with our children is that clear cut. Ideally, you have established a close relationship with your child’s teachers so that when situations occur, communication is easy. And hopefully, your child’s teachers have an understanding of their behavior and can put the incident in that context.

The key here is this is where all your work at the beginning of the school year pays off. And if it hasn’t been done yet, now is the time to get it done. For example, I was working as a substitute teacher a couple of weeks ago in a high school social studies class. There was a student who was giving me a lot of back talk from the moment I walked in. Now I’m not saying he was a RAD kiddo, but he did remind me a lot of August. This kept up until he asked to go to the bathroom. I said yes at which point he took all his books and left. I asked the class if he was coming back and they said probably not so I notified the Dean who let me know later they had him.

At the end of the day he came back to the room and apologized. He said he knew he wasn’t doing well so he left. He apparently has medication that he takes and he knew he needed some. I told him I understood and that I had a son very much like him. What I wish I’d been able to suggest but couldn’t is why didn’t he have a behavior plan that gave him the opportunity to leave without the chance of getting into trouble. The class knew him as a trouble-maker. There was no information from the teacher. He didn’t have any “out” to help him. I was pleased he knew himself enough to remove himself from the situation but I wish he had some support to make it easier for him.

Hopefully when you get “that” phone call you will already have the relationship that will allow you to process whatever prompted the call in the context of RAD and your child’s unique behaviors. If not, consider this your open door. One of the reasons we moved August between third and fourth grades was that he was labeled in his prior school by a teacher who wouldn’t work with us. Getting teachers informed and knowledgeable about RAD generally and your child specifically is critical to a successful partnership in handling behavior.

Of utmost importance is for the teacher to understand that you know RAD doesn’t excuse your child’s behaviors; it explains them. And you’re not using this illness to let your child get away with anything. Here’s a very good article for teachers on how to deal with a traumatized child. It may be a good reference for starting a conversation with your child’s teacher. Don’t be afraid of the phone…it’s all part of the process.

Until next time,

Shannon

Who are your child’s friends?

Sometimes RAD kiddos who don’t want to bond with anyone seem yet able to make attachments. But are they the right ones? It’s not always easy to figure out how children make the choices they do or why. But friendships are important for a child’s development. Here is a great article that talks about how it happens and about why it matters. So it can be good to know…who are your child’s friends?

August is very charming. He has a big personality and never had trouble drawing other children to him. From pre-school on he always had friends. However, it was kindergarten when I started to notice he had a gift for attracting the bad influence in any group situation. The child in his class with the spiked hair and frosted tips was like a magnetic for August. He was too cool for school and August worshiped him. It wasn’t a pattern yet but I wish I had noticed the way he was mesmerized by that child’s style because I would have known what to watch out for down the road. But five-year-olds aren’t that scary. And it can get much scarier.

As he moved through elementary school he always seemed to make friends. He had a friend who was Mormon. The seventh of nine children. This is the first child I saw August try to control. I think he was susceptible due to growing up with so many older siblings. But August had the intuition and was able to capitalize on it.

After we moved to North Carolina he made friends very quickly. As I mentioned in a prior post, the first day of school he came off the bus with a friend who he remained close to for years. But because we had to move him out of his neighborhood school, it became hard to keep friendships with the local kids. And making friends with kids at a school where kids come from all over the city was equally complicated. But he did pretty good at having friends though all the trouble he got into was by himself.

Some of his attempts to have friends came off as showing off. He didn’t have much, if any, interest in learning. His way to “fit in” was to carry around the biggest hard bound books he could find. And when taking tests if he couldn’t get the answers right he would rather be first. So he would always finish his test way ahead of anyone else.

Middle school was such a whirlwind of change that I don’t really know what to say about it. He was in sixth grade for half a year until he got in trouble and we pulled him out and I homeschooled him. We did have a good homeschool community where we lived so he did have the opportunity to spend time with other children. After a year of that, we tried putting him back into public school but that proved a disaster which ended with his bringing a water bottle full of vodka to school. That was another attempt to show off to some other kids. He was continuing to find the kids who would get him in trouble no matter where he went.

After this school attempt was the 16 months in residential treatment. It seems like maybe everyone in there would be a bad influence but there were definitely some at the extremes. And yes, August found those. The ones that set off the smoke alarms, the ones that convinced him to run away. I’m not saying he wasn’t culpable in these but he certainly was good at finding partners in crime.

