Monday, March 21, 2011

A letter to grandparents of children with RAD

Today is a guest post by an amazing woman. Her name is Brenda, and what makes her amazing is her willingness to understand, grow and change for the sake of her daughter and grandchildren. I met her while in Orlando and everyone was abuzz about the trauma mom whose MOTHER came with her. We were all immediately in love. Not everyone has that kind of support. Not everyone has extended family who are willing to at least try to "get it." I know what it's like to have parents who supported our therapeutic parenting, even when they were clueless as to what exactly it was. It is a gift that we all need. I asked her to write to the other grandparents out there, and create a post that can be shared.

Brenda, thank you.


Disclaimer: I have daughters and granddaughters. Lots of them. That’s why I use she/her/daughter/Mom/granddaughter, etc. I trust that anyone smart enough to get to the internet can transpose this into the male gender and not be offended.

My husband and I traveled to Ethiopia to assist with bringing home our two adopted granddaughters. I am not sure how it happened, but of all the orphans in Ethiopia, we got the two most beautiful. Really.

I am writing this letter because I wish someone had told me these things before I started “life in the RADish Patch.” That’s what my daughter calls living with children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder and PTSD as a result of the trauma they suffered before they were adopted.

I am not an authority on this subject. I am just a grandma (called Honey) who wants to be the best Honey she can be to all of her grandchildren. Here are a few things I have learned about grandparenting in the RADish Patch. Maybe it will be of help to you……

Do not follow T-Shirt psychology. You know those cute T’s that say, “If Mom says NO, ask Grandma!” This is the kiss of death if you want to be a good grandparent to your RADish. RADishes are experts at playing others against Mom. If they can get you to overrule Mom, they have added one more thing to their list of all the reasons Mom cannot be trusted. A RADish’s Mom must always be in charge….not Grandma.

Do not act on the advice of bumper stickers….you know, the ones that read, “Let me tell you about my grandchildren!” Just because your daughter gets up the courage to share her RAD adventures with you does not mean that you should divulge them to the Ladies Club, the Flower Club, at prayer meeting, or to your hairdresser. BE CAREFUL. Just because she tells you about the feces smearing incident does not mean that you can share that with Aunt Kate. If your daughter wants to tell cousin Susie about her child’s night terrors, that is her place, not yours. My motto: SAY LESS, PRAY MORE.

Extended family dinners are not just a holiday. They are critical opportunities for RADishes to learn. Food holds many, many triggers for these kids. Never forget, the MOM rules the table, not the grandparent. Let Mom take the lead on what goes on the child’s plate, whether or not they have to eat it, whether or not dessert is offered, and what table manners are used / excused. Even if you never let your daughter put her elbows on your white starched tablecloth, it is not your place to critique the eating habits of a RADish. Get over it – or you may be eating Thanksgiving dinner alone.

Number three (above) applies to eating out as well. AND to other public places. Often, RADishes get nervous in new places and situations. If their actions make you uncomfortable, you better get a tougher hide. If you come across as embarrassed or disapproving, they will surely use their behavior again and again. Follow Mom’s lead about how to deal with the tantrum or whatever is going on. Toughen up.

Do not assume that you know what is best for your grandRADish. Even though you raised half-dozen kids of your own. Every child is different and every RADish is different. Spend time talking with your daughter about your grandRADs to find out what kind of play is fun for them? What activities are threatening? What calms them down? Are they allowed to use scissors or knives? If Mom says “no sharp objects” you don’t have to know all the details. Shut up and follow Mom’s instructions.

This is a hard one, but very important – DON’T SAY STUPID THINGS! A few examples

- Every child threatens to run away.
- You need to discipline more…she would not behave that way if you did.
- She is much too old to act like that.
- You mean you hold a seven year old like a baby and give her a bottle? Are you crazy?
- It’s just nightmares. Don’t get so worked up.
- That is a ridiculous form of punishment for a child.
- Pets are good for kids. We got her a puppy. And a kitten.

When you realize that you have said a stupid thing, APOLOGIZE. We are all learning.
Don’t get your feelings hurt if Mom does not allow your grandRADish to spend the night with you. Trust me, Mom would love a break, but this little person’s life has to be kept simple and stable until she can handle the new experience. Mom knows best.

Most parents of RADishes find themselves in financial turmoil. Whether from therapy bills, medication bills, one parent staying home, or any of the million other things that happen to young families. Be sensitive to this. Last Christmas I gave my daughter the registration fee to a conference for Moms like her. Toys should be purchased that can do double duty as therapy tools (like doll houses for role playing).

