talking

Most friends and family don’t truly understand what’s going on inside as you raise a child with reactive attachment disorder. They don’t see inside your heart, mind, or home behind closed doors. You, your child, and your household often look entirely different to them than the reality of your life.

Isolation—it’s often the hardest part of raising children with developmental trauma (a.k.a. reactive attachment disorder). To be understood and supported is half the battle. Here at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development, the following is what we’d guess you’d like your friends and family to understand. If it resonates, share them with and educate those around you.

5 things you’d like to say as you raise a child with developmental trauma (and for your friends and family to actually understand):

  1. My child looks like other kids on the outside, but not on the inside. A child who has experienced early trauma looks like any other child physically. However, early trauma actually changes the brain. He is behind emotionally and neurologically.
  1. My child probably seems like a “perfect” kid to you but…there’s a lot you can’t see. Reactive attachment disorder is extremely tricky and not always obvious. As one of our therapeutic treatment moms put it, reactive attachment disorder looks like a child that waits until the coast is clear before reaching into the cookie jar.
  1. I can feel when you judge me and it hurts. To live with a child with reactive attachment disorder is like walking on eggshells and is overwhelmingly stressful. I need you to stand beside me rather than behind me.
  1. I know that my parenting looks different than what you know. It’s on purpose. Traditional parenting techniques don’t work for kids with reactive attachment disorder. Unless you have experience raising a child with reactive attachment disorder too, please don’t question me.
  1. I feel isolated but it’s hard for me to reach out. It would mean the world to me if you could remember to call me every once in a while or make plans for coffee.

As you’re raising a child with reactive attachment disorder, remember that you’re not alone. People worldwide experience the same isolation. There is unity in education and advocacy. Continue to reach out and educate your small circles. Together, we can grow those circles into powerful sources of understanding, support, and love surrounding children suffering from early trauma and the adults who care for them.

Related links:

Why many adoptive families don’t get casseroles

When a child with developmental trauma breaks your wings

VIDEOS: Learn more about reactive attachment disorder from the Institute for Attachment & Child Development

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: For over 15 years, Nichole has helped to raise awareness of critical nonprofit programs and services in Arizona and Colorado. With a passion for family and healthy child development, Nichole has helped to connect thousands of adoptive and foster parents with one another and with resources and advocacy tools for their families. Nichole earned a Crisis Communication Certification (2017) and is on PRSA’s Association/Nonprofit Social Media Committee. Nichole holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism (University of Arizona) and a Master of Education (Regis University) and has been with IACD since 2012.

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