How to Manage Reactive Attachment Disorder
Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD, is a disorder that occurs when babies and young children are unable to form secure attachments with caregivers. This is often due to previous neglect, abuse, or trauma. While considered uncommon in the general population, studies show it occurs in 5% of children when first placed into foster care. Fortunately, children can often improve when placed in a caring and supportive foster family. Here, we will provide some tips to help you build a strong bond with a child that suffers from RAD.
Empathy and Patience
Children with RAD often endured chaotic and unstable environments early in life. Their basic needs were not consistently met, so they learned not to trust their caregiver. This means the child never had a secure attachment, which is an important developmental milestone. It’s normal to feel hurt if your foster child doesn’t initially connect with you. But it’s important to know it is not personal. The lack of connecting with you is their defense mechanism to protect them from more hurt and trauma. If you are patient and keep working with the child, your relationship will likely improve.
Consistency and Safety
Children with RAD feel unsafe, alone, and often fearful of others. For a child with RAD to improve, they must have a stable environment, and basic needs should be consistently met. You must prove that you can and will meet the child’s basic needs. Food should be given and prepared around the same time each day. Even running out of something basic, like milk or cereal, can create distress for a child with a history of neglect. Try to keep your routines, like what time you get home from work, the same. Staying gone for longer unexpectedly can make the child fear they’ve been abandoned. Over time, your child will begin to see that they can trust you.
Stay Calm and Set Boundaries
When your child suffers from an emotional outburst, you must remain patient and calm. Show that you care about their feelings by letting them speak and listening to everything they say. Then calmly explain why their behavior is inappropriate and the consequences of their behavior. Being calm and patient when communicating is not the same thing as letting a child rule the home. Setting and communicating boundaries is very important. Kids with RAD do much better when limits are set because it gives them more control over their behavior. A solid boundary means the child always knows what to expect without question or doubt.
By being consistent and spending time with your child, RAD can often improve. It does require extra work and won’t happen overnight, but things will get better. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone for support if you are feeling overwhelmed. If you would like more information on fostering, please contact us at 2ingage today.