Catholic Psychotherapy |
Spiritual Counsels |
The Mistake of Invalidation |
The Proper Way
ONSIDER, for a moment, the way a
dysfunctional father treats his family. Instead
of being a good fathersympathetic, loving
toward others, compassionate, humble, and always
returning a blessing for insult (see 1 Peter 3:8)he will, overtly or
subtly, wear down his wife and children with criticism and faultfinding.
He will play mind games with them, denying their feelings even
as he smiles at them.
In his selfishness, he denies
his childrens reality. That denial will wound the children deeply.
But, because the children cant just go find another father, and because
they lack the psychological capacity to understand the games that are being
played with their minds, the pain will be driven down into their unconscious,
forcing them to defend themselves internally and intellectually. They will
teach themselves to suppress their true feelings. They will view the world
with cynicism. And the residue of that defensiveness will continue even into
adulthood to affect all of their interpersonal relationships.
This continuing dynamic will
be seen especially in the way these adults now treat their own
Maybe you are one of these
Instead of validating the reality
of your childrens pain, you will tend to deny it. When a child is hurting,
you will tend to say, Oh, its not that bad. Stop
What does this do to the children?
Well, they know very well the reality of their pain. And they know very well
that youre denying it. So they lose trust in you. And then they
will unconsciously develop ways to keep testing you with their behavior,
trying to get you to finally acknowledge their reality. And the
more you see them as a nuisance, the more they see you as a
So whats the proper way
to help children heal from pain?
The Proper Way
FIRST, validate the childs reality.
wounds, say something like this: Yes, it hurts, doesnt it?
And, oh, look at that blood! What nice, strong red blood! Youre doing
a very good job of bleeding!
wounds, be upfront and never try to protect children by hiding the
truthbe assured, they already have a good idea of whats going
on anyway. All they need from you is the truth so that they dont have
to concoct their own imaginary explanations to fit the situation. You might
say, for example, Yes, its scary, isnt it? Grandma is in
hospital because the doctors think she has cancer. Right now, we dont
know any more than that. There will be medical tests in the next couple of
SECOND, teach them to trust in God and teach
them that all thingseven painwill pass.
wounds, say something like this: Now, it wont hurt forever.
The bleeding will stop when its ready to stop. So lets say a
prayer to God for your healing, and then we will go and do what needs to
be done to clean up the wound.
wounds, dont lie and say that everything will be OK. Instead, admit
that you really dont know what might happen next and teach the children
to pray and trust in God. Yes, Grandma could die. So lets pray
that she will be OK. But whatever happens, we must trust in God that He will
protect us and help us.
What a gift to a child! Reality
How many of us never received
these gifts? And what a wounded mess our world is because of it.
out my help in the face of some sort of family crisis, parents often admit
to me that they have hidden the truth from their children. Then they quickly
add, I was trying to protect them.
Well, you cannot
protect children by hiding anything from them. You can protect them only
by teaching them to trust in Gods protection.
A treasure of a resource for psychological and spiritual healing. Information
gathered from my websites (including this webpage) is now available at your fingertips
in book form.
Falling Families, Fallen Children by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D. Do
our children see a mother and a father both living in contemplative love for
God with a constant awareness of His presence and engaged in an all-out battle
with the evil of the world? More often than not our children donít see living
faith. They donít see protection from evil. They donít see genuine, fruitful
devotion. They donít see genuine love for God. Instead, they see our external
acts of devotion as meaningless because they see all the other things we do that
contradict the true faith. Thus we lose credibilityóand when parents lose credibility,
children become cynical and angry and turn to the social world around them for
identity and acceptance. They are children who have more concern for social approval
than for loving God. They are fallen children. Letís bring them back.