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RAD Child Emotional Heart Transplant

parenting reactive attachment disorder (rad) Oct 30, 2022
mom and dad with baby

Children with severe reactive attachment disorder (RAD) have had their hearts so broken, that, in order to heal, they need an emotional ‘heart transplant’. The mother is the ‘donor’. You cannot give more than your heart to give a child life. This is a physically, and emotionally, exhausting undertaking. A mom must be prepared to focus and devote six months to a year toward the child’s acceptance of her heart. This means that the mom’s main priority must be the child. Younger children, career, volunteer work, etc., should not be an obstacle.

The most successful environment for healing is when the child with RAD is the youngest in the household. If the mom must be employed, the child still has a possibility of success, if a child care provider can be secured with a minimum three-year contract. The care provider needs to agree to do the bonding activities, provide the structure, and love the child ‘like her own’. The best scenario is a mom who is able to focus on healing the heart of the child, while being supported emotionally and financially by a loving husband. Unfortunately, that is not always an option. We have seen success when two single parents team-up, as well as a grandparent and mom teaming up. It takes a team!

Birth siblings placed together, when both have RAD, have a very low success-rate when they remain together, in the same home. One possible way of increasing those odds, if birth siblings with RAD have been placed in the same home, would be to hire a full-time nanny with a minimum three-year contract. The nanny’s role would be to bond with one of the children while the mom bonds with the other.

The ‘medication’ that is required, to keep the child from rejecting the ‘heart transplant’, comes in the form of: loving eye contact, gentle touch, smiling eyes, movement and sugar. During the healing time, a child must be kept close and kept away from ‘contaminants’, such as: television, movies, video/computer games, too much materialism, and any opportunity to be cruel to animals or other children. Just as a child ‘fights’ taking bad-tasting medicine, a child with RAD will ‘fight’ this ‘medication’.

As the mother ‘battles’ for her child’s life, the child will continually ‘fight’ against the mother. A mom who is enduring this kind of emotional pain must have tremendous support to succeed. The support should come in the form of hugs from other caring adults, words of encouragement and hope, and an unwavering belief in her ability to love the ‘unlovable’ and to continue to hug the ‘unhuggable’.  When we are on the mom’s side we are on the child’s side. When we take the child’s side against the mom they both lose. So often, from the outside looking in, it’s easy to judge a mom as “too tough” or, “not tough enough”. One of the cruelest statements anyone can make to a mother who’s donating her heart for her child to have a chance in life, is, “Just love him more.” There are few words that can cut more deeply into the heart of a loving mom who is worried about her child.

When a mother ‘donates’ her heart to a hurting child and provides the healing time and ‘medication’ necessary, the amazing miracle called love begins.


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

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