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What Does RAD look like in Kids?

Teens and tweens are renowned for being moody and standoffish. During this phase of life, kids tend to get a little more self-conscious and worry about their peers’ thinking of them. This social anxiety can drive them to be rude and to prioritize the wrong things. They might care so much about what others think that they behave irrationally and become more disrespectful to adults.

Thankfully, most kids snap out of this phase as they mature, and they start to become a little more considerate. Though they might still lash out from time to time, they realize that they were being a jerk and apologize. They still go through adolescent angst and rebellion, but they try to maintain a positive relationship with family and friends.

For kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), relating to others is a lot tougher. If your kid has been diagnosed with RAD, you need to understand what caused it, what RAD looks like in kids, and how to help them.

You can also reach out to our trained staff at Sundance Canyon Academy for more options on working with kids who have RAD.

What is RAD?

When babies are still very young, they need to bond with a caregiver. At this age, they bond when they rely on someone for the necessities and their needs are met. They need someone to feed them when they’re hungry, change their diaper when they’ve soiled it, and interact with them. Since they are helpless on their own, they need to know that they can trust someone to take care of them.

When babies and small children don’t get the care that they need, they can develop RAD. They don’t attach to another person and learn how to connect with someone else. They inherently learn that they are on their own. They don’t develop the empathy necessary to care about other people or how their actions affect them.

Though most angsty teens don’t have RAD, some do. It is most common in kids who come from one of these backgrounds:

  1. Having parents with substance abuse disorders

  2. Having parents with mental health disorders

  3. Being left alone regularly as a baby or small child

  4. Being left to cry alone regularly as a baby

  5. Bouncing around in the foster care system as a small child

  6. Facing physical or mental abuse as a small child

  7. Having inconsistent access to food as a small child

What does RAD look like in kids?

Kids who develop RAD don’t connect well with others. They often struggle in social situations and have difficulty forming meaningful relationships.

In kids, RAD often looks like:

  1. Refusing to take ownership when they do something wrong

  2. Purposefully annoying other people and being irritating

  3. Asking questions that they blatantly know the answer to

  4. Blaming others for their mistakes

  5. Lying even when the truth is obvious

  6. Stealing from other people

  7. Stealing even when they will get caught

  8. Saying mean or malicious things to hurt people’s feelings

  9. Being spiteful or vindictive

  10. Not feeling remorse when they hurt someone else (physically or emotionally)

  11. Being excessively violent in a given situation

  12. Getting overly emotional when they don’t get their way

  13. Becoming violent when they don’t get their way

  14. Having difficulty making eye contact

  15. Struggling to make friends

  16. Seems friendly or charming, but it’s shallow

  17. Struggling to connect with anyone on a genuine level

  18. Being more affectionate with strangers than with family

  19. Breaking things that matter to someone else

  20. Pitting people against each other

Kids who have RAD have a hard time seeing things from someone else’s perspective. They only see what’s in it for them, and they behave accordingly. This behavior can be extremely upsetting for parents and siblings of kids with RAD in a family setting.

Treating RAD in kids

Adults with RAD continue to struggle with a personal connection, and it can have a serious detrimental impact on their lives. It’s important for kids who show signs of RAD to get the appropriate treatment so that they can start connecting with others before they reach adulthood.

If you suspect that your child has RAD, talk to a medical professional. Your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician can give you advice on quality treatment options. Most kids who have RAD do benefit from psychiatric care such as therapy. Numerous therapeutic interventions can help kids with RAD learn to connect with others and try trusting people again.

Because RAD can have such an enormous impact on the family, therapeutic boarding school is a good option for some families. The child with RAD gets consistent therapy from professional counselors, and they still attend traditional school classes. The rest of the family gets a chance to rebuild and ensure that all siblings are getting the attention they need.

Call us at 866-639-2856 to find out if our school could benefit your family.

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