Upon hearing that our three year old suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder (a lot of children in foster and adoptive situations experience to some degree attachment issues) I have been on what feels like a Psychology crash course. Maybe you’ve never heard of RAD, maybe you are unfamiliar with attachment disorders. I can not even begin to express the tremendous weight and importance that I now realize proper, healthy attachment holds. The things I naturally and unknowingly was giving to my biological children that make them into the happy whole kiddos they are today. Simple things that I did a hundred times a day and each time forming not only a bond and relationship but the foundations of trust and security. When I nurtured my kids in my womb, giving them proper prenatal care, giving them a safe, peaceful environment to develop in, it all played a critical role in their understanding of felt safety.
These two little guys didn’t receive this. Their life in the womb was considerably neglected. Their first years in this world were harsh to say the least. Every time their needs were ignored their brain was rewiring itself into a state of survival and their emotional stability was being disturbed. Young children have no other option but to trust and rely on their caregivers to meet their needs and when that is disrupted it’s extremely detrimental. The first three years of life in particular are so formative, so critical.
Every time we hold our babies, give them food, change their diapers. Every time we get them out of bed in the morning when they wake. Every time we smile and coo with them. Every book we read. The times we swing them or dance with them in our arms. The times we give them structure and discipline that they can depend on. Every time we make eye contact. Every brief touch or long hug. I knew all this mattered, but I didn’t realize how much until now. Now that I’ve seen the effects of its absence.
And I’m a scared mom wondering if they can recover.
It’s not a simple fix by any means. It’s not a matter of giving them those touches and meeting those needs and wants. Because the effects have caused them to distrust and act in ways in an effort to keep a safe distance. What happened in those first few years legitimately effected the way their brain works. They have to ensure their survival and self preservation. They have to be in control. Of everything. Adults have neglected them, left them, failed them. They don’t realize they are safe and loved here and can trust us. They don’t even have the communication and developmental skills to process all they’ve been through. But they KNOW.
This is hard for them.
This is hard for us.
Its hard to give and love and nurture and be met with opposition and screaming and fits of rage. To be hit or spit on and told “Don’t touch me!” I wonder how so much anger can come out of such little bodies? And even in what I’m learning and understanding about attachment I still fail in my responses. I become impatient, frustrated, and defeated. I wonder if I have what it takes? Do we have what they need? And what exactly DO they need? My former naive self thought “love is all they need”. Love and affection and a safe home. To an extent that is true but I’m learning what they need is so much more complex. And it’s been exhausting trying to parent.
Enter the Holy Spirit whispering His Word.
“My grace is sufficient for you……” 2 Corinthians 12:9
And encouraging words from another author/blogger, Abigail Dodds, “Elisabeth [Elliot] was right, “God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don’t have now, we don’t need now.” And what we do need now, we do have now: God the Father’s loving, sovereign hand working all things for our good (Romans 8:28); Christ the Son as our advocate, Savior, and righteousness (1 John 2:1; Philippians 3:20; 1 Corinthians 1:30); and the Holy Spirit’s intercession, help, and comfort surrounding us day by day (Romans 8:26–27).”
This is for me.
This is for our boys.
This is for our family.
I bought J a “taggy” hedge hog. Well actually my mother in law purchased it but we were checking out at Belk and I could not resist this adorable stuffed hedge hog and J has a thing for tags. In some of my researching I recall an author (likely from the book Parenting the Hurt Child) comparing hurt children to hedge hogs. I’ll allow this little snip from an article to explain:
“When a hedgehog is calm, their quills are in a relaxed position. It is at this time that a hedgehog can be held without worrying about the sharp quills……
A scared or angry hedgehog is another story though since the quills are raised and tend to point in all directions. Trying to handle a hedgehog in this defensive posture is sure to be a prickly experience…..” (Taken from article at The Spruce Pets)
And thus, we have two little scared hedge hogs that we want to promote a sense of calm and trust and safety deep within them.
Please pray we would be directed to the right material, services, and professionals that can inform, equip, and assist us in helping these boys continue the healing process.