Parenting An Attachment Disorder Child
Parenting children who have attachment and trauma histories is just plain exhausting. Each family admits that there are days and weeks when keeping up with (much less ahead of) the tantrums, the arguments, the lying, fighting, sneaking, attitude, refusals, the flashbacks, grief, striking out, is enough to wear anyone out. The often incredible lack of support from spouse, family, friends, schools, and even onlookers at the grocery store, leaves parents feeling less than adequate for a job that is five times as hard as raising a child that is born to the family in the “traditional” manner.
What to do? You must take care of yourself to take care of your child who has experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment, the foster care system (which is traumatizing enough) loss of birth family through adoption and of course, orphanage life. If you are depleted, exhausted, depressed, and traumatized by the issues your children bring to the home, there is just NO POSSIBLE WAY you can advocate for your child, care for their special needs, or make good decisions for your family. So here are some ideas that can be of help to you in shoring up your resources and, in the process, your family.
- Get a sitter for an hour a week, grab a good book (not about parenting) and go enjoy a truly luscious treat.
- Have your life partner (if you have one) take care of the kids for an hour and take a bath whenever you feel the need for some alone time.
- Look up adoption support groups in your area. Most adoption support groups have child care and are great sources of support and understanding. It is ok to drive a bit if you live in a small town that does not have such a group.
- Create a foster or adoption support group in your town or city. Check with the agency you used to see if they have a list of parents who could benefit from such a group.
- Don’t expect your friends and family to understand what your life is like. Education is the key here. Books such as Parenting The Hurt Child (Greg Keck) is a good book to share with friends. Becoming A Family (Lake Eshleman, PhD) is a fabulous book to share with family.
I want to stress that your child is not going to tell you what a great mother you are when she is in pain or confused. She will not fulfill your need for appreciation or say “Thank You for fostering/adopting me and giving me the life I wanted all along”. These children do tend to find your vulnerability and hone in on it like they have sonar and strike hard and often. Use whatever means you have to normalize your life and get relief when you need it. If you have respite available, USE IT. It is there for a reason. Taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do for your family.
Lynn Barnett, LMSW is a licensed social worker with 20 years of experience as a helping professional. She is also an adoptive parent to two children and a social worker trained in child welfare, foster care and adoption.
Lynn specializes in attachment and bonding issues with children in foster care as well as children adopted both domestically and internationally.