Remember the old saying, "Don't judge a book by it's cover"? Boy does this ever apply to our hurt children!
I was doing some one-on-one coaching with a client the other day and was reminded of just how confusing it can be to deal with a child who goes in and out of his survival self at any given moment. This child (we'll call him John) presented as loud, active, and verbally disrespectful to Mom. He called her names, spit on her, and told her she was stupid repeatedly. He came across as a very tough and controlling child.
The name of this book could have been something like...
I Am Mean and Aggressive So Don't Get In My Way.
However, as we continued to work together John's behavior turned into being clingy and he began whining. His voice got quieter and he began to call her Mommy. We watched him transform from tough guy to scared guy in a matter of an hour or so. He eventually was hard to console because he was so upset. Mom finally was able to comfort him and he was better, but stayed very close to her until I left.
The inside of that book really told such a different story than the cover.
WOW...the pages of this book were filled with anxiety and fear. It was clear that his past had scarred him. It was clear that he didn't understand my presence there and that it could mean all sorts of things: moving, loss, and another broken heart. It was so sad. He felt so vulnerable.
The name of the book really was...I am Afraid. I am Not Sure my Mom Will Protect Me. I am Not Sure I am Worthy of Being Protected. I Will Have To Do It Myself.
SO many times we miss what is really going on in the moment. We are so used to responding directly to the input we get from people, the environment, or technology. In our case, we can't do it that way anymore.
Our kiddos need us to be intentional about how we see and hear them, parent them, and meet them every day.
Words are often not what they mean, looks and gestures are created within anxiety, and choices and behaviors are shrouded by the impact of trauma and other diagnoses. Knowing your whole child - his story, his culture, his loses, his diagnoses, his missed stages, his real fears and his gifts and talents - allows you to meet him where he is REALLY at. It allows us to look behind the cover of the book into the pages which gives us a better understanding of the moment and how we can be more healing in the way we react in any given moment.
Remember to be intentional, friends. It makes all the difference in the world!