Today's post is about gifts, be it a piece of candy, a card, note, toy or key chain, book or snack.......
As anyone who has parented a child with RAD, or a lesser form of attachment disorder knows, the subject of gifts is a touchy one.
The reason is as simple and complicated as this: A healthy well attached infant views the world and those who inhabit his world as safe. He assumes everyone is out to make the world a better, safer place for him. The child who has no bond, or an unhealthy one, is quite the opposite. His world is a scary place where he has to outsmart and manipulate everyone before they have the opportunity to hurt him. He views people as "things" objects to use to fulfill his desires rather than people with whom he can have a close and loving relationship.
As the parent of a child with RAD, it was scary to watch the manipulation and triangulation in progress, what was even more terrifying was how easily he could do this and the adults didn't even know they had been had.
Children with attachment disorder as well as those from hard places, as we adoptive parents refer to the difficult situations our children came from, find gifts to be one of the ultimate tools to use against their parents who are trying their best to form a bond with the child. These children prefer gifts over other forms of bonding that may encourage a relationship with their parents. The only thing better is receiving something from someone other than mom and dad.
Why would they value things given to them by someone else over what is given by their parents, you ask. Because, and this is especially true for the child in therapy who knows that good things are only supposed to come from mom, they assume the giver is on their side.
As parents, we have to work very hard to teach our children that things do not equal love. I am not sure if this comes from deprivation, or if things just feel safer because they don't require a relationship. Two of our children struggle with this, one because of the whole relationship thing and the other because FASD prevents him from forming a strong bond.
Then there is how the parent feels....when you have a child with attachment issues, by necessity, you have to parent them differently. This includes what looks to many like a very deprived life. A life devoid of over stimulation, a lack of opportunities to manipulate people and few possessions. The latter is because of their penchant for wanting stuff over relationships as well as the fact that this "stuff" is often destroyed either in a fit of rage, used as a means of manipulation or as a way of portraying their feelings of lack of self worth.
When you limit your child's possessions to a few items that are safe for them and they acquire new things from other people it makes it hard to be sure your child is safe. We have to be very careful with Joseph because he can and will turn any object into something with which he can hurt himself or others.
While we realize most people mean well, it is hard when they give our attachment child special attention and gifts. This child who has made life so hard for you, who is actively pushing you away is now putting on his charm and using it to gain not only possessions, but is secretly getting people on his side. Whether or not the giver realizes it, the child is using them to put up another layer between him and his parents. While we yearn for our children to be able to give and accept gifts like emotionally healthy children can, we know they must first develop the crucial bond with their parents, everything else comes in second.
One of our children is a master at getting things from other people. She uses various methods and then Dean and I have to try and figure out where she got an item, if the story is as she told it and then work on repairing the damage to our relationship. She naturally doesn't feel safe if she can do things under our noses and not get caught. We have become very adept at deciphering what will encourage or hinder the bond building process that is in progress all day, every day.
So if you know a child who has either full blown RAD or struggles with attachment and the parents have rules in place that may seem unnecessary or even unjust, remember these rules are implemented to help the child build a bond with his parents, something that is vital to his well being.