Then there was high school. The first attempt was a private school designed for students who have behavioral issues. Small school, small classes, seemed like the perfect environment. He immediately found one student who thought like he did. Yes, another partner in crime. And in less than a year he’d been expelled. A new city and a new high school found new friends with whom he skipped school on a regular basis. And from there we were off to the races. The wheels fell off completely after that and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s always good to know who your child’s friends are. They will have an influence on how your child acts. And your child will have an affect on them. The same manipulation and controlling you see used on you can be used on their peers. So don’t be surprised if they lose friends or if you hear from parents. August did have a hard time with friends who would go periods not wanting to be around him. He sometimes had to be taken in small doses.

This is another aspect of RAD that just doesn’t show up in the same way with every child. But it will take some vigilance on your part to try and surround your child with the friends who will help them feel secure and validated. Here is an article with ideas about what to do when your child has a friend who is maybe a bad influence. And teach your child how to be a good friend and try and make sure that happens.

Until next time,

Shannon

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Do you remember being asked this question when you were a child? Do you remember asking this question of your own children? It comes along as children learn language with favorite color and food and others as we begin to form our identity as separate humans from our parents. We develop our own tastes and interests and passions which lead to our potential career choices. But for many of us, life takes turns between that question when we’re very young and now. So, what did you want to be when you grew up?

For a long time when I was growing up I wanted to be a doctor. Specifically, a pediatrician. I’m not sure where that thought came from. But that’s all I can remember ever wanting to be. And I, and my parents were very proud of that choice.

Until I realized an amazing fact. I loved ice skating when I was young. My best friend and I would go ice skating outside in winter at the pond in our hometown and at the ice rink down in Cincinnati other times of the year. You may or may not know that the machine that put down a new smooth coat of freezing water on an ice rink is a Zamboni truck. Well, one day at a Red’s baseball game there was a rain delay. They brought out a machine to suck up the water from the Astroturf and blow it over the outfield wall. Guess what that machine was? Yep. A Zamboni. I was thrilled. When I figured out I could work year round driving a Zamboni truck, I almost fell out of my chair. That became my new career obsession. Still is a little bit!

But the serious career aspiration of becoming a pediatrician stayed until college and my first semester when two things happened. My first chemistry class and my first psychology class. I hated chemistry and fell in love with psychology. Became a psychology major and never looked back. A semester or so later I took my first political science class and then every poli sci class I could make room for. Walked into college pre-med; walked out with a BA in psychology and a minor in political science.

Now I’m sure I’m not the only one with this kind of story. Part of the reason for college is discovery. Learning what you are passionate about and what you have a talent for. It’s part of the reason colleges don’t make you declare a major for the first two years. And I’m sure there’s a lot of you out there who are doing nothing even closely related to what you went to school for. That’s probably the second most common thing after having changed plans once we get to school.

So beyond a career or a college degree, what else did you want to be? Obviously we all wanted to be parents. But did you say when you were little, “I want to parent a RAD kiddo that’s going to test me every single day. A child that’s going to force me to put locks on my door and have a safe for all my valuables. Who I’m going to someday call the police on?” Was that what you wanted to be when you grew up? I imagine probably not.

You probably dreamed as we all do of your well-behaved children who would excel in sports and academics, grow up to respect you and other grown-ups, go to your alma mater and then take care of you in your old age. And wherever your dream veered off course, you may not have landed where you planned. But how has your life been enhanced by the challenges you’ve had to face? The people you have met along the way? The strength you’ve had to use that maybe you didn’t know you had?

I never planned to become a writer. I have always loved to write and it’s always been easy for me but I never saw it as a career. It took having a RAD kiddo to help me find this path and realize that writing was what I wanted to be when I grew up. There can be blessings that come from RAD that we don’t see in the moment but they show up in other places and times. My career has definitely been one of them.

Finding the good in the midst of bad is a great form of self-care. You may not have the idyllic dream you saw when you were young but there are happy moments and celebrations coming and still to come. Let that be your focus.

Until next time,

Shannon

Should Your Family Get A Pet?

Kids can wear you down. Their persistence is never-ending. When they want something they are like little Energizer bunnies and the, “Please, please, please…” just never ends. Nowhere is this more evident than the desire for a pet. Cats, dogs, hedgehogs, whatever it is…they can go forever until you cave. But for RAD kiddos, it may not always be the best idea. So, should your family get a pet?

August wanted a dog when he was five or six. His brother was just a baby and we we knew we’d be moving. I said he’d have to wait until the move and his brother was four. Which happened in the same year. So after the move, the negotiating began.

