The Lost Child: Invisible and Unheard
The third of the four roles is the Lost Child. Remember, in a family with an emotionally absent parent, the other parent is focused on the ‘missing’ one. So no one is focused on the children. As a result of their emotional absence, the children learn to cope by adopting certain behavior styles. Unfortunately, these learned roles become their way of interacting with the world. Although every one has a bit of every role, for these children, they become more comfortable with a specific one and as a result, live within its constraints for a life time.
The Lost Child understands or feels the strain the family is under. As a result, they try to minimize their demands on their parents and siblings. As a result, they are often overlooked but this leaves them feeling lonely, rejected and isolated. The conundrum is they get what they want but that result leaves them feeling empty.
What does this look like? This is the child who is never a problem. They spend much time in these kinds of activities:
Playing video games
Playing in their room
Play ‘pretend’ behind the sofa or drapes
Building things with Lego or a similar toy
Hanging out at the library, playground or other place away from home
Every child does some of these, but for the lost Child, they excel at being ‘out of sight’ and end up being ‘out of mind’. Their teachers try to get them to participate more in class. Their siblings and fmaily call them shy. As adults they are called extreme introverts.
This child expects nothing and wouldn’t know how to make his or her wants known if they could identify them. Ironically, their disconnection from their family and themselves leaves them without knowledge of what they want or what is reasonable to expect from life and relationships.
The purpose of this role is to hide from the chaos, condlict and stress of their family. As a result they hide – often in plain sight, but hiding never the less. In becoming invisible, they never have to take responsibility for others (because as children they know they can’t fix the family dynamic.)
This child can take one of two paths. First is the super independent child, who can handle everything for themselves. Leave me alone, I’ll do it for myself. Remember the abiding belief for this child is that I must not burden anyone, ever. So I’ll do it.
The other path is that this child becomes socially awkward and uncomfortable with others. If the focus moves to them, they panic. They are unable to express emotion, because they have learned it doesn’t pay.
These chidlren tend to become attached to pets and toys rather than people, although one super close friend is not uncommon. Remember, they have learned that emotions are pointless in their family, because no one is paying any attention anyway. So they shut down and hide, often in plain sight.
Because this child never learns how to forge normal, healthy relationships, seeming aloofness is their norm. But people are not meant to live without social support and connection.
Sadly, this child may become depressed and suicidal, because of their isolation. And yet if someone tries to befriend them, they withdraw, uncomfortable and afraid. They don’t know how to accept the connections that humans need. And in rejecting those overtures, they further confine themselves to a world of loneliness and isolation.
Remember, no fair to diagnose others. If you feel a connection with this material, feel free to email me, leave a comment or contact a health professional.
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So how do you feel as you read this? Can you feel the loneliness and isolation of this child? Can you empathize? Or is confusing? I’d love to see your comments.