Sometime during our lives, we all cross paths with attachment disordered individuals. In business, they are the ones having trouble getting along with others, or they have a desk in the back of the room and don't mingle with others and don't care. Other attachment people can sometimes charm us or con us. Very often these individuals grow up untreated and have no concern for other people. RAD children have learned early on that the world is unsafe, and have developed unhealthy protective shells that the outside world cannot pierce and that is the only way they feel secure. They become their own protectors and as such can turn everyone against them.
These individuals are extremely controlling. They need to control in order to feel safe. Usually when they were little children and could not control their environment, bad things happened to them. One teacher I knew told me of a child that if you watched her eye movements and body language when she walked into the classroom; it told her entire story for that day. She would pause for a moment at the doorway and look around the room, studying it . From that moment on she knew exactly what was going on in any corner of the room at any moment. It's the only way she felt protected.
Trusting is very difficult for RAD people. Trusting means to love -- and loving hurts as far as they're concerned. They have been hurt too deeply. Loving has to be on their terms, otherwise they believe they will be hurt again. Everything in their world is controlled by them on their own terms. No one gets into their world without passing their tests -- to prove they are trustworthy.
Usually attachment individuals are moved around from one institution to another or one foster home to another or even from one relative to another relative. They cannot trust that the same person will be there on any given day to gratify their needs. They learn therefore not to trust or love and are unable to attach to anyone, causing them to be very resistant later to attachment if they are adopted. These children who are moved around a lot find difficulty attaching and then when they do get adopted they come into a family that they do not know, who suddenly want to meet their every need and hug them, feed them and love them. They have never experienced this familiarity and it scares them and they are distrusting.
Parents adopting children who have experienced abuse, neglect or have been institutionalized have a long road ahead of them in order to be loved by the child. With help, from an attachment professional, love and much patience, it can happen. When these children grow up and start exhibiting anger and then total rage, it can be quite fearful to the unsuspecting parents. And these children do have lots of anger and rage, but it is based on fear -- that they will be abandoned again, that they can't trust and deep down they feel that they don't deserve being loved because they are not good enough. It is amazing to hear some of these children after they've grown to tell you that they hoped their birth moms could see them now because she would know that they didn't turn out to be such a bad kid after all. I've heard grown ups talk this way. The little child inside never leaves.
Working with attachment children in the past, I saw the experience from the child's side and from the parent's side. One mother used to tell her daughter how much she loved her constantly and that she was going to be her "Forever Mom" and that they were going to have such a wonderful life together. And that was nice, but this little child listened politely and was so controlled that the mother didn't know how far she was missing the mark. Talk usually doesn't work with these children and this particular child had years of abuse and consistent abandonments; she didn't believe that she deserved to be loved. The child didn't yet have the capacity to believe that someone would love her and probably thought that this mother was being stupid for saying it. A technique she was told to use was this. She'd sneak up on her, usually from behind, surprise her and tell her something like, "I love you so much and I'm so glad you're with me," and then she'd leave quickly. Another time she would say, "Isn't it great that I've got you and you've got me?" And then she'd have to disappear instantly. Just tiny little doses of love was all she could handle and if she was caught off guard and the mother talked fast, she could say her pitch before this child really had time to think or react. If the mother talked too long, the child would immediately go into disbelief. But love in little doses slowly started to take hold.
Another thing about most attachment kids is that they do not laugh a lot. They laugh superficially, but not a real good belly laugh that you need and feel. So we had this mother doing and saying silly things. Sometimes she would dance around the room like a ballerina, and the child would sit there in shock, but it did get her laughing and that's what we wanted. Sometimes this child would say, "Mom, you're so pathetic." But that was okay. It got a little laughter going.
You wouldn't tell these children that they were pretty or handsome because they couldn't handle that. But the girl was an especially good student. And so the mother could say, "You did great on that math test." Or if she wanted to give her a personal compliment, she had to give her something she could handle or believe -- "You did your hair real nice today."
Working with an attachment child is tough and there's not much gratification for a long time. Just when you think there's progress, the rage comes back. Yet, that doesn't mean there isn't any progress. Progress inches in and keeps coming as long as we give these children laughter and love. Don't let them fool you and drag you into an argument. They want your anger. They handle anger much better than love. I believe they have so much turmoil and pain inside that they relate better to anger. Just don't give it to them. There are ways to give answers without anger. Another example from the same mother was when her daughter came home after getting a C- on a test. She didn't study. The mother knew she didn't study. The child was almost proud when she showed her mother the report card. She really wanted her to get mad. Why? Because she could deal with anger better and then, of course, it takes the responsibility for the bad grade off of her and she would only have to deal with her mother's anger. And it was another test from the child. Would they send her back now? But this wise mother didn't answer in anger. Instead she said, "I'm so sad for you. It must be very embarrassing getting a grade like that." That was all she said and she walked away. This really confused the child and she had something to think about that had nothing to do with anger. There was no anger about the grade; it was all her responsibility.
There are different gradations of attachment disorder from mild to quite severe. The mild types have an easier time of it, although hidden traumas can fester and turn up years later. But the medium to severe types are the ones with anger and rage that seems unbelievable coming out of a little child. These are the ones that need help, but from someone who knows how to deal with them. Go to an expert on attachment disorder -- I can't stress that enough. They are the professionals who can see through their manipulation and excuses and get them to look inside themselves thus beginning a period of healing. These children can fool a lot of people -- they are experts in the area of survival -- and unless the professional is well versed in attachment disorder, you could be wasting your time as well as your money.
Give attachment children laughter and love and your empathy. Remember there is always hope. Nancy Thomas, whom I consider one of the experts in attachment disorder, when asked if older children could still be helped replied, "Oh Yes, as long as they're still breathing -- that's the only requirement." All these children need is the correct therapy -- attachment therapy and parents who are willing to learn along with them.
Note: Anyone who would like to discuss or would like more information on how to deal with the special problems that some adoptive children have, feel free to contact me through my blue Home Page link, "Contact Author."
My second book in the Sammi Evans Mystery series, Your Thoughts Can Trap You deals with RAD children.
. Your Thoughts Can Trap You: A Sammi Evans Mystery by
Jeanne L. Drouillard
. When Love Is Not Enough by Nancy Thomas
. The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier