Understanding The Fear Factor

Understanding The Fear Factor

I wrote a few days ago about how Sweetie 4 felt safer in the orphanage and frightened in America when she first came home.
There are  valid questions as to why that would be!
How could a seemingly unsafe place without hope and without future seem safer than a loving home WITH a future?

 The village where her orphanage was located was beautiful.  There was a craft room that she loved.

Reactions of fear are all about perspective, the unknown, and change.

Some children transition from one culture to another or  one home to another quite smoothly, and  with minimal bumps.  They have a clear idea of what is “normal”.
Others however have very strong reactions to the change and it terrifies them.  Their “normal” is quite different from what it should be.  Their brains get wired at an early age to cling to chaos.
So when “normal” comes: a.k.a.- Loving parents, good intentioned parents, structure, etc.
The reaction can be quite strong.  There can be a STRONG fight or flight fear reaction that can come out in many different ways.
For some children, they shut down, become robotic, unconnected and lifeless.  For others, they become combative, angry, violent, aggressive, disrespectful, and more.

BOTH OF THESE are FEAR REACTIONS….. YES FEAR!

And yes, a child can long for the chaos left behind, even though they have a seemingly wonderful situation right in front of them. YES! They can be blind to new parents and promising lives, and be TERRIFIED!

As adoptive parents 2 out of 4 of our girls had this very reaction.  Even though we loved them and were loving to them, their first response was rejection and anger.
(Rejection and Anger are FEAR based responses)

This is the part that is hard for all of us as adoptive parents.  We cannot and MUST not take the reactions personally.
Even if a child is screaming “I hate you! or “I want to die!”    With limited English in the case of International Adoption, this might be the strongest language a child has to express their grief!

We must understand that they are reacting to the unknown with great fear . Their new normal is actually CHAOS to them!  And they will do anything and everything to recreate what they are used to.

When I wrote  that sweetie 4 had fond memories of her orphanage, I was serious. She really did. She also has fond, healthy memories of her earliest life with her bio parents.
We have worked HARD for her to talk about both…the good and the bad.
And the truth is, there is no experience that is all good, or all bad!

She has memories that are horrific….but she also has memories where she cooked with her mama, or went to visit a relative.  She has memories of playing under the house, and having a little friend; and memories of following her big brother around and going to the small store in their village.

I want her to cling to those memories and hold them in her heart.  The memories that landed her in an orphanage need to be remembered too, but only so she can forgive and learn what NOT to do!

The same goes for any other home she was in.  There are good and bad memories.
We have encouraged her to keep the good ones and be thankful for them.  Let the bad ones go, forgiving others and forgiving herself.

The trick in taking a child from chaos (fear) to regular life (a place of love and regulation) is in our reactions to their fear.
I say this, and it sounds so simple.  The concept IS simple.  The task of carrying it out is not so simple. 🙂
That is just true.
It can be VERY HARD!
Why?
Because it requires us to die to ourselves.  It requires us to put our own feelings aside over, and over and over…..
A perfectly great day can occur and then…. SABOTAGE!    The child forgets their shame for part of the day and then something happens in the brain and they remember…. oh yea…. and they begin to act out.
THAT is the time where we need to be on our guard the most!
We can miss a perfect opportunity for healing, if we over react, or react out of fear ourselves!

I remember one time when we had had a WONDERFUL time and then suddenly one of our girls  began to cry and kick the backs of the seats, throwing a huge fit.  “I hated that time!” “I  hated those people!”  and more….

We had been at a cross roads with this child.  She was beginning to turn from chaos to embrace love.
But this day was just too picture perfect and her shame overcame her.
She didn’t feel she deserved such a good day and tried to recreate the day to fit her view of herself.
“Undeserving”….. “not worthy to be loved”…. “Problem child”!
I would have called her “Much Afraid”.  🙁

Both my husband  and I immediately realized what was happening and quietly responded to her screams.
“You deserved to have fun!”  “You are lovely!”  “You are a great kid!”
As we carried her into the house kicking and screaming, we got her to the rocking chair and I repeated all those things to her, quietly.
She began to go from tantrum to sorrow….
Her screams of anger turned to sobs of sorrow.
She wept properly this time, grief pouring from her little heart and we witnessed another piece of her heart healing.

I shudder at what could have happened had we reacted to her tantrum in anger or frustration!  What if we had said, “Stop that right now!”  “You are being terrible!”  “What a bad girl!”  “You are really going to get it when we get home!” “You are going STRAIGHT TO BED!”  and then, we separated from her…. and licked our wounds of pride after her verbal assault?

I honestly KNOW what would have happened, because we HAD reacted that way before with some of those words!
Bitterness would have set in, and the next time would have been worse. We would have reinforced her very thoughts about herself, and solidified in her mind that she deserved to be treated badly.
And yes, she received it as being treated badly.

NO deep healing can really take place if we are “punishment” oriented. We need to always move in the direction of healthy relationship and healthy instruction!

 It is possible that SOME kids might even respond to that type of reaction externally…. but we are looking for INTERNAL healing that shows itself in EXTERNAL and INTERNAL thoughts and behavior!

I do not desire my children to simply obey at my every command.  I want them to obey out of love and desire!  I want them to be motivated by LOVE and proper respect.
But that kind of obedience takes TIME and a whole lot of hard work!

I love the words to the song below.  It is so true for our children who come from hard places!
It is also true for us, if we are open to being changed!

“I Will Change Your Name”

G       C                    D
I will change your name
G                     C               D
You shall no longer be called
G        C       D   Bm    C               D
Wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid
G       C                    D
I will change your name
G                C                  D
Your new name shall be
G        C         C       Bm
Confidence, joyfulness
C      G            D
Overcoming one
G           C        D            Bm
Faithfulness friend of God
C                D              G
One who seeks My face
G        C         C       Bm
Confidence, joyfulness
C       G           D
Overcoming one
G           C        D            Bm
Faithfulness friend of God
C                D              G

One who seeks My face

2 Responses to Understanding The Fear Factor

  1. Karen says:

    We have discovered that even a child placed in our home at birth can have these feelings…simply separation from birth mom and/or whatever happened/exposures in utero and/or foster care, even at a young age, can profoundly effect a child.

    So agree with your words of life…and agree that it is so hard…

  2. ChristieM says:

    Karen,
    Have you ever read the book “The Primal Wound” by Nancy Verrier?
    It is a really good read.

Comments warmly welcomed!

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