Blogs


Notices

Dealing with abandonment trauma in children

Old 08-12-2008, 01:22 PM
  # 1 (permalink)  
Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 3,335
Dealing with abandonment trauma in children

Today is my son's third birthday. His father is in prison for possession of crack cocaine (again...) He hasn't tried to contact his son from jail. And if he did I would think twice about answering the phone, because it always creates such drama. My son's little heart is broken by his father and I feel so bad for him. And I am angry at his dad. So angy that I just don't know what to do or say when he asks where's daddy.

Many people coming to this site wonder what to tell their kids. I found the article below online (on a site called bellaonline). It served as a good reminder for me that it's not my childs fault and I need to protect him at all costs.


Dealing with Abandonment Trauma

After my divorce, I attended a support group where we talked about the emotional well-being of divorcees. One of the points made was that it is very different for an individual to lose a spouse through divorce than it is to lose them through death. When we lose a spouse through death, the individual usually did not choose to leave us, we have no control over the situation, and they are removed from this world. There is a sense of finality to the relationship. However, in divorce, choices are made on both sides, rejection becomes an issue, and the spouse continues on with their life. Unless the divorce is amicable, this situation can lead to emotional baggage ranging from rejection to guilt to blame & shame. This is not to say that losing a spouse to death is easier; it is, however, different.

The same is true of children who are abandoned by a parent versus those who lose a parent through death. One is not worse than the other, only different. This difference is the amount of emotional baggage they will carry into their life. As parents, it is our job to help them deal with this baggage in a constructive way.

Rejection is a common emotion for those who have been abandoned by a parent. Children do not understand how an individual who is “supposed” to love them based upon a parental relationship doesn’t love them enough to 1) stay with them, and/or 2) keep in touch with them. I immediately think of Bernice in the film, Hope Floats. She follows her father to the car after a visit, suitcase in hand, crying uncontrollably that her father needs her and must take her with him. He refuses, even locking her out of the car, and drives away, refusing to even look at her, as she stands at the edge of the street, screaming after him. Her mother is left to deal with her child’s unbearable pain.

Guilt and blame are common. Children will go over everything they have done in their short lives trying to find the one thing that was unforgivable. They will construct entire scenarios of how their actions did irreparable damage to the love of their parent. They will convince themselves that they are unlovable and that they deserve to be abandoned by a parent – can you imagine?

How do we, as the custodial parents, help our children deal with these emotions? The over-simplified answer is that we give them lots of love. Children who feel rejected by a parent begin to fear that this rejection will extend to others in their lives. After all, if a parent can reject them, then surely everyone will eventually see their “true self” and reject them, too. We must reassure them that this is not true – in any aspect. First, the abandoning parent did not leave because of that child. There are many reasons that parents divorce and the noncustodial parent makes the decision not to remain in contact with their children. Some claim that it is too painful to see their children for short periods of time and to have to say “good-bye” after every visit. Some claim that the custodial spouse keeps them away. Some are wrapped up in addictions and do not even bother with excuses. Some have lifestyles that are simply not conducive to being a parent. Even if an abandoning parent blames the child – due to behavioral issues, health issues, or any other reason – the truth is that it is not the child’s fault. In such cases it is a weakness within the parent that allows them to abandon a child that needs them even more than most.

While it is not all right to tell your child that “daddy is a drunk” or “mommy is a druggie,” it is all right to let them know that mommy or daddy has problems that they have to deal with before they can be a good parent. It is all right to let your children know that the problems have nothing to do with the child and everything to do with the weakness of an adult. Parents are human and humans are not perfect. Sometimes we have to work on ourselves before we can be good for anyone else. It is okay for children to know that their parents are not perfect, as long as we are not imparting this knowledge in a way degrading to any involved.

