All children are resilient.
I wish. Unfortunately, many are not.
In fact, the “resiliency narrative” is all-too-common. Misplaced.
Each of my six adopted children (now young adults) is living proof. Although some seem more resilient than others, none are immune from the lasting effects of early trauma.
Their emotional pain is real – often stemming from the past.
Coupled with their emotional uncertainty.
Why was I taken from my family in the first place? Didn’t they love me?
Were my parents simply poor or are they bad people?
How does that reflect on me today?
Isn’t their family tree mine too?
What then makes me “me”? Who am I alike?
Am I wrong to think about my birth family?
Shouldn’t I care?
Who selected my new family anyway – and why? Am I truly a part?
Or am I an extra?
Easily forgotten on a busy day. Easily abandoned when misunderstood.
What will become of me in the future?
Will I ever have a place in this world?
Lots of tough yet fair questions – with no neatly packaged answers.
Frankly, the “resiliency narrative” creates the just the opposite. Confusion in the survivors’ mind. Then dysregulation. Adding another layer of trauma.
Believing others don’t value their feelings.
Forcing them to hide. Masking the truth. Just putting on a happy face for everyone to see.
Leaving the impression that all children are indeed resilient.
And thus the dysfunctional cycle of “perceived resiliency” continues.
Not trauma-informed. Not trauma-compassionate. Not trauma-releasing.
So what then about the phrase? All children can heal.
I wish. Unfortunately, many cannot heal entirely.
From experience with my children, healing isn’t a destination. It’s a lifelong journey that consumes significant energy.
Now add the impact of triggers. They magnify their shame when people, places or situations bring uncomfortable memories to the forefront of the brain.
Next to impossible to entirely forget, as my young adult children have shared with me.
That could mean persons in positions of authority speaking in unpleasant tones. That could mean public restrooms fostering an invasion of privacy. That could mean holidays creating idyllic images of families. That could mean celebrations commemorating relationships: graduations, birthdays, weddings.
A trigger could be a color.
A trigger could be a smell.
A trigger could be almost anything.
Moreover, the “resiliency” mindset reinforces the “get over it” mentality in society. Together they are the surest way to create additional shame for survivors of early trauma.
I must be “to blame” for my behavior.
And shame is one of the most powerful factors that inhibits healing. It erodes self-worth from the inside out – for individuals already lacking a healthy sense of worth.
In other words, triggers create shame from the outside in.
One final revelation spoken from the heart.
Because I spent more time with my children than any other adult in their formative years, I could be their worst trigger – if not mindful in all I say and do.
Some days I unknowingly became that trigger – until my daughter told me in no uncertain terms.
l learned a valuable lesson – one that I never forgot.
Today my children work hard to advocate for themselves. To show resilience. They readily remind me.
You have no idea what I feel.
They’re right. I don’t. I haven’t lived their life.
Caring for a traumatized child is a huge and complex responsibility.
Yet being that traumatized individual is another thing altogether. There’s absolutely no comparison between the two.
Most importantly, my children needed to be heard – far more than I ever realized in their teenage years.
We often had “family” discussions on a wide-range of topics, but they hungered for more insight. Far more.
I couldn’t fill their insatiable desire for transparency.
Without complete knowledge of their past, I couldn’t give them the “right” answers.
Sadly, they assumed I didn’t care – but never told me until years later.
The take-away for parents, caregivers and teachers. Be an empathetic sympathizer everyday to build resiliency and promote healing.
Not too little. Not too much. Just the right amount to maintain trust and build connection. DCP
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To follow Craig’s journey in raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
To support my daughter Ashley’s sexual trauma advocacy, “Like” her special Facebook page No Shame Know Shame
To follow my son Andrew’s inspiring story, “Like” his special Facebook page NoLimitsAndrew – Andrew Peterson
To watch Andrew’s amazing ESPN 14-minute documentary, click here. Andrew Peterson ESPN Documentary