Sunday, May 3, 2009


This is an old picture. Actually about two years old. And it is a picture of Rosie getting her hair done by her Auntie K. Even knowing what this picture truly is, it strikes me as a picture that closely reflects a very pervasive feeling in children that have been abused and/or neglected. SHAME. When we adopted our children, we were completely ignorant of the effects shame would have on our lives. We didn't know that it was one of the core feelings kids like ours have. It is almost always the reason we have behavior issues in our home. Anger is usually what they use to cover their shame.

Babies are born feeling shame. But with the help of a healthy and safe primary care giver (ie parents, usually) children move from shame to feelings of guilt. Shame is about the perception that the child is bad, unlovable, stupid, worthless. Guilt is a feeling that results when the child realizes that their action has affected another person, it has nothing to do with their self worth. I hope I just described that correctly. That was my understanding of it. But feel free to correct me, gently!

My children have never had the opportunity to learn to move from shame to guilt. My children are stuck in shame. And it is a painful and sad thing to watch your children go through over and over again. It is also frustrating. I want so badly for them to know that they are lovable and worthwhile. I want them to see that they are smart and good. No child is "bad". They make poor choices but there is something good about every child. And we as parents must always search for something good in our children. It is the only way we can help them heal.

My children feel shame daily. Actually multiple times a day. So multiple times a day, we encounter behavioral difficulties of some sort. Rosie cries giant crocodile tears and Marie is unbearably belligerent. I would like to write that I am an amazing mother and I am able to be totally and completely therapeutic every time. Alas, I am not. After about ten times I am out of gas...I just want NO DRAMA!

And inevitably, most behaviors have their roots in shame. A child felt isolation when she had to play alone, shame that she is unlovable, A child is busted for looking at something or listening to something she shouldn't, shame that she is worthless and stupid. The list goes on. I am learning better to diffuse their anger with a change in the tone of my voice. Getting them to calm down and express their feelings before they escalate to holding them or they break objects. I am getting better at it but still I have much to learn.

I am learning more and more how traumatized abused and neglected children can be. How dedicated they are and how much they need special TLC, much nurturing and a whole bunch of unconditional love....Pray for my family and I will pray for yours!

Be Well!

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