Constant and repeated assurance that they are not to blame is often necessary with children. The younger the child, the more they need to hear of your love and reassurance that they are not to blame. As your children grow older, they may not need to hear it as often, but they will need to hear it. Do not close down any subject with your child(ren). Your children are not going to stop asking questions just because you refuse them answers. Remember that if your child is going to someone else for answers, you won’t know what answers they are receiving.

One additional contributor to whether or not your child successfully handles the abandonment of a parent is your attitude. While it is true that you, too, are going through feelings of abandonment and rejection, those feelings must remain “hidden” from your child. It is okay to say that mommy/daddy hurts, too; it is not okay to allow your children to see your despair or deep emotional pain. It is important that you find a support group or a counselor to help you deal with your own emotional trauma so that it does not spill over onto your child. It is the only way that you can keep the perspective needed to help your child(ren) deal with their own emotional trauma. Additionally, it is not a sign of weakness or bad parenting if you find that you need professional assistance in dealing with a child’s emotional trauma from abandonment. It is simply good parenting to obtain the assistance your child needs to move through this trauma with the minimal of scarring and the self-assuredness to become the healthy, happy, productive adult he/she should grow up to be.
hello-kitty is offline  
Old 08-12-2008, 01:54 PM
  # 2 (permalink)  
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 50
Thumbs up Thank you, thank you, thank you (sobbing)

I am crying right now after reading that. (and I got a Dorito stuck in my throat from the lump that formed! ..now lauging and crying at the same time)

First and foremost, came my son these last 20 + days. I took him to see his daddy and smothered him with love and attention. Never once did I let my son see or hear anything. Yet, just from the fact that daddy wasn't here, it rocked that little boy so hard. I would go through this a million times over to take away just one of my baby's tears. Do it to me, not him. I want to strike out at this addiction that has hurt him and took his dady away for awhile. I can handle what comes my way, but don't hurt my baby.

Thank you for posting this beautiful piece.

P.S. Don't worry either, I got the Dorito out of my throat.
GreenEyedGirl39 is offline  
Old 08-12-2008, 02:03 PM
  # 3 (permalink)  
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Virginia gal
Posts: 132
hello-kitty. Thank you so much for this article. I am raising two beautiful grandchildren. ages 3 and 4. Everynite they cry after Mommy and Daddy. I cannot bear to see their tears. I try to tell them something that will soothe their little hearts. Even at this young age I can see their fear of abandonment. I CAN tell them that I will never leave them.
Thanks again so much
painter is offline  
Old 08-12-2008, 02:08 PM
  # 4 (permalink)  
Member
 
cookconfay's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: on to bigger & better things
Posts: 4,122
This applies to me somewhat, but then again not quite. My youngest, she's now 4, does not even know her father. He is in prison, he came to see her a whopping total of 2 times when she was a baby. She has not asked anything about "daddy" yet. I'm struggling with what I will say when she does ask. Chances are highly likely that she will not EVER know him but even better that she will be much much older before he even gets out of prison. So......she does get a huge amount of love, attention and emotional support through me, and my family. I will never lie to her but will tell her in a way that won't be damaging to her psyche about herself. And along that note I do NOT feel responsible to be taking her to see him in jail etc....nope, he showed no interest or anything when he was not locked up and she didn't ask for any of this so....I will NOT be loading her up to visit someone she does not even know from Adam in a jail cell.

Thank you for the post that was some very interesting reading.
cookconfay is offline  
Old 08-13-2008, 08:28 AM
  # 5 (permalink)  
Member
 
