Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
in Parents of
Reactive Attachment Disordered Children

by Jody Swarbrick

Many foster and adoptive families of Reactive Attachment Disordered children live in a home that has become a battleground. In the beginning, the daily struggles can be expected, after all, we knew that problems would occur. Initially, stress can be so subtle that we lose sight of a war which others do not realize is occurring. We honestly believe that we can work through the problems. Outbursts, rages, and strife become a way of life. An emotionally unhealthy way of life. We set aside our own needs and focus on the needs of our children. But what does it cost us?

The majority of the population does not understand the dynamics of parenting a RAD child. Family and friends may think that you -- the parent are the one with the problem. Families are frequently turned in on false abuse allegations. Support is non-existent, because outsiders can't even begin to imagine that children can be so destructive. 

It is a known fact, that kids diagnosed with RAD tend to target their Moms, play it cool around their Dads, and charm strangers. Where does that leave a parent? Without strong support and understanding, the parent will become isolated, demoralized, hurt, confused, and often held accountable for the actions of their child. 

Families are simply not prepared for the profound anger that lives in the heart and soul of our RAD children. It's heartbreaking, frustrating, mindboggling, and extremely stressful. In essence, we're fighting to teach our children how to love and trust. Intimacy frightens our children; they have lost the ability to love, to trust, and to feel remorse for hurtful actions. They see us as the enemy. Small expectations on our part can set our children off in ways that are not only indescribable, but also often unbelievable.

Your home becomes a war zone and you feel totally inadequate. You begin to question your parenting abilities, and your own sanity. You know that your child has been hurt beyond words, you ache for them. Despite your loving intentions and actions, it's thrown in your face.  Your heart's desire is to provide your child with untold opportunities, a future, and all the love in the world. You want to soothe your child.  You want your child to have a fulfilling childhood and to grow up to be a responsible adult. Yet, you are met with hatred and fierce anger.

In war, the battle lines are drawn; an antagonism exists between two enemies. In our homes, we are not drawing battle lines; we are not prepared for war. We are prepared for parenting. Consequently, the ongoing stress can result in disastrous affects on our well-being literally causing our emotional and physical health to deteriorate.

The primary symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder include:

Secondary symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can include:

If you are parenting a child diagnosed with Reactive Attachment disorder, you will not escape adverse effects. It is essential to recognize that your feelings are typical under stressful conditions. It is just as essential to accept the fact that extensive stress is unhealthy. By recognizing the symptoms and seeking support, you will strengthen your abilities to cope. Counseling is readily available to families and individuals. Take advantage of resources that will help you put the traumatic experiences into perspective, enabling you to let go of past feelings by replacing them with positive skills for recovery.

Reactive Attachment Disorder and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
FAS Community Resource Center