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It's Never Too Late to Have a Happy Childhood

In my job as a therapist, I see people every day with a hurt, scared little person trapped inside. This child (C) has not had the opportunity in their family to do those things that little children do naturally when they are adequately nurtured. Instead, they have learned dysfunctional behaviours to help them survive.

The essence of a child is pure feeling. In a family where abuse is perpetrated on family members, the child, who is either the victim or a witness to the abuse, if often forced early in life to be responsible for self-survival. This is also typical when a member of the family is alcoholic. The child learns certain grown-up survival behaviours, and while they do survive, they miss out on the opportunity for a happy childhood.

Children raised in dysfunctional families often have to be little adults (A), figuring out how to keep themselves safe at a very early age. They never really have the opportunity to be a child - a fun-loving, curious, creative, mischievous, wonderfully naive, little human being.

I think it is very important for individuals to know they have done the best they can, and that they be praised for surviving. Rational thinking does not usually develop until around age 12, so the child has to decide how to make sense of the craziness that confronts them before they actually have the ability to make sense of it.

If nurtured properly by the adults early in their life, the natural task for the child is to develop a sense of humour, spontaneity, curiosity, creativity; in essence, to be a fun-loving person, not solely in charge of keeping themselves safe. Safety is normally considered the responsibility of the adults in this young person's life. After the age of 12, their own rational thought process naturally takes over that task.

According to family communication experts Satir and Bradshaw, almost everybody comes fro a dysfunctional family. If this is correct, then it is all the more important for each of us to accept that we come from a dysfunctional family with dysfunctional coping behaviours. Perhaps that is the reason why many of us:

  • are so focused on work,
  • feel a need to control most events and people in our lives,
  • have fears and nightmares of our Family of Origin, and
  • exhibit such driven behaviours

Our 'child' has been forced to be an adult before its time, has not been allowed to play, and is still in urgent need of a happy childhood.

We could start by figuring out what's fun for the 'child', what tastes good, what colours are fun, and what activities make us giggle. And we could embark on the search for a happy childhood by making friends with small kids who can show us the way. If they are not readily available, then we can be friends with grown-ups who already have a strong, fun child inside them.

It's never too late to have a happy childhood.