HoopNinja's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 693
This is a very interesting topic for me for many reasons. We have 2 children who are adopted and both have attachment disorder and PTSD from being in an orphanage for the first 1+ year of their life. I guess from watching both our kids I see the damage the loss of a parent causes. For our older son--it is devastating that his birthmother did not want him and continues to not want him. And I deal with it the same way everyone hear talks about how to deal with the absent parent. I let him know that there is/was absolutely nothing wrong with him. Her reasons for leaving him a day after he was born and not having any contact with him are decisions she has made--but they certainly have nothing to do with who he is but who she is. I have spent countless hours reassuring him that he is a fantastic kid and was a wonderful baby. I have told him he was only one day old--how could a baby one day old have anything wrong with him? The decision was hers--not his. But I discovered the reassurance needed to come more often as he got older. Also, love has to be totally unconditional. Recently I bought him an "S doll"--we refer to his birth mother by her first name. So, if he ever needs to "talk to her" to let her know how he is feeling he can. I have told him he can tell S whatever he needs to--but that also includes telling S that he loves her. Regardless of how our kids came to us--abandonment by a parent is hard and it is hard for them to give up that love they have--even if it is not returned. My way of dealing with that is to let my son know that God did not only give us a certain amount of love we can give--that He made it so we would never run out. There are times when he loves S and there are times he is furious at S--neither is right or wrong--it just is.
Both my kids have attachment disorder as a result of not being loved for the first year of their life and having to take care of themselves--attachment disorder is also rampant among kids in the US foster system as they are shuffled from one place to another while a parent is in treatment/prison. It is a huge trauma for them. There are many many books written about attachment disorder and child trauma and how to help our children heal from it. It is not always an easy road--but I have to agree--the thing that must be driven home is it is not their fault--and the earlier the better. There is no need to bash the absent parent--simply telling them that the parent was not able to care for them is a good start and as they get older maybe a few more things can be shared.
Attachment disorder is tough on kids and it also is not their fault that they have it--however it is up to them to cooperate to heal themselves (and I look at my kids and think they have done 1000 times more work to heal themselves than AH has).
My concern with leaving AH is that our children will somehow think that if they do something wrong--I will leave them because well, Daddy did something wrong and I left him. It is a narrow line I walk because the question is do I deal with the loss now or continue to have things as they are. I am already reassuring my children that the way AH is around them has nothing to do with them--that he has problems that have nothing to do with them. So I guess I am happy I started to do this already--so they know that if we do leave--it has absolutely nothing to do with them and that my love for them will never change. I am trying to get AH to be involved in an amicable divorce for our kids’ sake--but who knows if he will do this. It certainly would be better for the kids--but he will not be thinking about the kids--he will be thinking about what is best for him.
HoopNinja is offline  
Old 08-13-2008, 10:22 AM
  # 6 (permalink)  
Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 3,335
Thank you for your post wife2kids.

I think it comes down to damage control. In the long run what is worse for your children?

For them grow up in a house with only one parent who loves them with all her heart and soul.

Or

For them to grow up in a house with two parents, however one is an active addict and brings all the instability and drama that comes along with addiction?

In my situation, I think that having my sons father living with us would have been much much worse for my sons self esteem. He would lie all the time. He was really mentally unstable when he was using - odd behavior, sometimes violent, sometimes angry. When he wasn't high, he was sleeping and inchoherent. He would tell me he was going to the store and not come back for days. I was angry. I felt like my life was out of control. I was crying all the time. I was worried that my son would grow up learning that drugs are ok because his father used them and mommy accepted that.

I think it would have been much worse for my son to grow up in an unstable environment with an active addict in the house.

But every situation is different. You have to make your own decisions.
hello-kitty is offline  
Old 08-13-2008, 10:27 AM
  # 7 (permalink)  
Member
 
cookconfay's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: on to bigger & better things
Posts: 4,122
I would like to clarify from my post that I was married to her dad when I got pregnant, but did not find out until a week after he moved in with his girlfriend....God Bless that SOB....anyways, in Texas you can't get divorced while you are pregnant so it wasn't final until 60 days after she was born. And the reason he was gone was drugs and drinking, lying and cheating.
cookconfay is offline  
Old 08-13-2008, 10:33 AM
  # 8 (permalink)  
Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 3,335
I just wish I could let go of my anger. I'm so ANGRY. I wish he wasn't the father of my child. I blame myself for being an idiot. But now I have this beautiful boy that I would give my life for. And I can't fix this for him. I can't give him the father he is supposed to have. I feel like this is all my fault.
hello-kitty is offline  
Old 08-13-2008, 10:40 AM
  # 9 (permalink)  
Member
 
cookconfay's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: on to bigger & better things
Posts: 4,122
Your son's father made all of his choices his self. It is in NO way your fault. Just as my case it's not MY fault.
cookconfay is offline  
Old 08-13-2008, 10:44 AM
  # 10 (permalink)  
Member
 
