When a Child is Robbed of Their Childhood
There are two common situations. The first is the sensation that you didn’t have a childhood at all. It’s as if you never went through it and skipped straight to adulthood. The second has to do with having a void inside. Something is missing, but you don’t exactly know what.
“If the parents don’t work on their childhood wounds, their children will experience the same painful childhood.”
In the family
It’s usually the caretakers or close relatives. A child’s family and what they do affects them more than they could ever imagine. Let’s look at some real-life stories and try to understand…
Natalia was only 5 years old when her father told her that no one loved her and that she would end up being a prostitute. Her father, her uncle, and her mother’s boyfriend had all sexually abused her until, at age 11, she told one of her friends she might be pregnant. That set a process in motion which eventually shed light on everything that had happened to Natalia.
The psychologist who treated Natalia said, “I have been in this profession for many years, and she’s the patient who has most suffered from the consequences of abuse. She couldn’t talk, she was constantly disconnected. She wouldn’t speak or move.”
Although now Natalia has a normal relationship and kids, she breaks down if you inquire about her past. A past that still hurts. Her childhood was stolen and the perpetrators were her own family.
“She no longer distinguished between affection and sexual contact. She had very sexualized behavior.”
Here is the story of Patricia. She watched her father abuse her mother until they finally got divorced. But, custody of Patricia and her younger brother was given to her father. She was only six years old, and her brother was four. In her own words, she says:
“He once threatened to crash the car with us in it, he threatened us all the time to leave us at a shelter. He would pretend to call someone on the phone and then would say to me, ‘Pack your bags, they’re coming to get you, because that’s where they take kids that no one wants’.”
Consequences in adulthood
The stories above are heartbreaking. Unfortunately there are many more: marrying one’s child off at a very young age, manipulation, emotional abuse, negligence, abandonment. In all of these cases, there will be severe consequences in adulthood.
When someone says they didn’t have a childhood or that they barely remember things from when they were young, they usually are lacking a solid foundation to build their identity on. Perhaps they had unstable support, or nonexistent support. And the sad truth is that many will carry it all with them as they grow up.
When a child is robbed of their childhood, emotional dependence to some degree often results, especially in people who have experienced abandonment. Others develop a ferocious fear of the opposite gender. Or, like with Natalia, they aren’t capable of differentiating affection from sexual contact.
Attitudes seen in adults who were robbed of their childhood include emotional repression, inability to name the people who hurt them, and denial.
To heal these emotional wounds, it will take years of hard work. In most cases, the help of a professional will be crucial. Putting the pieces of a fragmented, trampled, and battered childhood back together takes a huge effort.
“Everyone has a few painful wounds buried in their hearts. In fact, they can continue forward, and eventually they become insensitive to pain.”
-Kim Bok Joo-
Stealing the childhood of any child is a very serious crime. Adults are the perpetrators: adults who think the kids won’t remember anything, who believe they can do whatever they want with kids. They think that children are mere objects to play with. They don’t realize that that they are doing real emotional damage. It will be an open wound for a long time, and then it will be a scar that may never go away.