I decided that the first step was to keep some lower life forms alive first. Beginning with hermit crabs. We picked some up at the beach but those didn’t prove to like being relocated. So we bought some and got the whole set up. They require virtually no care. They are fun to watch and you can take them out which keeps them from being more like fish. But they aren’t very resilient. We went through a lot of them. The most memorable was when we thought we’d lost one and I threw it away in the bathroom trash can. Later that night it came crawling across the floor. For days later their dad would ask, “What do we do if Mommy says Daddy is dead? Call the doctor!”

From Hermit Crabs we moved to a Hamster named Oreo. This required regular food and water as well as cage cleaning. Food and water wasn’t so hard to get the boys to do. As expected the cage cleaning was another story. They were not fond of dealing with hamster poop. When Oreo died, August did have a very sweet funeral for him in the backyard, complete with a homemade tombstone and a requirement that all the family be present.

We didn’t get a dog. Soon after Oreo’s passing was when August’s behavior got really difficult and the timing just wasn’t right. Followed by divorce, followed by his going to CALO. I haven’t talked much about this period. CALO is Change Academy, Lake of the Ozarks. It is one of, if not the only, inpatient treatment facility just for RAD kiddos. I looked and looked and every place focused on addiction or all mental illnesses and I knew these wouldn’t work at all. And the cherry on top with CALO? They used dogs in their therapy!

August was able to get AKC-certified while working with Mia from when she was a puppy. Mia is a beautiful golden retriever who was bred on-site. The boys all got to name the puppies. The dogs were with the boys 24/7 except for meals. And the place was so joyful with all those dogs around! When August graduated and came home, he’d done the work for Mia to come also, but just as our dog. She’s retired now.

But it doesn’t always work for RAD kiddos and animals. Later on when he left home and was on the streets he tried to come get her and sell her. Mia wasn’t his first dog at CALO. The first dog was Destiny and her personality was more excitable. She was hard to train and August had little patience for her. He wouldn’t take her out when she needed but he did eventually realize that they were a bad match and make the switch. Mia was much more mellow and it worked great.

The RAD groups that I am on have story after story of children hurting pets or wild animals. It’s a manifestation of the hurt and rage they feel. And a way to hurt the people in their lives without actually hurting them. And something else to exert control over, which is central to the RAD mental state. Nancy Thomas parenting has a great article here on RAD and pets.

If you have a pet in the family, make sure you have thought through whether your RAD kiddo is mentally in the right place to have one and be alone with one. Then you can make sure you teach respect for animals so that they can grow up with that dog!

Until next time,

Shannon

How to find out what your child thinks of school.

For many years I would ask August at the end of a school day what was his favorite part of his day. That had to be quickly followed by, “Besides lunch and recess.” Otherwise, I got one of those two answers. Which was pretty predictable. For a child with ADHD and other undiagnosed learning issues as well as reactive attachment disorder, school can be a pretty tiresome and frustrating place. So I’ve put together some ideas on how to find out what your child thinks of school. In case you’ve experienced the same dilemma.

Every child usually has a favorite subject or a favorite teacher. That is the best place to start. Asking open-ended questions like, “What is your favorite teacher’s favorite word?” or “What did you work on in [insert favorite subject]?” These kinds of questions will hopefully get you more than one-word answers. And will then foster more questions and more conversation.

Asking questions about peers is also helpful. You might not be able to learn about specific children but you might be able to get a read of the room. Questions like, “Who said something funny today?” or “Who would you like to sit beside?” Now a quick word, this last question can be very helpful. August had a gift. He could seek out in any situation, the one child who could get him in the most trouble. Like a heat-seeking missile, he had the ability to find the one child he could connect with who had just as much ability to get into mischief as he did. He did it in school, summer camps, extra-curricular activities, you name it. It really was a gift.

I would recommend keeping some notes, particularly if some of the answers give you pause, to discuss at teacher conferences. You and the teacher can compare notes and it may give you both a more well-rounded picture of what your child is feeling about their school experience.

I found this article which has many more questions, some of them really funny! Whatever questions you ask, make sure your children know you are interested in more than their grades and their homework. Make sure they know you care about how they feel about being in school. Particularly with RAD kiddos, that may be harder to get to but it’s much better to put in the work than be caught off guard when the explosion happens, right?

Until next time,

Shannon

What Does Anxiety Look Like In RAD?

School anxiety is not unique to just RAD kiddos. Unfortunately with the ramped up focus on standardized testing and college entrance getting more and more competitive, school performance is more intense than ever. Even the most psychologically together child can feel the pressure. But our RAD kiddos feel anxiety on multiple fronts so adding school to the mix can create a whole new level. So, what does anxiety look like in RAD?