HoopNinja's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 693
hello-kitty-I agree with you completely. Children need a loving stable environment--and living with an addict does not provide that. Your situation sounds much worse than mine. For me the I'm OK, no I'm not (from AH) is not a stable place either. What it does boil down to is not living in the insanity and not exposing your child to that insanity. I find my kids very forgiving of their father's behavior. They want to love him--what I have been trying to make clear to them (and if I leave hope I make even clearer to them) is that they can still love their Dad even if he is an addict--same way as my older son can still love his birthmom eventhough she wants nothing to do with him.
HoopNinja is offline  
Old 08-13-2008, 10:51 AM
  # 11 (permalink)  
Silly Rabbit
 
Emimily's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Charlotte, NC
Posts: 956
Blog Entries: 6
My dad wasn't really around all like that, and I turned out okay. My mom's the best ever. I got to make living amends with my dad, over the last year of his life - then he WAS the dad I deserved.

Don't worry so much. Kids are resilient. You're awesome for just thinking about your little dude this way... he'll know how much his mama loves him, and God will put people in your life that can guide him and show him what being a real man is all about. Family comes from all over, he'll find his "dads" elsewhere... I know I did.

Good luck, he sounds like he's pretty lucky to have you as a mom.
Emimily is offline  
Old 08-13-2008, 01:02 PM
  # 12 (permalink)  
Member
 
HoopNinja's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 693
"Kids are resilient"

Emimily, I flinched a bit when I read this. But again, I am coming at this from the angle of an adoptive mom who has 2 kids with PTSD and attachment disorder. From all I have seen and read (and I have read tons so I can help my kids and like here I use what fits and toss the rest)--this is something everyone has thought to be true but found not to be true. It depends how severe the trauma is but as much as we like to think they are resilient because they are just kids it is not true. They develop incredible ways to cope and often we do not even see it. Pretty much everyone on the planet who has ever met my 3 year old thinks he is the most charming adorable guy on the planet. From the outside it looks like he is just a happy go lucky kid--dig slightly deeper and you find a little guy who is terrified and walks around in a state of hyperarousal and does not think the world around him is a safe place--and that he is the only one who can keep him safe (because that is what he had to do to stay alive). But have a stable person enter his life and try to make him give up that control--to give me the role of keeping him safe--it is tough. It is a question of trust. He has been exposed to adults who hurt him and lied to him. He is coming around and beginning to see me as a safe place but it has taken 2 years.
I guess I am just saying--kids can come through trauma but they need help to do it from the strong stable parent (and it sounds like you had a wonderful mom who provided this) and often a professional who can guide him/her. If anyone wants to read a couple of books I would recommend Too Scared to Cry this book is actually based on on research the author did at a time when "children are resilient" was the usual psychiatric attitude about trauma. Another is a series of case studies called The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog--also go to childtrauma.org--site by the author of this book. I think the later book sort of focuses on fairly severe cases while Too Scared gives a general understanding of how trauma effects children. Of course all kids are different and will handle things differently. But it is not safe to assume that because they are children they will suffer a trauma any less severly than an adult (and in most cases they suffer more).
HoopNinja is offline  
Old 08-13-2008, 01:44 PM
  # 13 (permalink)  
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Glendale, CA
Posts: 19
This is the best post I have ever read! I am crying like a baby in my office, wondering if that applies to all ages for the kids or does it begin at a certain age? When do they actually acknowledge that something is missing in their lives? Or that something is different than most families? I know that the day my father walked out of our lives, it was a moment that defined the person that I later became.
Thank you hello kitty for finding that posting and sharing it with us. That was an amazing explanation of what we are all going thru. Wendy
wendyarb is offline  
Old 08-13-2008, 01:57 PM
  # 14 (permalink)  
Member
 
