Appears happy, very charming, enjoyable, kind toward those outside the family but is often uncontrollable inside the home
Appears perplexed or concerned because he isn't sure if it was his wife or the child who is causing all the conflict.
Feels, frustrated, tired, depressed and angry.
If you see this in a family, that is a BIG RED FLAG! Why would a typically happy person turn angry and depressed? In domestic abuse situations we see a similar dynamic. The abuser is generally a charming individual while the one who is suffering the abuse will attempt to save face. Eventually however the facade will begin to crumble and you will see anger, defeat, bitterness or even a resignation to such a life. Why is it so difficult to imagine such a situation involving a mother and child? I think in part, it is due to the belief we have that a child wouldn't have any reason to hurt his mother and if he did hurt her, then he had good reason....she must be "picking on him." What we fail to take into consideration is that, the child may be angry, scared and confused about life in general. Why was I adopted? Why didn't my mom love or take care of me? What is wrong with me? Is it my fault? And the big one....if I was taken from my birth mom, what is keeping me from being removed from this mom? A child cannot understand that things will be different now so he does what he can to protect himself from the pain of needing to be removed from his foster/adoptive mom (or dad if he is the primary caregiver). A child with RAD will do all in his power to make himself unloveable because he knows if he allows mom to love him, he will fall in love with her and it is going to be that much more painful when, not IF, he needs to move on. You would think if you told the child you love him and he is safe often enough he would eventually believe you. Think of it this way, If someone tried to persuade you it is safe to jump off a cliff, would you believe them? If they told you this, demonstrated it, showed you others who jumped off and landed safely, would it make a difference? Probably not because you learned as a baby that to fall from heights is dangerous. When you were a little tyke learning to climb you climbed on a chair and fell off, you climbed on the sofa and fell off, you stood on the table and fell off....the "height/fall: template in your brain was created and every time you fell from a height it reinforced that template. The only way to change it is to begin jumping from high places and landing safely....but that is to scary, what if you hurt yourself or worse die from it? Perhaps you now have a parachute to prevent injury, even so, you will still be afraid to jump. That is exactly how a child with RAD feels....he will die if he allows himself to love and others to love him. A child who is not nurtured cannot empathize. I was reading more of the book: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog and it said children with RAD cannot imagine themselves in a situation thus they are unable to feel anothers pain. When you empathize with someone it is because you are feeling their pain, imagining yourself in their situation. Without that ability you could do anything no matter how cruel and feel no remorse or regret.
Another interesting thing I learned from the book is that when a baby is still in the womb he hears mom's heart beat which is app 80 beats per minute. After birth when baby is stressed i.e. hungry, wet, cold or in pain mom takes him in her arms and rocks him. Instinctivly you rock at about 80 "rocks per minute". Faster and the baby is overstimulated and cries, slower and he isn't soothed and continues to cry. It is through this rocking that the baby learns to self regulate. His brain learns what level his heart rate should be when calm and when mom repeatedly calms baby his brain learns how to calm the child. Without that, he cannot self regulate which all parents with children from hard places, not just children with RAD, know all about. Children who are stressed will have a rapid heart beat, enlarged pupils, shallow, rapid breathing and generally hold themselves stiffly. Learn to know when your child is stressed/triggered and remove your child from whatever it is that is causing him to escalate. Have him take deep, slow breaths, massage his back or shoulders, if he allows it, hold him close and let him hear your heart beat. Last night Joseph was stressed and couldn't sleep so I rocked him, putting his ear to my chest and letting him listen to my heart beating. I explained why I am doing it and how I used to rock him like that when he was a baby and how children feel safe when they can hear mom's heat beating. He calmed right down!!! This from the child who will scream and thrash about when distressed! I told Dean the whole thing reminded me of the verse in Psalms: " I will praise thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy ways and that my soul knoweth right well."
Not all children who suffer neglect or abuse will develop RAD. Only those who do not bond with anyone at birth or shortly there after. A child who bonds with someone, then is moved about to various homes may develop attachment disorder but the brain has already formed the attachment template. Whereas a child who never bonds doesn't have that template. The brain is much like a muscle in that what you use strengthens and what you don't use atrophies. A child can learn to bond but it will never be like that of a child who has bonded as an infant.
So how can you help a family who has a similar profile to the one I shared at the beginning of the post? First, believe them when they share their struggles. It may be impossible to imagine the child doing the things the parent is describing but please give the parent the benefit of the doubt. The child WILL know how you feel about the situation, he will act on it and in the end you are causing the child incredible damage as well as making it harder for the hurting caregiver to show the love and empathy the child needs to heal. Read up on the subject. There are books and information out there. They will confirm what you are being told, then let the parent know that while you may not understand, you will be praying. In the child's presence comment about what a great mom they have. Be honest, these children will know if you are being fake! Ask the mom out of the child's hearing what you can do to help the family. I had a friend who told me she prays for us whenever she is up at night with her baby. That meant so much. Even if you are sure the parent is making a big issue out of nothing, pray for the family. Praying cannot hurt, pray that the truth would prevail and the family will find healing. Don't give the child food if his mom is with him. Feeding your child encourages bonding. Mom's, be firm about being the only one to feed your child until he heals. I would fill Bradens plate and hand it to him, so he associated having his hunger assuaged with mom. Ask the parents before giving gifts. Children with RAD feel they do not deserve gifts and will either destroy them to prove their point or use the gift as a wedge. For instance, you buy your child some match box cars and he breaks them all, on purpose. You tell him you will not buy him new ones. When someone hands him a gift....of match box cars, guess what the child will do? Go to mom and say, "Look what I got? I am so happy!" Then run and give the giver a huge hug and smile with a smirk for you....all in the name of keeping up the barrier. If you invite the family over and mom declines, don't feel offended. Most likely mom would love to come but knows that her child cannot handle all the extra stimulation or maybe she knows her child will have to many opportunities to manipulate thus undoing progress.
RAD is hard but if you have understanding friends and family who do not judge you, chances are you will be able to find blessings even in the midst of pain. We have experienced judgement and later understanding by those close to us. In turn we experienced some of our most discouraging times but when they began to "see what we saw" and showed their love and concern our hearts began to heal.