Adoption can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a parent’s life. After months or years of waiting for your family to feel complete, you finally get to bring home your child. And while adoption is incredibly rewarding, it can also come with it’s own set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges are attachment issues in adopted children. Children who were neglected or abused, even at a very young age, may have trouble connecting with their adoptive parents. In extreme cases, they may develop Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD. But even children without RAD may have attachment issues. They may avoid getting too attached because they are afraid that their adoptive parents will leave them too. They may struggle with a sense of low self esteem because their biological parents “gave them up”.
If your child is struggling with an attachment disorder, a trained professional can help your family work through these issues.
What is the First Step Towards Treatment?
According to the Mayo Clinic: “A child with reactive attachment disorder is typically neglected, abused, or orphaned. Reactive attachment disorder develops because the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection, and nurturing aren’t met, and loving, caring attachments with others are never established. This may permanently change the child’s growing brain, hurting the ability to establish future relationships.”
The first step towards treatment for your child is meeting with a mental health professional, such as a pediatric psychiatrist or psychologist. They will meet with your child for a thorough and in depth evaluation, and then provide a diagnosis. You can meet with your child’s pediatrician, but you may be referred to a specialist. Prepare for your appointment by creating a list of behaviors you have noticed, key personal information, and any medications you child may be taking. All of this will help your specialist get a full picture of your child.
A diagnosis of an attachment issue can feel overwhelming for parents, but understand that children are naturally resilient and early interventions can improve outcomes.
Education and Interventions
Once you have received the diagnosis, it can be helpful to educate yourself and your other family members on attachment disorders. It is important for your entire family, siblings included, to understand why your adopted child is acting the way they are. There’s no standard treatment for reactive attachment disorder, but it should involve both the child and parents. Goals of treatment are to help ensure that the child has a safe and stable living situation and develops positive interactions and strengthens the attachment with parents and caregivers. This may include individual and family counseling or parenting skills classes.
Trails Carolina Can Help
Young people struggling with behavioral and emotional challenges related to adoption and attachment need to be supported through the establishment of healthy communication between themselves and their adoptive parents. Trails Carolina, a wilderness therapy program for young people ages 10-17, helps teens struggling with emotional and behavioral challenges such as attachment, depression, trauma, and low self esteem. With dedicated family therapists, as well as a family program, Trails Carolina can help your teen with attachment issues. For more information, please call (828) 372-4017.