There are many children who show extremely challenging behaviours – whether at school, in youth activities with other children or at home. They may be the ones in fights, or verbally abusing the teacher, they may be swearing and throwing things in the class or in the club. They are definitely the ones all the workers know and spend much of their time trying to curb their behaviours or deal with the fallout.
BUT what of some of the other children? In Attachment terms they may be the avoidant children, or just the quieter, more withdrawn children, or the shy ones who desperately want to join in the activities but can’t get over their fears and anxieties.
One of my children, well in fact all three in some ways, are this child. They are compliant, well mannered (at times), polite and generally come across as nice children. However there is a sea of paranoia, dysregulation and fear going on underneath the surface. This weekend was a prime example for me. All three go to a brilliant youth club in our local church on a friday night. 200+ young people attend this club from age 11-18. Mine have been going for some time and are not the ones that demand much attention from the staff but they come out as high as kites. The stimulation, noise and amount of people in that short space of time seems to send their senses racing. Of course they have to deal with more children then that at school every day but we are starting to think maybe they’re not ready for this!
Then yesterday my eldest and I were in a choir that performed in three performances across the Sunday which was a long day. She did really well but I noticed as the day progressed that she was actually finding it all quite difficult. Others may not have noticed the bright red cheeks, the giggles, the slightly larger gestures, louder voice and general fizziness that I could see creeping over her. And then this morning of course the down side of a day like that – the grumpy, irrational response to every comment given by me or her siblings.
So why am I talking about this? Well I just want to draw your attention, my lovely readers, to the child you may not have noticed. The one who isn’t extreme in their behaviours but a change has happened. It may be a slightly higher pitched voice then normal, a lack of life behind the eyes, a tendency to stick close to the adults in large peer groups – there are actually many signs of a child like this struggling but they are so subtle and tiny you have to be really watching to see them.
Why is this important? Well for these children they need desperately to be able to navigate those rocky friendship seas. Without our help, understanding and guidance they will leave those youth clubs and not come back, they will not take part in those all day events, or they will just slip into the background and become invisible all together. They need us to see them. To really notice what’s going on and to be able to reach out to them and help them. Without us doing it they may never learn how to function and have good, healthy relationships with others. And that is the bedrock and a healthy adult life – to feel good about yourself and to be able to connect with others. This is what will break the cycle for children who’ve had a rocky start in life. I hope you will join me in whatever way you can to see the child others don’t see.