Not all parents intend to neglect their children or do it on purpose. It is always best to listen to another person's story without judgment because what you observe may not be the truth. For example, a child with torn shoes on may not actually be neglected. What if that person does not have a paycheck until Friday? Or, that parent recently lost his or her job? Yet, your observation is that the child is neglected. Is that fair? Probably not, but easy to do because we tend to view the world through our own glasses. You know, our upbringing, education, and wisdom. Our experiences give us the authority to cast doubt on what may seem abnormal to us. That abnormality can cause us to become void of empathy as well, toward others.
A few weeks ago, a child told me that if he did not help his mom clean up that weekend, then they will loose their apartment. I asked him, "Well, what do you think you should do?" He said, "Spend the weekend helping my mom clean up." I said, "That's a great idea and let me know how it goes for you." I whispered that conversation to someone who told me to contact Child Services about it; the possibility of a child loosing a home is neglect, and we need to do something about it. My answer:
I guess if you never lived that life, then you may think that there is a possibility of neglect. I explained to this person that you have to remove your biases, judgments, and doubts when working with families. Give this family the opportunity to fix their situation. Not to mention, that child will never disclose anything further to you if you take such drastic measures.
The following Monday, that same child walked right up to me and said, "Guess what?" I said, "What happened?" The child said to me, "We cleaned all weekend?" I said, "Ugh, that would get on my nerves!" The child said to me, "Mine too, but I helped." With wide eyes and a smile, I said, "And what happened, tell me, tell me?" The response, "We were able to keep our place." I hugged this kid and mentioned that I knew that he was responsible enough to help and that I was proud of their accomplishment as a family. From that point forward, that child has told me every single event that is happening within his family's life.
See what I did with this kid?
Consequently, I also have full knowledge of whether or not this family is suffering a loss, which could potentially cause them to be homeless and the children neglected. Being "at risk," is what I am referring to, and whether or not the family needs assistance more than judgment. Meaning, I am monitoring their lifestyle without showing it to this child. As of today, this is a child who hugs me daily, and trusts me with that personal information. The rapport and bond that you can create with a child who depends upon you can be strong, if you take the time to just listen and remove your personal experiences. You will know when to contact Child Services on a family. This was not that case for this family, and I had a long talk with the person who attempted to coarse me into making that phone call. Empathy allows you to understand another's plight. Empathy makes you care for others, and it forces you to think outside of your own bubble-world, when it comes to other people.
In the field of psychology, we encounter a variety of issues where we need to make decisions to problem-solve situations for families. At times, that requires quick thinking and harsh realities. Encountering a neglected child is one type of child that I have worked with quite often, unfortunately. Each and every time, it is not easy because most of the parents are not neglecting their children on purpose. Still, that does not mean that we do not need to make a referral to Children's Services. It heavily depends upon the situation. I have not contacted Children's Services in many years to report a parent, and I appreciate keeping it that way. Still, it happens and it is done to protect children.
My worst days in this field revolve around child abuse and neglect. I do not like it when children (and our elders), are abused or neglected! The mindset of the individuals who inflict the wounds varies, pending their childhood and mental health status. For example, I recall a mother telling me that her son would not remember the domestic violence that she faced when he was a little boy. That same teenager told me every single time his mother was thrown into a chair; a chair that broke from her body, and how her face looked after the abuse. His mother was horrified that he remembered, and shared her feelings with me. She cried because she believed that she shielded her son from the violence. Her son grew up to be a violent teen. The cycle of violence occurred due to this child learning that it was ok to abuse woman. He was angry with his mother and hated women, which is why he physically abused and committed other crimes toward teen girls. Ironically, he was very gentle with me. Interesting right?
The public always questions the reason(s) why something occurred that can be perceived as horrendous, such as abuse and neglect. Sometimes we have the answers as Psychologists, and other times we do not understand ourselves why people make certain decisions. The irony is that if you ask some children, similar to the teen boy above, why they commit these acts agains others, they will reply, "I don't know." I understood why the teen boy above hurt teen girls. This was an easy one to determine, but more difficult cases require more research and sometimes guidance from more seasoned professionals. The kids from my blog "Twin Flames" were far more elaborate and challenging that the teen boy above, for example, given their situation. On top of all of their familial problems, they could see ghosts which added another layer to their complicated history. The teen boy was not a Nebulous Child, FYI, as far as I knew.
Neglected Nebulous Children
Recall that when Nebulous Children came under my care, I just took the first name off of the waiting list. At that time, I was unaware that these children could see ghosts. I only had the intake notes to guide me when I first encountered the families. All other data collected derived from my structure and/or unstructured interviews, along with my psychological or educational testing. When gathering data, I learned whether or not the child was in a crisis, such as being neglected.
Have I encountered Nebulous Children who were neglected? Sure I have, the vast majority of them were neglected - good question! Only a handful were well taken care of by parents/guardians, but that was a part of the reason that they were being assessed or in therapy. Learning about them having the ability to see ghosts usually came second to their symptoms of mental health. At times, their symptoms resulted from their ability to see ghosts, but I did not know that initially. Maybe with one child, a teen, who disclosed the ability to see ghosts to me immediately. Otherwise, I do not recall that disclosure quickly happening. Most kids need to trust you in order to feel comfortable enough to disclose their personal information. Absent of their parents, they continue to share their ability to see ghosts, if they are secure in their relationship with you. Their parental status does not matter much because they learn how to survive with their ability to see ghosts without support. They also learn quickly who they can tell about being a Nebulous Child or Teen, and who they cannot due to their own life experiences.
"Happy Hour with Dr. Lisa"
I just reread this blog and thought, "The field of psychology sure if exhausting," and closed my eyes for a second. (smile) It has been worth it all of these years, and I still have a strong appreciation for the field. I also enjoy my podcast on Wednesdays at 5pm for many reasons, but one reason is due to the live questions that I receive on air. Thank you to my listener who asked the question regarding absent parents in relation to Nebulous Children. I do hope that this addresses your concerns. Blessings!