Some people believe that children in abusive or neglectful situations, once removed from their environment, will heal and become happy, well-adjusted children. However, this is inaccurate. Not only do these children suffer from physical scars, but the mental anguish and emotional distress they have endured may haunt them for years to come.
In a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, children who have experienced abuse or neglect may relive these episodes just as vividly as the moment they originally happened. Through night terrors, dissociative episodes or flashbacks, a victim of abuse may encounter past attacks repeatedly. Not to mention that children who endure these scenarios may develop long-term problems with aggression or self-control and typically remain very guarded. Some of them may have difficulty with social interaction stemming from a lack of trust in other people, while others may appear unaffected.
The most important thing to any child is the knowledge that he has love and security and children who have been abused or neglected are no exception. The older a victim is, the more likely he is to act out as a result of his past experiences. This can make it difficult to show him that he is loved and will not be hurt anymore. Once placed in the care of a relative, foster family or new adoptive parents, the child may continue to feel insecure, expecting to be shuffled to another home eventually. The only way to begin the healing process is through time and patience. In addition, children who are removed from these situations must receive adequate medical care, as well as counseling.
It is extremely challenging for a child to explain what he is feeling. He may not know how to explain what he is feeling or he may not want to relive the pain of his trauma. Therefore, he may not open up to those who are close to him. For this reason, it is essential that he be offered the opportunity to speak with a trained child and adolescent therapist. Although a caregiver or new parent wants to help the child, pressing him to discuss feelings of pain or anger may make him uncomfortable and reinforce distrust. Someone who specializes in child and adolescent therapy knows how to approach children without forcing them to open up until they are ready.
There is always hope in any situation and these children have a lot of to give. However, overcoming an extreme betrayal from someone who was supposed to protect him from harm will take a lot of time and understanding. Removing them from their tormentor is only the beginning of their healing.