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Victorious Visits with Young Adults with RAD

attachment rad reactive attachment disorder (rad) May 24, 2024
hands reaching

What are parents supposed to do when a young adult daughter or son with RAD who has disconnected from you for a long time realizes you are an important part of their life and starts reaching? Is it a good idea to have a visit? How should we handle it?  

 When is the right time to visit with a young adult who has left home and shut us out?

As long as your child is contacting you for a visit, it is the right time. If it is you pushing for it the odds of it being successful are slim. She/he needs your love and acceptance. Your child reaching for you means the door is open and they are willing. Do not push!!

An extra thing to consider that often happens is; they want you to meet the new "love of their life". It is hard when they show up with the boyfriend/girlfriend from our worst nightmares but you have fought for your child for years, you are strong, so you can do THIS!

Let me share some proven pointers so you can survive the visit and do an awesome job!

Should we have siblings at the visit or on the phone calls?

 No siblings on the visit. Bad idea for these reasons:

  • She/he needs your heart and attention and they would be a distraction
  • As a parent, protecting our younger children is a priority and you need to focus on your “prodigal child”, not others, during the visit.
  • Younger children are likely not ready and should not have to deal with her/him AND the boyfriend or girlfriend at the same time. 
  • Sibling (victims) may not be ready until they see you treated with respect and not upset for a long time for them to heal from the past. We need to respect that.
  • Sibs may need much more healing time for themselves and that is very important.

What do we tell her/him when you show up to the vist without them? That this visit is so important to you that you did not want to share the time with the other children right now. Since you have not seen her/him in so long the time was special to you. Visiting with siblings is for another time.

You do not tell them no sibs ahead of time!! You do it when you show up and they ask. 

 How do we handle the lies they have told about us?

Be aware that the standard behavior for our young adults out there in the world is to manipulate people by being a victim in order to get what they want. She/he, highly likely, has told this new boyfriend or girlfriend how horrible you are and how she/he was tortured in your care so the new mate will save her/him and they can live happily ever after.

 Be prepared to remind your child who you are and to show the truth! You are a loving Mom or Dad who has done everything to help this young person. You have worked, dreamed and done all you can to help them to have a happy successful life. Do not try to show them with your words. You prove it by what you DO. Hug the porcupine..... YUP. Expect the new lover to be covered with tattoos of swastikas, with unwashed dread locks to the waist and piercings through the nose, lips and eyebrows, smoking pot, staggering drunk and swearing the most disgusting words you can think of. Then, when you meet him/her and it is not that bad (or it is and you are ready) you can grab this new loved one of your child into a warm hug right after you hug your child a big one.

Where is the best place for a visit? What should we bring?

Meet them in a restaurant which is neutral ground or a park where you can picnic/ play ball or something. Make sure they are eating during the visit. It helps with the awkward conversation! Plan playing ball or something like a hike or bike ride if that is an activity your family does would be terrific.

DO NOT take this young adult into your home until she/he can be respectful for several visits and has talked about feelings honestly with you. Once they are in your house you would have to force them to leave if it gets ugly and that is BAD NEWS for everyone.

Bring gifts for both of them (maybe some muffins or brownies you baked?) Be sure it has sugar in it!!!!

How do I wrap my heart around this? I am afraid it will be awful!

Instead of thinking about what a loser the new partner (potential part of your family) is and how worried you are for their future.. focus on what he/she is doing. He/she showed up! That is hard and scary for young people to meet the parents. It means he/she cares about your daughter/son. He/she has courage and is attempting to do the right thing by standing by their loved one when they need support and are afraid. 

Your young adult with RAD is very afraid. They have treated you terribly. They know it! They probably believe their own lies and think you are the enemy. AND YET.... she/he wants to see you! WHY???

The healthy part of your child, the part you worked so hard to help is still there!! Your daughter/son knows your acceptance and is vital and is reaching for it. They are living a life you would not approve of and know it. Your child still needs your help and support to move toward the right kind of life. Do we point out all the things that this child has doing wrong that we are not happy about?? No! It will hurt your relationship. Do we let this person treat you with disrespect and rudeness? Absolutely not!!


What am I supposed to say!?

I would say, right in the beginning," I am so happy you came! I have missed you and was hoping you were finding happiness, and this is the man/young lady that you love! EXCELLENT!!" (To the your potential son-in-law or daughter-in law, "Thank you for loving our daughter/son!  She/he is a very special girl/young man and needs lot of love! " I am so looking forward to eating here. What would you like to eat? (change the subject to something non-threatening and easy)

t also helps to have a secret signal under the table with your spouse. A message that says THIS IS HARD!! HELP!!! That way you can hold hands and squeeze a thumb or tap a foot or something and know someone understands and you are not alone in this struggle to appear calm and not take the bait that is there.

Do NOT ask either of them loaded questions:

  • What kind of work do you do?
  • Where do you live?
  • Are you taking your meds?
  • Are you eating healthy?
  • Confront them about ANYTHING they have said or done over 6 months ago.
  • Tell me about parents or prison experience, drugs, sex or alcohol issues. Seriously….


How do I deal with the rudeness I know is coming?

Start with hugs and words of acceptance right from the get go. Then I would set a clear boundary: “Sweetheart, now that you are a grown up, I am looking forward to having an adult relationship with you. I can stay, today, as long as you are respectful. How have you been? What fun things do you two like to do? How did you meet each other?" I would ask the potential spouse; "What do you love best about my daughter/son?" 

 Use active listening. If you don't usually use that, look it up and practice before this important re-connection time. You don't want to shoot a machine gun of questions and be intimidating and appear to be a threat. YOU AREN'T! 

If your young adult gets rude... just stand up and say, "It was so nice to see you! I have to go now. I love you very much." and hustle out the door as quickly as you can before there is a chance to attack. Drive away and pull into a nearby parking lot and catch your breath and regain your sanity before you try to drive anywhere.

Dealing with parents' ultimate nightmare: 

Pregnancy is another hot topic. If they drop that bomb- be prepared. OH! are you hoping for a girl or a boy? How exciting! (It certainly will be!!) When is the big event? Make a comment about how wonderful that time of year is for a baby... Holidays, weather, something and hug them both. THEY WILL NEED IT because they will be terrified out of their minds, even more than you are. 

How do we wrap it up and get out of there?

Keep the visit short and sweet, and filled with the acceptance and love that they need and you need to share, then go home. If THEY ask for another visit, set it up in the same place.

It may be the last time you ever see your daughter or your son. What do you want to say to fill that trauma effected heart if it is!? Say it with love as if this child is going to be hit by lightning on the way home today. You never know and you don't want to live with horrible, heavy regrets the rest of your life.

 Your love is the only heart medicine that can heal RAD. Your daughter or son is struggling and needs it a great deal or would not be trying to connect. Don't withhold it even though bottom-line they do not deserve it after what they did to your family and your heart. Give the priceless healing medicine your heart makes because you are an awesome Mom! When you get home, look in the mirror and tell yourself; YOU ROCK!! Because you do! What I am saying to do is powerfully effect and extremely difficult. 

When they reach...

This “reaching out for you” could be the opportunity to a healthier future together. Reach back with your heart open and your eyes open. Watch your back while you lead them onto the right path with tiny baby steps! It is not too late even though they are grown. Love is never wasted. Your child may still do many things wrong but you will know that YOU are doing it right by being loving, accepting and not judging. Sometimes the visits are more like a hit and run as we give them a peak at our love and step back because that is all they can handle. As long as they can see your heart you are on the right path.

We can make a difference, Nancy

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