Read the following topics written for parent supporting children struggling with behaviors from Reactive Attachment Disorder
Why Rad Kids Charm
As children age with reactive attachment disorder, certain characteristics emerge - one being charming others outside the home. A child with this disorder charms others by showing a false self as "normal", while saving the real self for home, particularly for the primary attachment figure, the one most often taking care of the child. Since commonly teachers, friends, and even some family members or counselors do not witness the children's attachment pathology, the primary attachment figure expriences rejection and hurt, as the truth is dismissed. We can understand this dynamic by looking at opposites.
A normally developed and attached child trust the primary attachment figure, and desires to please this person. A child traumatized during the attachment stage, if in association with the primary attachment figure, does not trust, and therefore desires to hurt. The charming is an outcome of a defense mechanism knows as splitting. It is a Jeckel and Hyde scenario. However, this behavior of charming, definitely rude and hurtful to the primary, is not under the child's control. It is similar to a split of personality, but without going so far as giving each split an identity.
We can reverse this process with more understanding and making shifts to do what the child needs. If you have a split child who charms, the job is to change the original traumatic association to a safe, positive warm and joyful one. Imagine a newborn baby and the constant amount of attention required for the first three years of life. This is similar and yet delicate work, because of the tight energy surrounding a child with rad who believes the self does not need another. This book will contain the ingredients to create this association and side step the pathology. Stay tuned weekly for more.
Why Rad Kids Hate Boundaries but Need Them
We can understand children with attachment disorder through the lens of the first stage of development, attachment. The task of building trust and security of the self, by attaching with one consistent nurturing primary parent figure. The second stage of development is the separation process, recognizing the self as a separate entity from the primary and working through anxieties for this to occur. Separation occurs as the parent sets limits, boundaries. Boundaries are a necessary process to recognize reality as it really is, and for the development of a healthy and whole self. A child with avoidant style attachment disorder shows a strong assertive self, but as a defense, not a whole healthy self. This child is intelligent; however, this intelligence does not share the same side of the brain as the side of attachment (Schore, 2003; Davis, 1999).
Children with attachment disorder hate boundaries. A boundary word like "no" can set off a tantrum or rage. First off, they are stuck in the attachment stage so separation is neurologically difficult. Secondly, this child desires to control reality, because left up to others trauma happens. Opposition or defensiveness appears when faced with limits, direction, and structure. To assist the separation process and help your child accept boundaries - attachment, specifically bonding must increase too. Look at attachment and separation as two sides of the same coin; separation can not exist without attachment. Bonding and boundaries really do help this child, even though the child resists, causing potential confusion for parents on what to do. Attachment was initially associated with trauma and working on this is growth. Familiarity is comfortable. Growth is change and change isn't easy. Oppositional behavior and resistance is this child's reaction to maintain familiarity. Resistance decreases when received with understanding and compassion, facilitating growth movement. Next is a fictitious example that illustrates setting boundaries and supporting growth.
A mother adopted a girl of six, appearing sure of herself, but she would often fly into a tantrum when directed to stop something, get something or do something. If she directed her and ignored the tantrum, it could escalate to a rage. She especially noticed an immediate response to the word no. After some time in therapy, the mother would hold her and show understanding for how hard it was to listen when adults before hurt her (or were not available). A few details may be inserted here. As the child continues displaying her rage and hurt, the mother would comfort her by rocking and repeating reassurances like she will be okay soon. When she begins to calm, the mother makes it clear she has no intention of hurting her, by making direct statements like, "I will not hurt you like that. You can count on me. I am here for you." Remaining present, speaking truth of the origin of hurt, and reassuring this child of no further hurt will assist in creating a bridge to security and the ability to attach.
Cuddling your Rad-Avoidant Child
Attachment disordered children with avoidant sub style prefer an affectionless existence. Therefore, when cuddling, allow your child control over how he or she moves around in your lap and when it ends. In the beginning work with this child, he or she may be tight or show discomfort, so use this time briefly, but work hard to create a positive association, a reason for this child to have a relationship with you. Add in a treat that the child likes to jump start associating you positively. And for children more resistant to cuddling, provide a calming supplement like a tablespoon of calcium/magnesium or calms forte 15 minutes before hand.
Cuddling your Rad-Anxious Child
Attachment disordered children with anxious sub style like cuddling, in fact they may want to cuddle more than the parent prefers. It is important to create a comfortable togetherness that both enjoy. This child seems to not get enough attention and cuddling barely suffices to tame the need. This has to do with a lack of boundaries within the child to contain experiences of bonding. It is like a two step dance. For this child to really feel the love cuddling provides, the child has to have many experiences of boundaries. Boundaries will be reviewed in depth next week.
As you know your child best, Beth welcomes your feedback on the weekly topic - click the email link here to send information theattachment email@example.com
Davis, J. (1999). The Diamond Approach: An introduction to the Teachings of A. H. Almaas. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications.
Schore, A. (2003). Affect Regulation and the Repair of the Self. New York, NY: Norton.