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The Aftermath of Telling Secrets

parenting reactive attachment disorder (rad) Oct 30, 2022
crying child and parents on couch

An emotionally fragile child needs the same quiet healing environment as a medically fragile child would–one that recently had invasive surgery. A child that has recently had an appendix removed would remain quietly in their bed, or on the couch, without playing baseball or going swimming. A child who has recently divulged secrets or events of their past abuse cannot handle being out in public or being over-stimulated. Consider how painful and extremely difficult it would be for you to ‘betray’ your own mother or father. These children know when they tell of past abuses by relatives or ‘friends’ that there will be repercussions for those people.

Would it be difficult for you to ‘tell on’ one of your parents knowing they may face prison? What a powerfully overwhelming dilemma this must be for a young child struggling with the burden of their abuse. They also suffer with intense fear of rejection, “Will you still love me?”, “Can I still be your child after you know what I have done (or been through)?” A little girl, adopted from an orphanage in India described the courage it takes for a little one to open their mouth, their heart, and their soul, and expose the depths of their trauma, as, “walking on burning hot coals”. She said this to her (adoptive) mother. When I asked her why she was willing to do it and face such fear and such pain, she said, “Because I want to love my mother!” We need to honor the children by rearranging our busy lives to protect and provide extra nurturing in the days or weeks following the revealing of deep secrets and painful memories.

An excellent example occurred when an eight-year-old, shaggy-haired boy, revealed numerous painful sexual experiences to his therapist. When a child is telling what has happened, they visualize it, and often relive the feelings, until the therapist walks them through a corrective emotional experience – or uses EMDR to dissipate the emotional charge connected with the memories of trauma.This young boy, within days, was taken to the mall to get a haircut. Normally, this is a loving thing for a mom to do so that a child feels good about himself. This child became verbally aggressive and then ‘melted down’ to the floor, refusing to take his mother’s hand and yelling, “You don’t love me!”, in front of gawking onlookers.

It is difficult to rearrange your life in order to be home, in a quiet environment, for a child that has just laid their soul bare, and needs to be cuddled, and nurtured until they are strong again. It is well worth the investment of time in the child. The shaggy hair can wait. The shopping trip, the relatives visits – these would all be set aside if it were a medical condition. They must be also be put aside for the emotionally fragile child to set them up for success. With an attitude of pride in our child’s courage and confidence in their ability to handle life without the burden of the secret, we honor them by giving them a healing time. This would be a good time to read together, laugh and tell stories, make pizza, bake cookies together, and/or rub lotion on each others feet. We may work with them as they do their chores or their usual routine to guide them and help them because they are a healing child, and very vulnerable during that time.


Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

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