Are You Listening, Mom?
If children had the verbal capacity
to express their feelings
††††††††††††††† perhaps we adults could learn
from them . . . .† .
Dear Mom:† I wrote a poem for you last night.† Please read it.
Itís entitled:† Just a Little Boy.
††††††††††† Iím confused, Mom.† I donít understand Ė
††††††††††† One moment youíre hugging me,
††††††††††† the next youíre slapping me.† Why, Mom?
††††††††††† You laugh without reason, you cry without pain.
††††††††††† You always scream in vain.
††††††††††† Iím just a little boy, Mom.† Please explain.
††††††††††† Donít allow a fog to take my brain.
††††††††††† You say you love me but only in words Ė
††††††††††† How then can you leave me in dark all alone?
††††††††††† Your frowning face frightens me, Mom,
††††††††††† and your bad temper places
††††††††††† a deep scar in my heart.
††††††††††† Your demanding voice doesnít allow me to grow Ė
††††††††††† Iím a fragile little boy with a broken soul.
††††††††††† Please, Mom, donít teach me to hate.
††††††††††† Love is what we need to make
††††††††††† the world a better place.
Do you know what the therapist said, Mom?† He said Iím suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.† Iím only seven years old.† I couldnít understand it in the beginning, but now it all makes sense.† Remember the endless times you banged me on the head for no reason? †The times you threatened my life by saying youíll poke my eyes out, and youíll lock me in the dark attic so monsters could eat me alive?† Iím helpless, Mom, even though I plead for you to stop.† Fear and terror overwhelm me.† Are you listening, Mom?† Iíve repressed your abuse, yet flashbacks hinder my behavior and my concentration.† I have low self-esteem, and I withdraw from others all because of you, Mom.† I catch myself dissociating at times; a way to protect myself. †Itís like putting a barrier between the traumatic experience and conscious awareness.† At times I have unexpected outbursts and I feel alienated from the environment.† I continue repressing the trauma and Iím ďscared silent,Ē but no one knows, Mom; just you.† If I tell, you will kill me.† You told me so.
The other night I wrote another poem.† Itís called, You.† Itís been three years since I wrote a poem for you, hasnít it, Mother?† Iím a big boy now.† Iím ten years old.† Are you listening?
††††††††††† You donít listen to what I say,
††††††††††† You judge me by how I behave.
††††††††††† You tell me, Mother, I act bizarre,
††††††††††† Yet you never kissed my bleeding heart.
††††††††††† You blind yourself with all your screams,
††††††††††† and donít allow me to express my needs.
††††††††††† You always order me what to do,
††††††††††† and keep reminding me what a failure Iíll be.
††††††††††† You break my wings before I can fly,
††††††††††† and you, Mother, constantly criticize.
††††††††††† You yell at me for this and that
††††††††††† but never praise to lift my spirits up.
††††††††††† You take the light away from me,
††††††††††† and without gentle guidance how can I be?
††††††††††† Please, Mother, donít judge me by how I behave,
††††††††††† Just listen to what I say.
This time the therapist said Iím suffering from Oppositional Defiant Disorder.† I believe itís from the inconsistent, or restrictive and/or unduly harsh way you have disciplined me all these years.† You havenít been a good role model, Mother.† Face it.† Youíre always expressing anger and you donít know how to respect.† Youíre argumentative and resentful. Many times youíre vindictive and most of the times you argue with me.† Yes, Mother, Iím just like you.† I imitate your behavior well, donít you think?† Iíve learned to annoy others like the way you annoy me. †Am I your scapegoat?† You are my problem, but now I bring it to school.† I often lose my temper.† Why is that so?† Please, somebody, help me.† I want to be good.† But I donít know how.
Parents must listen to children.† When a child evokes strong negative (or positive) feelings, parents need to know why.† Parents also need to understand the emotional issues of their own childhood:† the operations of their own families, present and past.† To be able to undo any type of damage where children are concerned, parents must work to heal their own inner selves (child) and then encourage their children to verbalize and share their feelings and thoughts to further open the channels of communication.† Once communication is established, the healing process begins.
I would like to talk to you, Mom.† Are you listening?† The other day I asked my therapist why am I having such a hard time complying?† He said there could be many reasons and factors.
I asked him if he thought I was a bad boy.
He said, No.
He said I was a very good boy.† Itís just at times I might act badly because I was having some problems.† Do you know why Iím having all these problems, Mom?
Mom, my therapist said I was a very good boy.† Do you believe that?† I think he lies.† You always telling me what a rotten kid I am.† You tell me that I will never amount to something.† I believe you, Mom.
I asked him, are there any other children whoíre having a hard time complying?
He said, Of course.
When I asked him why, he said itís due to various combinations of biomedical and environmental situations.
I asked him to explain please.
He said an autistic child who has physical abnormalities and lacks responses to other people will have problems complying.
Who else? †I asked, listening carefully.
He talked to me about the mentally retarded child whoís low on IQ and has learning disabilities. †About the brain-injured child and the handicapped child with muscular dystrophy or disease.† Cocaine babies would have problems with compliance, he continued.
Who else? †I asked again.
Children that come from unhappy homes, he added.
Unhappy homes?† I questioned.
Parents who argue, disagree, who are inconsistent and have harsh ways for disciplining and who provide inadequate supervision; their children probably have a hard time complying as well.
Are there other causes why children couldnít comply? I persisted.
Hum, said the doctor.† Well, the childís temperament and vulnerability also determine his/her behavior.
