Inconsistency and Reactive Attachment Disorder make vacation the Devil! The whole reason that our children have Reactive Attachment Disorder is tied to the fact that there was so little consistency in their early families, homes and lives. As a baby, when I cried, my mother, or sometimes my father, and rarely, someone else, found out why I was crying and fixed the situation. That didn’t happen for my daughters. When they cried, maybe (MAYBE) they got fed, or perhaps they were beat. Sometimes they were comforted, but more often, they were ignored. This caused them to learn that their behaviors could produce reactions, but the reaction that followed their action was a draw from a deck of cards. Cause and effect was a foreign concept to my children who suffer from RAD.
Even before my daughters were removed from their first home, they were taught by bad parenting that they couldn’t rely on a caregiver being there. Their first mother couldn’t be counted on to be present to love, or to be loved. She couldn’t be depended on for even the necessities of life. One of my daughters tells of being left alone, overnight, to care for a baby sister. She would have been barely four at the time. Sarah spoke of dirt floors and crawling under the only bed in the shack, where she would spend the night in a world without electricity or indoor plumbing, hiding from monsters. Sometimes when she woke up, her first mother had returned. Often, she hadn’t. Caregiving inconsistency and Reactive Attachment Disorder were related in that one was a major contributor to the development of the other.
Separating inconsistency and Reactive Attachment Disorder sufferers was the key.
One of the first things we learned about helping children with Reactive Attachment Disorder to progress was that they needed to learn consistency. We entered an almost paradoxical parenting lifestyle where reactions, consequences and effects in our home were brutally consistent, without ever being brutal. As we stuck to this formula, our children with RAD slowly began to accept cause and effect thinking. It wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen quickly. Progression did not exclude repeated regression, but our children began to accept that there was another dimension, a new world that they had entered, where every action had an equal and opposite reaction. Separating inconsistency and Reactive Attachment Disorder sufferers was the key.
This is the world in which they must learn to function and excel.
Such thinking did not negate the existence of a very real world where our children once existed, without any understanding of something as foreign as the concept of the interrelation of actions and reactions. Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder eventually come to accept that their new world is as real as their first world. However, as parents and caregivers, we never completely accept the randomness of a dimension that produced our children. While such thinking is not technically correct, it is of little harm. Our children live in this dimension, not the former one. This is the world in which they must learn to function and excel. Leave the past in the past and never look back. This world is consistent. Always!
Oh, yeah… except when it’s different. Sometimes there are vacations. We go different places. Schedules change. Sometimes there are holidays. And, we’ll let some behaviors that are not allowed at home slide just a little bit. After all, it’s your birthday and we appreciate you. When Christmas comes we take on a whole attitude of caring for others and of forgiveness that is contrary from what we do the rest of the year, but don’t think of it as inconsistency. Everything is still the same in this dimension.
But holidays and vacations are different. They are breaks in consistency. When we enter these times that are different, our family members with Reactive Attachment Disorder are returning to a world that they lived in. They know exactly how to behave in a dimension where inconsistency rules, even if we don’t. Must we be surprised when, at such times, their behavior returns to what they relied on to survive during times of randomness and inconsistency?
Inconsistency and Reactive Attachment Disorder are the combination that is the most detrimental part of holidays and vacations for my children.
When we return from vacation or the holiday ends, our children have seen the randomness in our world; the inconsistency that we claim doesn’t exist. But they know it does. “Perhaps, now, after vacation, there will be exceptions to rules in the home. Maybe cause and effect isn’t any more solid now than it was during vacation. I need to test it, because consistency is not the world I was born into. It is certainly not a dimension in which I am comfortable!”
For me, Inconsistency and Reactive Attachment Disorder are the combination that is the most detrimental part of holidays and vacations for my children who suffer from RAD. While we can be careful with planning vacations around areas that are best-case-scenario for children who are hypervigilant, and we can tone back activities to reduce overstimulation, vacations, by definition, are a break from consistency and routine. Vacations are necessary. They are an exception to a rule in the dimension that our children presently live in.
Vacations and holidays are a reality we need to deal with, but that exception will not come without an equal and opposite reaction. Maybe we just need to focus on having our children with Reactive Attachment Disorder progressing as far as they can in their three-steps-forward mode, knowing that the expected two-steps-back mode will occur during and after the break. The good news is that three-steps-forward comes around again; and one step in the right direction beyond where it started last time. In the end, we need to realize that mental illness is just like any other illness. We get treatment and continue on. Inconsistency and Reactive Attachment Disorder are just going to have to coexist during vacations and holidays; we’ll fix it later, when home and family get back to normal.
Read Part I: Preface
Read Part II: Hypervigilance
Read part III: Overstimulation
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