chess gameI had a phone call the other day from a woman who has adopted two girls from an orphanage in Russia. She already had four biological children when she and her husband adopted these eleven-year-old girls three years ago. The girls already didn’t like each other in the orphanage and didn’t want to be adopted together. That’s the icing on the cake for two Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) girls. They would have been beyond challenging even if they had liked each other, but that they arrived in conflict- Wow!

The woman who called me had heard about my kids and how well they are doing. She is now where I was eight months ago when I was writing hopeless, despairing, posts. One of her daughters, especially, is giving them fits and they can’t find any consequence that works. Their next door neighbors don’t understand RAD and see angry parents not handling bad behavior. They’ve threatened to call Child Protective Services.

Like I did for years, she dreads the arrival of her daughter home from school and often can’t stand to be in her presence. Just like the rest of us, I told her. She almost cried she was so relieved that other parents with RAD kids felt the same. I told her that all the parents in the support group we attend do or did feel the same at one point. It’s just par for the course with RAD kids.

We talked for a while and I referred her to the attachment therapist we see and the horse therapist and the support group. But mainly I told her she’s normal, and it’s normal for RAD kids in a family to tear it apart–initially. Until the parents start to understand the kids and how to work with them. Just as I was typing this, my ten-year-old son (who is having a VERY bad day) sat down to watch t.v. instead of following my direction to do his chores. When I noticed, anger flared up inside me but I talked myself down. He wants to make you mad so he doesn’t have to feel his feelings. Getting mad at him keeps you both stuck. So I called him over and told him with a big smile how awesome I thought it was that he didn’t want to follow my rules. Then I gave him a chance to get out his I-don’t-want-to-do-my-chores energy with some jumping jacks. He may not be any happier about doing the chores but I’m happy that I handled it so well and I feel fine.

I’ve decided it’s like a chess game. They make a move and it’s up to me to make a better move. I actually enjoy the challenge. Now not everybody enjoys chess, I understand. But the idea is that there are logical, predictable reasons why our RAD kids act the way they do, and we as parents can figure out those reasons and be ready. It might be the most exhausting, draining, back-breaking thing we’ve ever done, but I’m more and more convinced that’s why these special kids come to our families: to heal us!

I hope this woman takes the steps I took to achieve the really satisfying results we’re seeing in my family. There IS hope. You just have to do the work and then I think things can be even better in a family with RAD kids than in a family without them. My mother used to quote a line from a Sara Teasdale poem: Joy fills the cup that sorrow carves.

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