Our RAD kiddos live in a constant state of high alert. They are of the belief that they must stay vigilant because their very survival depends on it. Try adding to that the pressures of school. Navigating social interactions can be hard because RAD kiddos aren’t always good at picking up on social cues appropriately. A full school day is tiring and many RAD kiddos have sleep issues. The demands of school work during the day plus homework at night is rigorous and many RAD kiddos also have a learning disability. All of this on top of the anxiety already innate in RAD is the perfect storm.

What teachers and school staff may see is anxiety and other behaviors that seem “extreme” to the situation. What does that mean? With August it was simple. And I had to explain it again and again. And again. His anxiety came out as anger. He absolutely boiled over with anxiety. And to those not familiar with this reaction it would make no sense in context with the situation.

RAD kiddos have so much anxiety they can’t always control it and don’t know how to manage it. And their “fight or flight” primal instincts will kick in. As well as their basic needs to control their circumstances. These will always win out whenever they feel anxious. And again, in a school situation, this will not always be known or apparent to the random choir teacher or substitute in science class.

What is the way to handle the overload of anxiety our RAD kiddos bring to school? How do we explain to educators what anxiety looks like in RAD? These aren’t easy questions to answer. The answer starts when they first wake up in the morning. If you are one of those families that lives in a constant state of chaos, making your morning routine as calm as possible will help lessen the anxiety that starts the day. I have had mixed success with that! Some easy things like a good breakfast with protein are important. Protein is great for brain function. We have gone through massive amounts of pre-cooked bacon over the years!

Now that I’ve been substitute teaching, I know that every child with an IEP or Behavior plan has a write-up with their primary teacher regarding important things to know about their conduct and any considerations that are important for their safety. I don’t know if these are given to every teacher who has that student (I imagine so) but I know that as a sub it’s not called out very often. Some teachers I fill in for will, most do not. And I know the chances are extremely rare that this information will be necessary. But August’s anxiety got really ramped up when the rest of the class got excited due to having a substitute so knowing this would have really helped me as a substitute in his class.

If your RAD kiddo has exceptional anxiety issues and they don’t have a Behavioral Intervention Plan, inquire about getting one set up. It gets on paper some goals for them but it also outlines their options for getting out of anxiety-producing situations before they get in trouble or things explode. They are great ways to define the relationship between your RAD kiddo and the teachers to handle their anxiety.

In August’s case, just knowing he had options was enough. He didn’t use his “outs” for when he gets overwhelmed much. Just having the options eased his anxiety well-enough in most

I think it’s important that your children know their options and they feel confident in what they can control. Because as we all know control is key. Getting a check on their emotional state in the morning maybe at breakfast would be a good idea. See where they are on a 1-10 scale. Is there a test that day? Maybe if they’re already sitting at a seven, a call to the school might be in order.

All children deal with some kind of anxiety. School is rough! I wouldn’t want to be a student these days. For some other ideas on how to help your child with school anxiety, here is a wonderful article. Here’s to having a great-and CALM-school year!

Until Next Time,

Shannon

Taking Care of Siblings

May 1, 2001. The day we got the call with our court date in Russia to finalize our adoption of August. May 3, 2001. The day I found out I was pregnant with his brother. Yes, it was every bit that connected. And yes, we were shocked and happy and terrified. My statement to this day is, “Two kids in seven months. Wouldn’t change it. Don’t recommend it.” But what it meant is that after barely having a chance to get to know August, I would find myself taking care of siblings.

First camping trip. Four and five months old.

By the time his brother was born, August had a pretty good ability to speak English. It included comments when his brother would cry like, “I told you we shouldn’t have picked this one.” Because like him, August thought all children were adopted. And like a lot of older siblings, he regressed in some ways. So we spent considerable time cleaning up peed on toys and sheets in his room. That felt really angry on his part. But we were yet to get his RAD diagnosis so we just thought it jealousy.

Every once in a while, something truly weird and magical happened…

As they grew (they are almost four years apart) I had hoped they’d get along and become the best of friends. Well that’s not what happened. There was the time August colored his brother’s bare bottom with a black sharpie when he was a year or two old. There was constant manipulation. August loved the outdoors and being active. His brother was into reading and music and theater. So there weren’t many things they shared an interest in. They did find some common ground in video games. Though inevitably August’s temper would bring an awful ending to most gaming sessions.

Then there was the size difference. From about the time his brother was two (which made August six), I started reminding August, “You’ll always be the older brother, even if you’re not always the bigger brother.” August was and still is, small for his age. We don’t know if that genetics or his early trauma. But his brother was born into some big person genetics so he moved past August in height pretty early on. We worried that would be a problem but August’s sense of self is amazingly healthy.