Finally, educate yourself about children with RAD and PTSD. Read books by experts, but most important, read blogs like this one so you can begin to understand the challenges your daughter faces as the Mom of a RAD child.

I love my grandRADishes just like my other grandchildren. But, I have to deal with them differently. In doing so, I can be an important part of their lives.

The Mom of a RAD child pours her physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy into the heart and soul of their child every moment of every day and night. The child’s past trauma has rendered them incapable of giving any energy back – at least for now. Your daughter needs you more than ever to “fill up” her depleted energy stores.


One day, your daughter will call you and say, “Mom, we had a breakthrough today! Your granddaughter hugged me and I think she meant it!” It will be a great moment – worth celebrating!

May God bless your experiences in the RADish patch,


(photo by Laura McBride)


Kerrie said...

Amazing! And so important. I will never forget how I felt this Christmas when my in-laws sat down with us and said, "what can we do or not do to be more helpful?" They'll never really know exactly how loved that made me feel.

Erika said...

Preach! I'm sending this to my mom at the risk of her not speaking to me for at least a month, for she has done each of these things and MORE. And she seems strangely clueless when she learned that I would not be making a trip to the grandparent's home this year. Maybe she'll read this - call and apologize - and get herself educated so that we might come visit.

Robinsunne said...

Oh, My.
How my life would change if I had even one relative who could understand this. (My mom's line was: "Oh, children are so resilient; they'll get over it." The thing is: my kids are getting through all of this - but only because we are paying attention.
Thank you, Brenda for your lovely letter.

Lisa said...

My dear friend, knocked it out of the ballpark. Love you and your lovely daughter, Tab! You have both enriched my life so much more than you can ever imagine. AND I'm so lucky y'all are geographically close to me. Who's the lucky girl? Uh..that would be me!

Jamey... said...

I know her!!! :)

a Tonggu Momma said...

Tonggu Grammy is wonderful and amazing and supportive, and we're out of the RADish patch now, but I'm still sending her over here to read this. To show her how well she did when we were in the thick of it. Thank you so very much, Brenda.

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

My mother has made many of the comments on the list, her favorite being, said gently and quietly, "Essie, I think that's normal. All kids do that". Right.
Trust that you raised a child well, who is now a mother who knows what she is doing, and is doing the best she can.
My mom doesn't say it to be offensive, or mean and I know that. But you better believe that repeated comments like that cut off our communication. Moms need support, not judgment.
Rock on Brenda!

waldenbunch said...

Was so blessed to spend hours talking with Brenda because she was in MY house!!! She is the real deal with a heart of gold. This letter is so needed for many moms out there. My parents are gone but I wish I'd had something like this 11 years ago. Thank you, Christine, for sharing this.

Chris said...

May I please use this in my newsletter? I have had a few moms ask for something like this to help their relatives TRY to understand.
If you need more info on my newsletter please ask

Last Mom said...

My husband's mom & stepfather have chosen not to be in our lives because they can't accept that we need to be the ones in charge. They insisted on a "our house, our rules" policy during our visits from the moment they met our daughter. How confusing for a 9 year old who just was thrown a new home and new parents! We tried to make it work, but they have made it clear we aren't welcome at their home (because we do things like allow our child to eat steak slices with her fingers. The horror! It's not as if we have more important issues to work on or anything.)
Thanks for sharing Brenda, Christine! Brenda, THANK YOU! You are so loved and appreciated by all of us who had the blessing of meeting you in Orlando.

Becky said...

It's wonderful to hear from a grandparent - and what a lucky mom and RADish who has a supportive grandparent on their side! I pray that someday my own mom can see beyond the RADish to love and accept my son as I do.

QuackenBaby said...

Thank you! My mom is amazing, and supportive, and goes with what I say. My dad is very "all kids pull this crap" and it makes my blood boil! This is being shared amongst both sets of grandparents.

Thanks Brenda... beautifully written!

Kelly said...

Brenda- Your daughter is very blessed to have you. My mom tries to understand but...well your daughter is just REALLY, REALLY blessed to have your understanding and SUPPORT. Thank you for sharing.

Laynie said...

Brenda, I loved having you as a housemate in Orlando!! What a privledge to get to know you and become your friend! Thank you so much for all you are doing not only for your own family, but now for all of ours! Big ((HUGS)))!!

The Lundys said...

Ahhhh. Copying this into email for my mom. So not linking. Thank you!

Jena said...


Anonymous said...

This was AWESOME!

Lindsay Mama to Nine said...

