Why Don’t You Understand?

My Friends Don't Understand My Child's Trauma

Rebekah Lewis September 28, 2018
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There is something haunting about talking to someone about the same thing but being on totally different wavelengths. Trying to explain your child’s trauma and the resulting behavior of that trauma to your friends is like trying to explain to a fish what it is like to climb a tree. There seem to be two main reasons why your friends do not get it; they do not want to imagine it because that’s too scary, and our human minds automatically veer towards what keeps us safe and has the least amount of effort associated. However, they then become ill-informed, and thus naive to that aspect of the trauma you are trying to explain.

Don’t get discouraged if when you try to explain the issues that your child is going through, those in your life try to tell you how to ‘fix’ him, when in reality they have no idea what’s happening in your child’s world. It may become obvious to the people with whom the child spends time with that there appear to be mental and emotional difficulties due to the odd behaviors he manifests.

A traumatic experience can temporarily shatter basic assumptions about life, or other people, including trust, safety, and predictability. The feelings caused may possibly be so intense that unlike normal distress, they do not fade with time, but either continue the same or get worse.

- People affected by trauma may feel fear, even when it is quite safe.

- They may be constantly on edge and not respond to normal reassurance, or opportunities to relax.

- Their exhaustion may continue on for much longer than it seems reasonable.

- They may have periods of appearing numb, or detached, and not want contact. This may be followed later by over-exciting behavior and a need to cling to family, or familiar things.

- They may feel they failed or did the wrong thing at the time, even if this isn’t true.

- Usually, they remember a combination of very intensive fragments of the events that don’t go away, combined with important gaps that make them feel uncertain about what happened.

When your friends and family confront you about the actions and behaviors of your child because it shows he is different from other children, the best things that you can do is to be patient. Remember, sometimes people just aren’t aware of these things, and frequently, they do not mean to insult or alienate you or your child. Give the correct information to help them better understand what happens to a person when they experience trauma. Don’t take it personally if they refuse to understand or can’t grasp what you tell them. Set, and keep firm boundaries for you and your child. No one is entitled to know personal details about the child’s life and experiences.

Remember to take your child’s side first. The child is the one that’s suffered these traumas, and he is just doing what he can to cope. Also remember to be patient and understanding with your friends and family that don’t understand, or refuse to. Some people will understand, and some won’t. Everyone is different. We are all just trying our best.

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Rebekah Lewis

Rebekah Lewis is currently a college student studying social work and sociology. She wants to be a voice for foster kids as well as a child abuse victims advocate. She is a co-founder of a nonprofit organization designed to prevent abuse in the rising generation. She loves to write, hike, and throw random dance parties.


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