It’s difficult to see through the anger, the hate, the attitudes. If our children have created coping mechanisms, it can be almost impossible to see through the smiles, the laughing, and the efforts they make to see us happy. What can’t we see through all of this? The lies our children believe; lies about themselves, the world, and others.
The experiences our children had before they came to us taught them that they are unloveable, unworthy, that they can’t do anything right. They learned that the world is a scary place, that they’d have to protect themselves because no one else would. They learned that adults aren’t trustworthy.
This makes it difficult when they come into our home because these lies that are circulating in their head don’t go away. There are no magic words to fix what they believe. (You can see here what I wrote about how we consistently tell our children truths: you’re beautiful, you’re smart, I love you, but it’s our actions that will make the most difference in the end.) Eventually our kids will see that we care about them and we’re dedicated to them, but it’s not a quick and easy fix. Why? Because these core beliefs have become a foundation for them.
I was talking with a friend yesterday who has cared for some hurting teens. She said that every time she told one of the girls, “I love you,” the girl would become very angry. The girl became angry because she hadn’t been loved by anyone. Sometimes parents think that if they just show the child love (as in affection and caring for them) the child will accept what the parent gives, and that doesn’t happen with many hurting kids.
The birth mother who was supposed to love this girl didn’t, or had no idea how to show it, and this young woman believed she was unloveable because of it. Because my friend was the next mother figure to enter this girls life, she was blamed. This girl probably thought, “How could anybody love me?! I’m unloveable! I don’t even like myself!” (You can read more about how and why hurting children blame their foster/adoptive mom HERE.)
Even those of us who haven’t experienced neglect, abuse, and trauma have lies we believe about ourselves, the world, and others. Can you imagine (or maybe you’ve experienced it yourself) if your foundational views of love and acceptance were rocked and broken at the core? How long would it take for someones love to change how you feel about yourself? Would it be easy to transform those thoughts?
There is absolutely hope for our children to accept our love, there is hope that they will feel better about themselves, but it’s important that we see how they view life. They don’t enter our home and put on a new pair of glasses and see the world through our eyes, it will take time and consistency on our part. Show your children you accept them no matter what they do, no matter what they say. Don’t avoid them and instill what they already believe about themselves, that they are unworthy. See their pain and work through it with them. (This doesn’t mean we don’t have consequences for behaviors, but it does mean that we have empathy for them.)
What lies do your children believe about themselves? How can you help them see the truth of who they are?