I think this is maybe 11 and 15. The height difference is way worse now.

But I was not always able to take care of their relationship and foster it the way I had hoped. And I wasn’t able to protect his brother from what August unleashed when he was raging due to RAD. It wasn’t easy to contain his anger which would move throughout the house as he would spin out of control. And sometimes August had to capture a disproportionate amount of our attention which would leave his brother with much less of our time than he deserved.

I wrote about this last Spring but today I want to talk about what to do to take care of those Siblings. How do we make sure that they don’t become collateral damage in the ongoing war for the healing of our RAD kiddo? Sometimes it seems like after doing battle with our RAD kiddo we have nothing left. Not for our spouse, our job, our home or the other children who also want our love and attention. The same as if you had a child with cancer or another chronic illness, whatever it is that forces more attention on one child, creates tremendous guilt for what you are not able to give to the others.

I was going to put together my ideas for what to do to help siblings cope with having a RAD kiddo the home, but this article hits all the buttons and puts it together with a bow. So click the link. Do it.

The important thing to remember is when there’s a child suffering trauma in a home, everyone must deal with it. Consider the stress and anxiety you are feeling and your other children are also feeling that to some degree. Consider what will help them cope and get ahead of their needs and feelings as you are doing your own self-care.

Until next time,

Shannon

Where Did My Friends Go?

Have you asked yourself, “Where did my friends go?” since you started your journey with reactive attachment disorder? For many of us, a RAD diagnosis wasn’t the parenting experience we signed up for. We dreamed of fun play dates at the park and maybe having neighbors with children of the same age who we would become life-long friends with. And we’d watch our children grow up together and go to the same schools and be on the same soccer teams. The boys and girls would date and go to prom and it would all be like a cute version of High School Musical. Until they go off to the same college and we all watch them, arm-in-arm with tears in our eyes. Then go off and celebrate with many bottles of wine!

Well that’s not how it’s going, is it? For me it wasn’t. From kindergarten through second grade, none of his friends had moms who I had anything in common with. When we moved, the neighborhood seemed more promising. It was over Spring Break during second grade and he wanted to ride the bus home the very first day. There was a boy in his class who lived in the neighborhood who’d help him so I said OK. He jumped off the bus that afternoon saying, “Mom! Can I go to Andrew’s house!” This boy had obviously made an impression and the two of them became fast friends.

He also made friends with the kiddos who lived behind us. And the boy in the cul-de-sac up the street. And a boy a couple of streets over. So you might think things from a friendship standpoint were going well for him. And as a result for me. But as is so often the case with RAD kiddos, being friends with them can be intense. And they can overwhelm their friends with attention, with demands for doing things their way and impulsivity which children don’t always understand. So his relationships with the kids in the neighborhood were somewhat fluid. They’d be fine for a while then someone would just burn out and have to take a break. So there’d be a period of no contact.

As August got older and his behaviors got more problematic, I started to feel some of the separation. It wasn’t intentional; who knows what to say to someone whose son got arrested for stealing a cell phone in 6th grade? Or bringing vodka to 8th grade? He’d switched schools so much that he wasn’t in the same schools as any of the neighborhood friends which further isolated him and us.

Then you wake up one day and you figure out your child doesn’t have anything in common with the neighborhood kids. You can’t coordinate play dates because no one wants their kiddo to play with yours. And After the stolen cell phone his Saturdays were spent doing community service. You can’t chat at the pool about what your kids are up to because there isn’t anything your kid is doing that other kids are involved in.

Any of this sound familiar? Nothing is intentional in any of this. It’s just life. Just the saga of having a RAD kiddo who doesn’t fit in the box of “normal” when it comes to social interaction. And how that translates to your social interactions as well. It can be pretty defeating and isolating when you are dealing with issues your friends and your children’s parents can only hear about and be shocked.

When August first got diagnosed I sought out comfort on social media where I found a lot of parents like me. The only problem was they all seemed to be living everywhere except where I was. And it only goes so far when you can’t crack open a bottle of wine or dive deep into a pint of ice cream over the internet.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have some amazing friends. Some who have seen me through every scream and tear and terrified moment. They hear everything August does and take it all in without judgement or alienation. And I love them dearly.

Here is an idea of why our friends may have a hard time sticking it out. Your true friends may not be able to help you but they will get you and they will stick by you. And the best friends will bring wine!

Until Next time,

Shannon