I Am Not My Past:

 

Defining Yourself

 {Guest Post by: Chynna Laird, author of White Elephants}

When a child is abused or victimized, it changes a tiny part of him forever. That much is true. He comes to believe that he actually deserves the treatment that was bestowed on him. He thinks that, maybe, if he was cuter/smarter/faster/better behaved than the abuser wouldn’t hurt him anymore. We all know this couldn’t be further from the truth but this is the mindset these children fall into. And when we don’t keep reminding the child who he truly is underneath it all, we are inadvertently reinforcing those negative thoughts. Allow me to explain.

Whenever people found out what was going on in our house, or what happened to me specifically, one of two things happened. Some people focused on all of the statistics that say people who abuse become abusers or that we have to be watched closely because we’ll become addicts or hurt ourselves or, God forbid, commit suicide. This is a dangerous stereotype because, as with all stereotypes, they exist due to misinformation and misunderstanding. And when a person hears these stereotypes often enough, they end up believing them and living up to them. This line of thinking keeps these children living as victims rather than as a child who just happened to go through this horrible thing but who was brave enough to go on.

Others simply became so uncomfortable they wouldn’t interact with me. They didn’t know what to say to me or how to act around me and avoided me. That hurt tremendously because it made me feel like, maybe, I did deserve what happened to me if no one else wanted to be around me either. Again, this happens because folks just aren’t informed or understand the situations well enough. Taking the time to understand what these kids go through in general, as well as the child’s specific situation, will help ease any discomfort. Avoiding or ignoring them only intensifies their own insecurities.

I understand that not everyone knows what to do when finding out a child they know has been abused, neglected or otherwise victimized. The main thing you can help with is restoring the three basic things every child should have: self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence. All of these are broken down next to nothing when they’ve been abused. And those are the main components of helping these kids define their own paths.

A dear friend of mine, and the CEO of a local child protection charity I work closely with, told me once that she never reads the files for the children that come to her center before she’s met with them. She sits down with the child, playing games with them or talking about what they enjoy doing. Once she’s gotten to know the child inside and out, only then does she finally read the file to learn his or her history. Think of the significance of that for a moment.

By sitting down with the child first, my friend is seeing only the child. She’s understanding who he is, what his interests are and what he likes or doesn’t. She takes the time to figure out what that child is good at and draws that out. She relates to him at his comfort level, treating him like any other child she might meet up with. And doing this without knowing what he’s gone through is what she calls, ‘Defining him by who he or she is rather than whatever labels are attached to the child through their experiences.’

I can’t tell you how much that means to these kids. We can’t change or erase those experiences as much as we’d like to. But what we can do is remind him of all the good in him because no person can take that away from him completely. The way you can do that is to follow what my friend does above.

Plant the seeds of self-esteem by reminding her she is worth spending time with. Let her know that her presence matters and that she is still just a kid—a fantastic kid. She needs to see and believe that in order to keep going. Don’t worry, she will.

As that grows, nurture it so the first signs of self-worth start to sprout. Remind her of all the great things she can do, helping her to draw on that for courage and strength when things get tough. Show her that despite what’s happened to her, she is supposed to be here and get her to see all of her ‘Can Do’s’.

Once you see those take strong root, you’ll finally see the blossom of self-confidence develop and grow. When he knows others believe in him, he will believe in himself. Self-confidence isn’t just thinking you can do something, it’s what gives us the tenacity to try, and keep trying, until we feel bigger, stronger and more powerful than what’s trying to scare us from moving forward.

We aren’t born with any of these things. We’re supposed to learn and develop them from our caregivers. But when a child is abused, they don’t have the chance to develop properly and neither does the child. But children are resilient when given the proper support. Trust me on this. I wouldn’t be here today without my loving support network surrounding me each and every day.

Even if you don’t know what else to do, you have the ability to make a difference by helping to nurture these traits in these kids. We can all do that. By doing so, you’re giving them a most precious gift of all: the ability to define themselves and to say, “I am not my past!” And that is powerful.

Chynna Laird

CHYNNA LAIRD – is a psychology major, freelance writer and multi award-winning author living in Edmonton, Alberta with her partner, Steve, and their three daughters [Jaimie (almost nine), Jordhan (six), and baby Sophie (three)] and baby boy, Xander (five). Her passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other special needs.

You’ll find her work in many online and in-print parenting, inspirational, Christian and writing publications in Canada, United States, Australia, and Britain. In addition, she’s authored an award-winning children’s book (I’m Not Weird, I Have SPD), two memoirs (the multi award-winning, Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey With SPD and White Elephants), a Young Adult novel (Blackbird Flies), an adult Suspense/Thriller (Out Of Sync to be released March 2012), and a Young Adult Suspense/Mystery/Paranormal/Sweet Romance (Undertow, to be released 2012). She’s also working on a sequel to Not Just Spirited called Not Just Spirited: The Journey Continues and a few other projects in the works for Middle Grade and Young Adult readers.

Please visit Chynna’s website at www.chynna-laird-author.com, as well as her blogs at www.the-gift-blog.com and www.seethewhiteelephants.com, to get a feel for her work and what inspires her.

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2 Comments

Filed under Advice, Believe, books, emotion, Inspiration, Perseverance, writers

2 responses to “

  1. Thanks so very much for having me here today. It looks amazing and I hope your readers find it useful.

    I was so happy to ‘drop by’ here as one of my blog tour stops! =)

    Warmly,
    Chynna

  2. louella davis

    Not all children are abused in a manner that causes physical pain, it is abuse though and we definitely do not become abusers because we were abused!!

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