Do you remember 15-year-old Davion Only, the teen who went to church looking for a family? There’s something to be learned from his story that goes beyond one boys search for a family, the statistic of 100,000 children available for adoption in the U.S., or that the church is viewed by some to be a safe place. There is another core issue here we can’t ignore, and that is ideas children, especially ones who come from traumatic experiences, have.
Davion was born in prison, and was subsequently placed in foster care, he doesn’t know how many places he’s lived. While in care, he had anger issues because his mom was incarcerated, and
he was resentful.
Four months before Davion showed up at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church asking for a family to adopt him, he searched for his birth mom. He found out she’d passed.
With the knowledge of her passing came a shift in his thought process. He resolved not to be angry any longer and let go of his resentment.
In the post what’s on their mind, I talk about our kids and what they believe. Our hurting kids can have misconceptions, believe lies that are untrue (both lies told to them and lies they’ve told themselves).
Birth family or previous foster families may have told them they were stupid, bad, ugly, or no one would love them. Or, they could be telling themselves lies, believing they are worthless and unloveable. They could also be resentful of a situation in their life, as in Davion’s case.
In the documentary, Stuck, a woman interviews a 12-year-old boy, Roberson, who’s living in an Ethiopian orphanage. She asks, “What do you know about adoption?” Roberson answers, “If someone doesn’t know you, they’ll be afraid of adopting you.” Six months after the interview he disappeared from the orphanage. He held onto a belief and in the end there was a horrible outcome.
Because of these beliefs, whether true (they’ve been left alone) or not (they’re worthless) very negative attitudes and behaviors can surface.
A child who’s been neglected, abused, and traumatized can have many misconceptions, but belittling those thoughts won’t help. Kindly reassuring them of the truth will help, but
realize they may hold firmly to what they believe.
In Davion’s case, he made a choice to throw out anger and let go of the resentment, but it’s not that simple for most hurting children. I don’t know how Davion Only is doing now or if the foster family who chose him decided to adopt him. I don’t know if he was able to stick to his decision to throw out his resentment. I honestly hope he’s happy and thriving in his new family (which I also hope is a forever one).
Davion may have been able to overcome the anger he had because someone in his life believed in him and gave him the courage to make a new beginning. He’s a teen who is looking at aging out of the system, so determination may have been a factor in changing his attitude. He may also have a different make-up than your child.
It’s true that we all have different personalities. Those personalities make situations affect each on of us differently. That’s why two children can come out of the same orphanage and one struggles with attachment issues and another doesn’t seem to. Although, I believe all children are affected in some way by institutionalization, neglect, abandonment, and abuse.
If your child has misconceptions (you may be aware of them, or you may not), you may wonder what you can do to support your child. Here are some ideas:
- Don’t belittle your child’s thoughts by saying, “You know that’s not true,” or “It’s ridiculous to think that.”
- Give your child truths to hold on to. (These are only examples, you may need to tweak them to fit your child’s story or thoughts.)
- Your birth mom loves you, she just made wrong choices.
- You are beautiful.
- The day I met you was one of the best days of my life. I was recently talking to my daughter about the day she came to us. I told her there were three best days of my life, the day I married her dad, the day we met her, and the day we met her brother. The entire time I was telling her, she had the BIGGEST smile, ear to ear. She was thrilled that I thought that much of her. (Although this story’s been shared with her before, it seemed to be new to her that day.)
- I’m sorry those other families didn’t stick to their promise, but we’re not letting you go. (And if you make this promise, DON’T go back on it.)
3.Find opportunities to show them the truth. (Again, these are examples, look for positive situations to capitalize on.)
- See how smart you are, you solved that problem.
- Other kids like you, Isaiah wants you to ride bikes tomorrow.
- You’re a good kid, you help me set the table, get diapers for your sister when I ask, and don’t complain when we have to run to the grocery store.
4.Be there. Be involved.
- Engage in activities with your child they enjoy.
- Talk with them every opportunity you get, but respect them when they want to be quiet.
- Make kind eye contact as much as possible.
- If their school requires them to do something like dribble a basketball, and they don’t know how and are frustrated, practice with them (with patience). Well, even if they’re great at dribbling, practice with them. Be together. Be a cohesive family.
Unhealthy beliefs can cause tremendous dissension within our children. We need to be vigilant about reaffirming who they are, show them they’re special and have value.
be physically present
Being physically present will teach your child far more than any words will. Many of them have been told lies, they’ve been given promises that were broken. Your words probably won’t mean anything for a long time (always use words whether they sink in or not – as one day they will), but be sure to pair them with actions to show them you believe in them and love them.
What misconceptions does your child have, or did they have when they came to you? Did they believe lies about themselves?