cookconfay's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: on to bigger & better things
Posts: 4,122
I'm curious too....since my daughter has NEVER had her father, does she miss having a father? Or....will that come later when she notices some of her friends do have one???
cookconfay is offline  
Old 08-13-2008, 02:02 PM
  # 15 (permalink)  
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Glendale, CA
Posts: 19
Hello Kitty: Anger is such a natural feeling that you have to go thru in situations like the one you are going thru, but what you have to do is channel it in a positive way. I know that it's easier said than done, but it's your health that you need to look after as well. I put myself thru my ex's addictions for 7 years! And we had a child together, I thought that would change him! I was wrong! The anger that I everntually supressed in me made me sick, literally! I am now a Diabetic Type 1 because of the stress that I put my body thru. It's not worth it! The unconditional love that you and I and other parents are giving our kids as single mparents is the best that we can give them and being healthy so that we can see them grow up and be wonderful people is our responsibility. I know that I have to learn to let go of the anger that I still have against her father, but I know that the happiness that my daughter gives me out weighes that anger and I'm trying to slowly let go of the anger.....it's not our fault and it's not our decisions! It's their decision and we have no control over that. Wendy
wendyarb is offline  
Old 08-14-2008, 09:36 AM
  # 16 (permalink)  
Member
 
HoopNinja's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 693
cookconfay--I'm not sure if that is a rhetorical question...but on the chance it is not...she may not even notice her father missing until a time when she sees a "normal" (and we are talking Leave it to Beaver here) family. What is defined by society as a family has changed pretty drastically. She may ask about her father--but if she never knew him it may not have a huge impact on her. My niece did not get to know her birthfather until she turned 18 and he contacted her. My sister never bad mouthed him (although she had plenty of reasons to do it) and when he called and wanted to see my niece the first thing my sister did was call me and ask me to run a criminal background check on him (I was in that line of business at the time). If it had been horrible at that point she would have been more up front with her daughter. All she said was that he had always been very irresponsible but she was an adult now and she needed to decide if she wanted a relationship with him.

At 18 my niece "got to know" the father who was absent all her life. Unfortunately for her, he had not changed one bit. She spent a year "getting to know him" and then decided he was not worth knowing.

So she may have questions throughout her life--but you are her strong stable person making her life as great as it is. You and all you other people out there going it alone with your kids--you are incredible people and give yourself a ton a credit for what you are doing for your kids! You are giving them what they need--the chance to be a child!! and the chance to grow up with someone who can be there for them when they need it. BRAVO!!
HoopNinja is offline  
Old 08-14-2008, 10:06 AM
  # 17 (permalink)  
Member
 
cookconfay's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: on to bigger & better things
Posts: 4,122
Wow...thanks for that...I certainly was not in anyway trying to hi-jack a thread, just this hits so close to home!! I'm a victim in one case against my ex so they always contact me when he has a parole review forthcoming. I always write back and tell them exactly my thoughts on letting him out....NOT TO DO IT. Maybe he won't be getting out until she is about 14. He was given 12 yrs.....so at least she'll be older and possibly able to understand more. Thanks again for that vote of confidence though. And I agree....all who are going it alone....hats off to ya!
cookconfay is offline  
Old 08-15-2008, 07:06 AM
  # 18 (permalink)  
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: pa
Posts: 260
Thank you for this thread....
AWEDA is offline  

Currently Active Users Viewing this Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are Off




All times are GMT -7. The time now is 06:24 PM.