I see Ö I said.† After a few minutes I asked if I could go home.† I need to think things over, I told him.
I spent all night long writing a new poem.† Please, Mom, read it carefully.† Itís entitled:† Do you know why?
††††††††††† Do you know why Johnny is aggressive and disobeys
††††††††††† and has hard time conforming to social norms?
††††††††††† Mary, whoís experiencing excessive depression
††††††††††† and refuses to play and doesnít go out of her home?
††††††††††† Do you know why Brian speaks out of turn Ė
††††††††††† heís restless, impulsive, doesnít pay attention at all?
††††††††††† Niki, who complains about pains and headaches,
††††††††††† sheís afraid and refuses to leave her mother alone?
††††††††††† Do you know why Steven bangs his head, bites
††††††††††† his skin, pulls his hair and his language is hard to comprehend?
††††††††††† Jennifer, who washes her hands a million times
††††††††††† and changes her clothes every hour of the day?
††††††††††† Do you know why Alexi has hard times adapting to new situations
††††††††††† and doesnít fit his parentsí expectations?
††††††††††† Sonia, whoís having hard time in spelling and math,
††††††††††† her parents say her brain is impaired.
††††††††††† Do you know why, Mom, children have problems?
††††††††††† It could be because of their genes
††††††††††† and also be the environment they live in.
††††††††††† But I tell you, Mom, with love and devotion
††††††††††† problems donít have to be big Ė
††††††††††† Love and devotion do make problems shrink.
Psychological treatment can be helpful for children who have difficulties complying.† For example, play therapy could be used to reveal important features of his/her relationships, preoccupations and perceptions, and these play data are used to interpret and explain at a level thought appropriate to childís stage of cognitive development.† Family therapy is another theoretical treatment to help a child whoís having difficulty complying.† Behavior therapy also can be used for unwanted behaviors and by reinforcing desired or compatible behaviors.† Furthermore, psychopharmacological intervention is necessary for ADHD, Touretteís disorder, separation anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder which children have difficulties with compliance.
Parents also should be seen frequently and interventions may include marital counseling, guidance on child management for both parents and schoolteachers.† Treatment of a parentís own psychological or psychiatric disorders could be necessary to benefit a childís mental and physical world.
Iím having hard time falling asleep, Mom. I donít know what is wrong, but I donít feel good.† Negative thoughts ran through my mind, and I donít have energy, not even to play.
My therapist says Iím depressed.
Iím always asking him to explain.
My therapist talked to me about Freud.
Freud is the person who said that our personality consists of three systems:† the id, the ego, and the super-ego.
Our id does not think, but only wishes or acts and only knows subjective reality.
Our ego does the realistic and logical thinking and formulates plans of action for satisfying needs.
And our super-ego is our moral code.† It tells us if our actions are good or bad, right or wrong.
Are you listening, Mom?
If our id, ego or super-ego doesnít develop healthy, a child could suffer from depression because that child would have a hard time coping and dealing with negative feelings and would have a hard time developing a positive acceptance of sexuality, as well.
I told my therapist to slow down so I can comprehend all of this.
Then he talked to me about Doctor Eric Erikson.† Do you know who he is?† He is the man who believes that a child needs to explore, experiment and make mistakes and to test limits.† He also believes that a child needs to develop a sense of trust.† If his/her needs are not met, mistrust towards the world and interpersonal relationships is the result, so is depression.
I think, Mom, Iím beginning to understand why children feel depressed or are depressed.
Doctor Erikson said if children are given freedom to select personally meaningful activities, they tend to develop a positive view of self.† If theyíre not allowed to make decisions, they tend to develop guilt when taking initiative.
Guilt can make us feel depressed.
Basic task is to achieve a sense of industry.† Industry refers to setting and attaining personal goals.† Failure to do so, besides resulting in a sense of inadequacy, also results in depression.
Children are people, too, Mom.
My therapist paused.† He then asked me if I understood.† I nodded my head.† Yes.† He continued.
When a child concentrates on negative events, fails to use self-control and doesnít have control over interpersonal relationships and feels hopeless and helpless, depression would overwhelm him/her.
Internal conflicts could lead him or her to interpret reality in a certain way or to behave in a negative way because the depressed child expects to be neglected and behaves in such a way as to fulfill this prophecy.
Stop me if you donít understand, said my therapist.† I didnít stop him.
Genetic, biological and/or home environment can cause depression in children as well, he said.
What do you mean? I questioned.
If the home atmosphere were depressing due to lack of spontaneity, joy and laughter, a child would be depressed.
Is that the reason why I am depressed?† I interrupted.
Yes,† he said.† Your mom is depressed.† One time sheís withdrawn and non responsive, and other times she is unpredictable because of her guilt.† She wants to see you happy, and she uses bursts of energy to do so.
Do other children have depressed mothers?
Yes.† But you must understand there are other factors besides mother being depressed.
What other factors?
Family undergoes periods of stability and periods of change.† Letís say the family system is functioning in a stable, adaptive and reasonably smooth ways.† But one day, something bad happens.† The father loses his job, or a sibling is seriously injured, or a grandparent dies.† Those events disrupt the established patterns a family has.† Reorganization and changes take place, so does depression.† Many people cannot handle changes, good or bad changes.
Thatís what my therapist said, Mom.
I should try to sleep now instead of thinking of what my therapist said.† I have school tomorrow.
I love you, Mom.† Please be happy. I will be good. I promise.