Self-management

Coping and support

If you're a parent or caregiver whose child has reactive attachment disorder, it's easy to become angry, frustrated and distressed. You may feel like your child doesn't love you — or that it's hard to like your child sometimes.

These actions may help:

  • Educate yourself and your family about reactive attachment disorder. Ask your pediatrician about resources or check trusted internet sites. If your child has a background that includes institutions or foster care, consider checking with relevant social service agencies for educational materials and resources.
  • Find someone who can give you a break from time to time. It can be exhausting caring for a child with reactive attachment disorder. You'll begin to burn out if you don't periodically have downtime. But avoid using multiple caregivers. Choose a caregiver who is nurturing and familiar with reactive attachment disorder or educate the caregiver about the disorder.
  • Practice stress management skills. For example, learning and practicing yoga or meditation may help you relax and not get overwhelmed.
  • Make time for yourself. Develop or maintain your hobbies, social engagements and exercise routine.
  • Acknowledge it's OK to feel frustrated or angry at times. The strong feelings you may have about your child are natural. But if needed, seek professional help.

Prevention

While it's not known with certainty if reactive attachment disorder can be prevented, there may be ways to reduce the risk of its development. Infants and young children need a stable, caring environment and their basic emotional and physical needs must be consistently met. The following parenting suggestions may help.

  • Take classes or volunteer with children if you lack experience or skill with babies or children. This will help you learn how to interact in a nurturing manner.
  • Be actively engaged with your child by lots of playing, talking to him or her, making eye contact, and smiling.
  • Learn to interpret your baby's cues, such as different types of cries, so that you can meet his or her needs quickly and effectively.
  • Provide warm, nurturing interaction with your child, such as during feeding, bathing or changing diapers.
  • Offer both verbal and nonverbal responses to the child's feelings through touch, facial expressions and tone of voice.
July 13, 2017
References
  1. Reactive attachment disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://dsm.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed April 4, 2017.
  2. Facts for families: Attachment disorders. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Attachment-Disorders-085.aspx. Accessed April 4, 2017.
  3. Dickerson Mayes S, et al. Reactive attachment/disinhibited social engagement disorders: Callous-unemotional traits and comorbid disorders. Research in Developmental Disabilities. 2017;63:28.
  4. Zeanah CH, et al. Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2016;55:990.
  5. Coercive interventions for reactive attachment disorder. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. http://www.aacap.org/aacap/Policy_Statements/2003/Coercive_Interventions_for_Reactive_Attachment_Disorder.aspx. Accessed April 14, 2017.
  6. Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 25, 2017.
  7. Position statement on reactive attachment disorder. American Psychiatric Association. Reaffirmed, 2007.