by Peggy Sweeney
When you hear the word child, what do you image? The smiling face of a little boy or girl or your growing teenager? Do you visualize a young ballerina or soccer player? Maybe it is a young adult complaining of acne, struggling with peer pressure, or begging for the car. I’m sure your mental picture will be one of a happy, smiling child.
Unfortunately, for many children in today’s world, traumatic events have occurred in their young lives that prevent them from fulfilling their most important task—being a kid and enjoying the rewards of those carefree days. They have been unwillingly forced to grow up faster than their peers without benefit of directives, manuals, or mentors. They may have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, classmate, or pet. Their parents may have dragged them through a bitter divorce and made them choose sides. They may be innocent victims of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, abandonment, or an alcohol- or drug-dependent parent(s). Their so-called friends may bully or shun them or call them names that hurt. Classmates and teachers may judge them as undesirable companions or students because their dad or mom has been arrested or is serving time in prison. What should be a happy, fun-filled time of their life is instead a day-to-day struggle to appear happy and normal. Their smiles and laughter have been replaced with sadness and tears. They seek comfort yet find no one who will ease their pain or help them deal with their feelings of anger, guilt, and loneliness.
Adults are seldom prepared to cope with their own traumas or grief much less those of a child they love. As a result, these children become the forgotten victims. We assume kids recover from the death of a loved one quite readily. Do not be fooled. This is not usually the case. Continue reading