One of the best ways to understand a child, is to go into their world of imagination and experience and look at things from their perspective.
If we don't see things how they perceive or view them, we will have difficulty trying to draw them out into a more accurate picture of reality. Once you have gone into THEIR WORLD, YOU CAN PULL THEM OUT INTO A MORE HEALTHY PLACE.... A place of Innocence and Imagination!
It happens slowly for many children who are very, very hurt.
Connecting with them can be as simple as studying what their favorite subject is and then doing something together. It could be taking them to the dog pound to pet and walk dogs, because they are worried about the "dogs" who have no owners.
This might give you a clue about something else they are too afraid to tell you about; being worried about children who have no parents.
After a light hearted time of walking dogs or petting them over asking about how they got there, you can then take opportunity on the way home, or while eating ice cream or going for a walk to transfer those feelings to caring about humans, and how many children do not have parents.
"I am so glad that you are a part of family now! I am so glad you don't have to be alone anymore!"
And then, you can help them pray for the children that we are all haunted by; left behind in orphanages and alone.
I remember working so hard to try and get into Anna's world. She had imaginary friends, "Holly and Sister Nothing." I remember one of the first times it happened, she had been home just weeks and we were in the van. She didn't like the radio station so we turned it off. I have learned that Anna MUCH PREFERS calm and quiet to busy noise, and that is ok.
But I decided to turn it into a game for her.
"Well, what do you want to listen to? And I pretended to turn the radio on and started singing.
She wanted it turned down, so I told her to turn it down. She caught on, and turned my volume down, then up then down.... and then she switched channels. We had so much fun being silly and switching channels and volume, I think I even tried my hand at Spanish. She let her guarded little heart down and her childhood innocence and joy popped out.
That defining time gave me hope that there was a little child in there wanting to pop out and be vulnerable once again!
Don't forget in all the craziness of parenting children who have trauma backgrounds to remember,they are children, and children love to imagine and play. If they have forgotten how, or never learned, one of the best things you can do is teach them to play.
But when you teach them, gently introduce parameters. "Oh sweetie, we only speak nicely to our dollies. We wouldn't want anybody to say something like that to us! So we shouldn't say it to our dollie. "
(Watching and listening is vital to catch windows into their little hearts, but do not let their hearts go unchecked)
If they are pretending, do not allow them to pretend to be a bad guy. "Good guys only! You live in a good guy zone!"
Don't allow them to pretend to shoot a person EVER, and NEVER EVER in a video game!
"We only pretend to shoot at targets like tin cans."
If they are playing with blocks and only know how to throw them, teach them to build, stack, make a truck, make a house... "What would you like your house to look like?"
The children may only throw them because they don't know what to do with them!
FINGER PAINTS are GREAT for kids to use eyes and hands and design things. If you mess up, you just smear it over and start again!
We have parented all of our children in this way.
One thing that has brought me such joy over the years has been watching my children play.
Each of our girls had to learn how to play and use their imaginations. We started with games like Anna and I did, and then gave them dollies and blocks. We kept their toys basic and simple, and made sure they would cause them to have to use their imaginations.
I remember Anna had no idea how to take care of a baby doll. :( She carried it by the foot and looked at me like "What do I do with this?"
That was my opportunity to play with her and teach her to play.
"What is your baby's name?" "Oh, I think she is hungry, can you feed her?" "Watch her head, she is very tender and tiny!" "I think she might be cold!" "Your baby is crying, you need to go and pick her up, we mustn't let babies cry!"
And then we would PLAY together. She picked up on playing pretty quickly.
Our newest daughter Alli, who came home at 11, also did not know how to play. Her sisters and I were able to draw her into a world of imaginary play and that healing play has been vital for her.
She was finally allowed to be a little girl. She didn't know who she was when she came. She was lost in a sea of grief, tragedy and confusion.
When she first came home, she was talking about vampires and music groups.
She had been told she was too old for the very first Easter Egg Hunt she had ever seen and was not allowed to participate.
(Something she remembered when we gave her a doll that was not a barbie doll)
We made SURE she had an Easter Egg Hunt, and let her know that even Mom likes finding Easter Eggs.
She makes everybody laugh with her play now. She is VERY GOOD at creating and being in the "Olden Days", her favorite period of time.
"Hey, let's pretend we are sisters and that we home school and we live in the country!" LOL
But then, she adds, and everybody has to do school by oil lamp, or wear long dresses and get the eggs. She and Sarah have made paper monies and they buy and sell at a market they created on the front porch.
All of them make movies now, and write scripts for them. Sarah has been working on a HUGE mystery from when her friends come over. They all have clues with ribbons tied around them for a big interactive game.
It is so important for our children, who have missed much of childhood to have the opportunity to BE CHILDREN before they enter the next stage of life.
It is a vital part of healing.
If the idea of Playing with your child exhausts you.... think of it as cheap therapy. :) Eventually, once they learn to play, you can be more of an observer, and they wind up playing with each other. And then you get to joyously sit back and watch the magic of childhood.
This is one of Mike's favorite scenes from Martian Child.
“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)