Do you have someone that you rely on? Is there someone that you know will be there for you, support you, call you out, back you up, and fight for you every step of the way?
Can you imagine not having that person?
Can you imagine feeling too scared to trust anyone or anything? Or wondering what’s coming at you next and knowing that you have to deal with completely on your own?
Displaced children often struggle with these feelings of abandonment and fear. They often learn at a very young age that the adults around them are not to be trusted; they learn that they have to look out for themselves because no one else will. They are in their own personal war zone and they don’t know who the enemy is or what they look like. Unfortunately, these feelings tend to manifest in anger outbursts and defiance—things that tend to alienate others who are trying to help.
It’s hard to understand why someone would lash out at another who was trying to help. It’s easy to discount their behavior as disrespectful or combative. It’s tempting to dismiss the underlying causes because they don’t appear relevant to the situation. It’s a reasonable response to step back and admit that, at that time, help needs to come from another person.
The thing that is mind boggling is that, sometimes, this behavior is done with the intent to push people away. These kids expect that, at every turn, they are going to be let down. They want so badly to be accepted and included but they expect to be pushed aside and left behind. They have learned that even though someone might say that they care now, eventually they’ll stop caring. Eventually, they believe that person will get tired of taking care of them and will want to be rid of them. And that’s when they go all-in on their behavior—they figure that it’s better to get it over with early than to get attached and be taken by surprise when the other shoe finally drops.
What these children need most are people who aren’t going to let their behavior overshadow them. They need people who are going to keep trying–who remember that a child is more than their behavior, more than their background, more than their family history. They need to know that things will be okay even when they’re struggling. They desperately need someone who will walk with them as they learn who to lean on and how to lean on them.
It’s not easy. In fact, it may be the hardest thing someone has ever done. It requires more patience than can be described. It requires constant grace and unimaginable empathy. It requires a constant offer of forgiveness and a perpetual message of encouragement. And it is a slow process. Gaining the trust of these children, teaching them how and who they can rely on, teaching them how to rely on themselves in a healthy fashion takes so much more time than we would like.
But the rewards are just as great as the demands. The beauty of watching a child learn how to lay down their constant suspicions and trust someone else is indescribable. It is amazingly gratifying to see a person grow beyond their past and into their potential.