When we become adoptive parents, we intellectually know that there are no guarantees. However, most of us find it hard to truly image that our child will turn out drastically different from our vision.
We might be picturing a physically healthy child. Or an athletic child. Or a smart child. Or a sweet child. Even if we know we're, for example, adopting a child with learning disabilities, we still create a certain picture in our minds.
And then they get home.
With Hannah, I got healthy, athletic, smart…and attachment disorder. It was the one disorder I knew I didn't want to deal with. It was the one disorder I was scared about.
For the longest time, I couldn't figure out what the problem was. Maybe it was my first-time parenting abilities? Maybe it was just her adjustment to life in America and in a family.
After much questioning, reading, and research, and two therapists who didn't help much, I finally got Hannah's diagnosis of reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I was devastated.
Now I realize that getting the diagnosis was the key to getting her the therapy she needed, and for me to learn to become a therapeutic parent. After 12 months of treatment, she's truly on the way to healing!
It's a small miracle to watch.
Before treatment, and even into the first few months of treatment, she was manipulative, controlling, defiant, and very violent towards me. Slowly, the roller-coaster of healing began. Good days, horrible weeks, horrible days, good weeks.
Now, though Hannah is not only responsible, respectful, and fun to be around, but she looks different. Her often scared and mean eyes have become sparkly and attentive. Her dark, drab clothes, have given way to yellows, purples, and even pink!
Hannah is proud of how hard she's worked and how much she's changed. And rightfully so. She's not only learned to change her behaviors, but to change her thinking, and to re-shape her views of herself and of the world around her.
I never wanted to walk down this challenging road as a parent. And even if I had tried to imagine it, I never would have imagined it as hard as it has truly been. But, I'm thankful that I had the strength, conviction, and commitment to help Hannah heal. She's a changed person, and I am too.
Written by: Susan M. Ward, an older child adoption specialist, provides parent coaching and resources for adoptive families. Susan's training has focused on adoption issues relating to attachment, grief, and parenting. She's also the adoptive parent of a child healed from RAD (reactive attachment disorder). Her website is Older Child Adoption Support
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Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.