Interested in adopting a grown woman? LOVED this post, loved this letter. I am so grateful that their are Mother and Grandmothers like you out there supporting, and unconditionally LOVING.
Thanks for sharing Christine!

Life's Mom said...

Wow! I am feeling so blessed right now. My parents went through all of the training before adoption and really seem to "get" that "Life" will have to be parented differently than my other children were. I am going to copy and paste all of this (including comments) to my mom to thank her! Life just spend 5 days with her without a single incident. Can I hear a whoo hoo for healing!!

Anonymous said...

This was so beautiful, it made me teary. As a new Nana, I needed to hear these things, and be reminded, and we don't even have any Radishes. Thank you.

Michelle said...

This is a keeper- thank you so much for the articulate explanation of what we would all like to say to our relatives. I'm printing this puppy out to share with them! Brenda, you have done an amazing job to look past the superficial and see the REAL needs of your granddaughters. They are so blessed to have you in their lives.

Anonymous said...

How wonderfully written!! We came close to living in a RADish patch but luckily the courts wised up and terminated parental rights before "things" got any worse. Still we were preparing for the possibility and a letter like this would have been a Godsend. Hope this makes the rounds - it is truly priceless!


glorianabeausoleil said...

RAD or just "other"-needs kids have parents who need more people to understand this info.

I've realized that our family is extremely self-isolating, simply because the explanations take so much effort.

Thank you for sharing this.

Hannah_Rae said...

Wow, wow, WOW! I don't know if I need this YET, or if it would be effective, but I could totally use this with my MIL. Poor woman, loves my boys to death, but does not. have. a. clue!

Thank you. Keep rockin' out the g-ma-ness.



jendoop said...

What a great post! I'm a foster parent and have been reading your blog to be prepared if we ever get a RADling. This post was helpful for me in that way, but also in interacting with adoptive and foster parents who are dealing with RAD.

Last week a friend who is familiar with RAD expressed grief when an acquaintance admitted to having a RADling admitted to residential care. This RAD parent said that their child would likely be in that facility for life. My friend judged this mom, was angry at her. Because of what I have learned here I told my friend that we can never judge a RAD parent that way. It takes a person of incredible strength, with tons of support to be a RAD parent. I wish all could be like you Christine, but when they can't be I know enough to feel nothing but grief for everyone.

Tara - SanitySrchr said...

I love you Brenda! I'm honored to have spent time with you in Orlando!

Sherri McLaughlin said...

Can I just say, from a mom who has adopted 10 times and is about to adopt 2 more times, this time from China, I LOVE this women. Brenda, you bless my heart. So glad your daughter has you on her side. RADish kids can be so hard and confusing for so many.

Anonymous said...

I wish she was my mom. Love the letter. Another what not to say that I heard a few times before I put up a wall between me & my mom is that my dd has these terrible tantrums b/c I am not giving her enough attention. She is one of five and gets about 90% of our parenting, so WHAT?! Not helpful or supportive, Mom. And another that really gets me is, "Why does Chloe have trauma in her past when she was home by 20 months from a good orphanage?" WHAT?!?

Thanks for sharing this letter from a grandmother who is a model for them all.

Sharie said...

This is beautiful. It can be applied to RADish kids, or biological kids with anxiety/behavior disorders alike. I know I would have been a better aunt had I been more aware many years ago -

mrs. c said...

HAD to post this letter! I linked to you blog. Thank you for sharing it!!! I wish there were more people like Brenda!

Heather said...

Thanks so much for this. I'm printing it out as I type for my in-laws to read before they visit this week.

Laura said...

Amazing. This brought this RADish (I love that) mom to tears- not a easy feat.
Thank you so much for sharing your heart and wisdom.

Unknown said...

Ohmy! The many times I have bungled it! However, it was never intentional. This was such a useful article for me Good job,Brenda. Ilove my grankiddos to bits, and my d-in-law is an angel. She tries so hard and we admire and love her very much.

Myra said...

Kiss her for me!! and you better hang on to her tight or I swear Ill come steal her!!! hahahaha...Im sure you know how blessed you are to even have family who tries!!!!!!!! FABULOUS!! and wonderful advice!!!

Sheyann said...

While my Mom and Mother-in-law are both so wonderful, and I don't want to diminish them in any way...this Honey is so wise and amazing! So glad she can share and teach others in her position about RADishes! :)

emily wannenburg said...

I am not yet a grandparent… but I am taking note. all very good advice for any grandparent! Thank You!

Oldqueen44 said...

All absolutely sound advise. Grandma to 20, three of them with RAD