Being the the parent of a child who has Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) as an introvert can be incredibly challenging. Our child’s needs and the extensive interactions we have with service providers leave us drained and unable to recharge. Most days we don’t even have five minutes to ourselves and are bombarded with constant, mostly unpleasant stimuli. By understanding our strengths and needs as introverts, we can better parent our children and better care for our own mental health.
What is an introvert?
We think of the extrovert as the life of the party while the introvert curls up on their couch with a novel. In truth, the extrovert-introvert personality trait exists on a continuum.
These are some common qualities introverts share:
- Prefer calm, less stimulating environments
- Introspective, reflective, and self-aware
- Need to prepare to spend time in groups and crowds
- Enjoy small, close circles of friends
- Lose energy in social settings
- Need to spend time alone to recharge
- Prefer to write/text instead of talking
Being an introvert is often confused with being shy or socially anxious and some introverts do have these personality traits. However, there are many introverts who are not shy and are not socially anxious.
Playing to your strengths
First, as a fellow introvert, let me say, there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. In fact, one recent study found that introverts are more likely to be successful CEOs. That’s great news for parents of kids with RAD because we sure have our hands full!
So, let’s start by looking at 3 ways we can play to our strengths to be more successful in our role advocating for our children.
- Family-team meetings and therapy sessions are full of non-verbal communication and layers of context. TIME Magazine compares an introvert’s observation skills to a “superpower.” As an introvert you have the advantage of excellent observation skills and intuition to gain insight into these highly charged situations and navigate them safely and more effectively.
- Frustration, anger, outrage – big emotions – often lead to words we all wish we could take back. When working with service providers this is especially true. Introverts tend to think before they speak and choose their words wisely. Your introvert’s quiet nature is a huge advantage because it will help you be more cautions in your interactions and make you less likely to speak off the cuff.
- RAD is a nuanced disorder and untangling any situation with your child, a therapist, CPS person, or teacher can be seemingly impossible. “For an introvert, [active listening] is a natural way of being.” As an introvert your natural listening skills are a big advantage to enable you to understand what each person is saying and better communicate.
You are your child’s best advocate, and remember that you you bring a lot to the table specifically because you are an introvert.
Tending to your needs
People with introverted personality types have two very specific needs:
- They need to mentally prepare for socialization
- They need regular alone time to recharge
Our child, their therapist, the parade of service providers, endless appointments, and dealing with extreme behaviors — make meeting these needs impossible. This leads to introverted parents quickly spiraling into depression and hopelessness. They literally have no energy left to draw from because they are running on empty. There is no silver bullet solution and in some cases you may need to consider if RTF is an option. But, there are some ways you can prioritize your needs to protect your mental health and enable you to better meet the needs of your child.
Here are a few simple ideas that worked for me:
- Start each day with some alone time (even if it’s 5 minutes before you wake up the kids).
- Use soothing techniques like a deep-breathing exercise or a calming meditation.
- Pick your battles – know your limits. If letting the kids watch TV gives you some alone time, I say go for it.
- Create boundaries with service providers (ask that they schedule all calls ahead of time, or at least text to ask if you’re available before calling).
- Ask for time to review any documents before you sign them – even if it’s just to buy you time to process the meeting you just had.
- Take a coffee or soda to meetings so you can take a sip to give you a few seconds to gather your thoughts or get through an awkward moment.
- Leverage emails. Write notes before phone calls and meetings. Practice, practice, practice.
What has worked for other parents:
“I commandeered a room in our house as ‘mine.’ I give notice before going in that they need to get what they need from me before the door closes. If I’m in there with the door closed, I’m off limits … usually doing yoga or meditating. However, it only works if they’re sleeping (i.e. 5am or 10pm) or if my husband is home.” – Thanks to Allison for this tip!
Are you an introvert? What other ideas do you have for leveraging our strengths and prioritizing our needs while parenting a child with RAD?
Remember to focus on the amazing strengths you bring to the table as an introvert and look for creative ways to meet your needs.