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Traumatized adult children

Traumatized people do not handle pressure well as adults because as children they were too often subjected to it. Whatever form pressure takes, the fear and anxiety take their toll, and as the traumatized child grows, he seeks escape from that pressure. A healthy, protected child develops the tools to handle pressure.

Adult role models guide him through the challenges every child must face. He learns to use the potty, tie his shoes, brush his teeth. He learns responsibility, to keep his room clean, feed his dog, take out the trash, mow the lawn, do the dishes, do the laundry. He learns manners, to treat others with kindness and compassion, and he learns to respect other people’s space and property.

When life does go sideways, despite the fact he has not been subjected to the pressure of the traumatized child, he handles pressure better. The schoolyard bully seeks out an easier target. Peers can’t pressure him into taking risks, smoking cigarettes, huffing paint. Nothing is hidden from him, doors are not locked against him, because he does not steal. Secrets are shared with him, because he can keep his word and he does not gossip, especially maliciously.

He watches people derive pleasure from being considerate and kind to others. He watches many of the traumatized derive pleasure from being cruel to others. He develops a sense of fairness, of justice, and one by one he addresses the flaws within himself, ironing out the wrinkles even though it takes decades.

By the time he reaches fifty, he is an elder, and people turn to him for advice and guidance.

This person is not perfect, he is just normal, and that people consider him exceptional, shows how far we have deteriorated as a people. It is one thing to give your children the freedom to develop into their own person, and another to neglect them out of laziness and selfishness.

How many times have we seen a toddler running back and forth along the sidelines of a hotly contested basketball game, while the parents are busy socializing in the bleachers? Time and again, a coach, or bench player, or a fan from the stands, scoops them up just before a rush of ballplayers tumble right over the spot where they were standing.

When we see such a thing, we are witnessing a bad parent raising a traumatized child. If we could turn back the clock twenty five years, and visit that same basketball court, we would see that parent as a toddler, running back and forth along the sidelines, unattended.

Traumatized children never grow up, and even a healthy child can’t raise a child, and yet traumatized adult children fail at being parents all the time. You cannot counsel or shame them into being good parents. The part of them that could process that in a positive way isn’t broken, it was never allowed to form.

When ICWA allows a parent to adopt a child, the challenge for that parent is to address the previous trauma, heal the child, so they can start forming the habits and behaviors they will need to be a decent person and a good parent. You can feed, clothe, and cherish that child, but unless you address the trauma inside him, he will not heal, and when he passes puberty, he will become a traumatized adult child who will turn on you and all the other people who love him.

Bad parents are created by a traumatized childhood. The more we take trauma from childhood, the fewer bad parents we create to traumatize their children.

(Contact James Giago Davies at

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