This is a short essay about the experience of parenting a child who is experiencing blocked trust, which eventually leads to blocked care. I am reading about this currently in a book called Reclaim Compassion. I highly recommend it, especially if you are experiencing rejection from your child.
Parenting a child who has experienced complex trauma can cause the parent to experience similar symptoms to their child. Parenting a child who has blocked trust can lead to a parent experiencing blocked care. Parenting a child who is aggressive, whether physically or verbally, can result in fear-based responses from parents. Parenting a child who has built walls around their heart, can lead to parents building walls around their own hearts as well, their bodies, brains, and nervous systems protecting them from further emotional hurt and turmoil.
There is no shame in the walls that a child builds around his heart. His nervous system builds these walls without his consent in order to protect him from pain, rejection, and abandonment that he might have experienced in the past. In a truly harmful and unsafe relationship or situation, this God-given protection is necessary and useful. It allows the body and the brain to survive emotionally and physically tumultuous circumstances. But once a child is transferred into a safe, loving relationship or situation, sometimes the nervous system gets stuck, thinking that no one will ever be safe enough to enter his fortress. Allowing love, care, attention, and affirmation into the fortress is unsafe and unwise, according to past experience wired in his brain. Instead, he chooses to cozy up, isolated and alone in his tall tower that prevents him from pain but also now prevents him from love.
On top of all that, he's kept love out for so long that it's unrecognizable. He isn't sure if the love is genuine and true, or if the love is going to stick around or decide to leave, or if the love is just hate with a clever love-like disguise. It's safer just to keep a reasonable distance from it. It's safer to stick to his safe zone within the hollow four walls. He cannot risk his safety for love. That would leave him vulnerable and open for attack. No, it's far better here, alone, safe, and miserable. How could he ever know if love is worth the cost of possible hurt? Everything in his past tells him it's not.
As parents, we do everything to get inside those walls. We diligently look for the cracks in the wall and sneak love through them. We throw love over the top of the wall, praying it finds its way without knocking our beloved on the head. We dig underneath the wall and offer up love from the ground. We kick down the wall's bricks to make our way in, to deliver the love that is so desperately needed, if we have to. And even when we make our way in, it's likely that the love we have worked so hard to deliver will be smacked down, refused, and pushed away. Our hard work goes unnoticed. Our maneuverability, our flexibility, our perseverance go unseen. Our love is pushed aside, snubbed, rejected.
After a while, something inside us parents tells us, "This isn't safe." It whispers, "This current set-up isn't going to work. We need something different. We need to protect ourselves." Our bodies and brains convince us that we can't continue doing the exhausting work of looking, sneaking, throwing, digging, kicking, and delivering love, only to be rejected. And so, we start building our own walls around our hearts, grasping onto the mirage of hope found in isolation. We protect ourselves from the possibility of hurt, and, in so doing, we prevent ourselves from the possibility of love, of hope, of redemption.
Here, we parents find ourselves in the same vulnerable place as our children. Here, parents are reminded that we are but human, made in the divine image of God but still subject to the brain and body's natural response to pain. We are broken, seeking to become numb instead of running to Divine Strength to sustain us. We are in need of the Savior who stood where we now stand. He is a Savior who snuck love through the healing power of his robe and walked miles to deliver love to an unworthy woman at a well. He is a Savior who gave everything, his very life, for love, and was still met with the harsh reality of rejection. He is not unfamiliar with this kind of pain; he experienced its fullness at the cross. But instead of protecting himself, he poured himself out.
As we feel our bodies attempt to protect ourselves from our children's rejection by building up walls, we must run to Divine Love, asking him to tear them down. We must rely on his Divine Strength as we power through and continue to deliver love, no matter the cost. We must remind ourselves of his Divine Approval, knowing that we are precious in his sight, a light to behold. We must regularly approach his Divine Counsel, asking him to give us insight into breaking down our own walls and also helping our children break down theirs.
Through his power and in his timing, the walls will begin to break. Hearts will soften and the love will flow freely. But herein does not lie our hope. Our hope is not found in changed circumstances, in the absence of rejection, in conflict-free homes. Our hope is found in the One True God, the One who gave up his divine privileges in order to find his way to us, in our isolation towers and fortresses. Our hope is found in his love, in his promise, in him alone.
Need More Support?
If you need additional support as a parent of a child who consistently rejects you, I'd love to coach and walk with you through it. I offer coaching for foster and adoptive parents who are struggling with how to parent for the long-haul. I coach parents as they learn how to find hope in their struggle, and I help them find the practical support they need to work through behaviors and feel successful, even when nothing seems successful. I get it! You can check out my coaching page here.
Some Truth for Ya:
"The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love."
"But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him."
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!