I was just thinking about this today, and thought I would share some of my thoughts with Y'all.
When children have lived with extended trauma and instability in their lives, their brains become wired to think that it is NORMAL. They live at a heightened sense of emotion, and they continue to live in "survival mode". They become hypervigilant and begin to function on the outside in a way that is normal for their circumstances. Meaning, orphanage life, or chaotic household life. Feelings are stuffed down, and survival is the name of the game.
Many kids were "favorites" at their orphanages, because they learned how to get what they needed or craved through external action. They weren't given affection because they were loved, but because they may have performed or done something funny, or smiled extra cute. They had to earn any affection they received.
Transfer this same child into a stable home where love is given freely without the need to earn... food is available, you will sleep in the same bed every night, you will wake up in the same home every morning, you will be hugged, touched, fed and clothed ; THIS stability creates CHAOS in the mind of the child.
They don't know what to do with it. It is foreign and it scares them. The very thing they crave and want, they are getting, but NOT in the same way they got it before, so they recoil from it, trying to re create what their familiar life experience used to be. If that is a verbally abusive parent or caregiver, or physically abusive parent or orphanage worker, they will try to recreate it in the home.
They cannot comprehend being taken care of, since nobody took care of them before. This is especially true with older children who have been on their own emotionally for a long time.
I remember Anna's first year home she demanded "WHY DON'T YOU JUST HIT ME?"
It was as if she needed that heightened level of experience to release her brain and rest.
Sounds crazy, but it was true.
We would tell her, "We won't hit you, because we love you." She FINALLY GOT IT and lost the need to create chaos.
What if, all you had ever known, was chaos, and then, you went into stability? Stability would seem all wrong! What if you found out the entire way you viewed the world was wrong? Wouldn't that scare you? Wouldn't that make you want to fight to prove it isn't true?
It isn't just knowledge that needs to be changed, but the actual wiring of the brain. You can convince the child that life is good now, and they may love you attach to you... but under the surface is the actual brain response to all the new changes.
The brain will NOT like it. And it takes TIME, even if a child is attaching to help your child work through all those changes and REBOOT the brain to respond to stimuli differently.
The culture shock, whether changing countries or just families is immense. Our sweetie asked the other day, "WHY AM I SO AWFUL SOMETIMES?"
She was so sad that she was snotty. She really DOES NOT understand. She is not trying to be awful. She really isn't. Helping her learn to recognize patterns is very important, so she can catch herself and train herself!
Today, during one of our mama daughter talks, I told her.. "Miss Alli, you have only lived 1/12 of your life in stability. 11/12's of your life has been CHAOS and EXTREME CHAOS....
You are still learning to tell your brain that you are safe and that you don't have to do the things you used to do. It is hard on the ole' brain. It wants to re create what you had before, because that is what was familiar. You HAVE to tell it no! And then allow yourself to enjoy STABILITY."
She has learned fractions so she understands just how small 1/12 th is.
"And you are NOT AWFUL! Sometimes the things you do can be very wrong... but YOU are not awful!"
We switched our conversation to her upcoming Birthday.
Valentines day will complete our first year cycle of holidays. YEA!
So as we were talking, we mentioned all the holidays she remembers from last year. Her memories of last year have held on, and I said to her.... after this birthday, you will know what to expect from now on. I told her about the scavenger hunt for presents (just like her sisters), picking her favorite meal and movie... and helping to bake her own cake. She has seen these things 3 times for her sisters.
And now, it is HER TURN.... She will be hypervigilant until Thursday rolls around. And then, next year, she'll remember, that she was here and she still is here.
We have a lot LESS Chaos than we did at first, and I love these talks with her. She is really starting to comprehend and understand the hard work ahead. She is a hard worker, so that is good! :)
I am thrilled at how much she has accomplished this year. It is nothing short of miraculous. She has learned to pray and call out to the Lord for help... and this has caused huge changes.
I am also realizing just how miraculous another little life around here is. :) We went through these things before with another daughter. :) She is so amazing now. Today, she was passing a note in class. It said, "Mama had to pay taxes today, and she is probably stressed. Let's all have good attitudes." It was titled "A Contract" and there were lines for each girl to sign on... making a contract to have good attitudes all day. LOL
I was so touched by her thoughtfulness. :)
Thank you Anna. :)
(I guess I was really complaining about all those taxes) LOL
“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”
― C. S. Lewis
― C. S. Lewis
I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I don't feel it. And I believe in God even when He is silent. (quote found on the wall of a concentration camp)