I am a firm believer in turning bad situations into good ones and using setbacks as stepping stones. Over the years, I have come to appreciate that all life experiences have something to teach us, and with the right attitude, they can make us better people.
For instance, take our unique adoption story. My wife and I were always eager to become parents. After lengthy discussion and contemplation, we opted for adoption, and that’s how Bracken (aged 6), came into our lives. We were ecstatic, and I vowed to be the best father I could be.
However, after living with us for a short time, we noticed that something wasn’t quite right with our son. There were small things he did or didn’t do that struck me as odd. The way he absolutely wouldn’t make eye contact with us or the way he reacted negatively to hugs or being touched. He would also neither ask for comfort when needed nor respond when it was given. Add the unexplained bouts of withdrawal, fear or irritability, and we knew something was wrong.
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) Diagnosis
At first, I blamed myself and my parenting skills believing that I was just a bad father. As time went on, my wife and I decided to seek professional advice. After visiting plenty of pediatricians and therapists, we finally had a diagnosis. Our 8-year-old son was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) which explained his behavior.
We were unprepared for the challenges that parenting a RAD child brought, but we eventually learned how to adapt our parenting styles to the situation. One of the most difficult things that we had to learn over the years is how to effectively set limits and discipline our son. Kids with RAD seek out safety above all else. This makes them prone to manipulating situations, or even their parents, in order to feel safe. So when it came to disciplining our son, my wife and I learned not to let our emotions cloud things.
Finding The Silver Lining
Although bringing up a child with RAD has been tiring, frustrating and even exhausting, it has been an incredibly rewarding journey. Through it, I discovered my passion and eventual career—that of educating parents and families about mental, emotional and behavioral disorders that plague troubled teens.
The challenges I have experienced as a father, coupled with my personal lengthy research and involvement in the industry, has allowed me to help families everywhere to understand what their teens are going through. This gives them insight into their teen’s behavior and helps them work out their issues, eventually reconnecting as a family again.
My experiences helped ignite a passion to work with troubled teens everywhere to help them overcome their various emotional and behavioral issues, to develop a sense of purpose and generally be the best they can be.
Parenting a teenager is hard and parenting a teen with RAD is even more so. However, my experience taught me that I can help families navigate these murky waters to emerge stronger and better than before.
I never thought I’d end up the father of a child with RAD, but now I wouldn’t trade it for anything.