With all the news about concussions: the long-term impact, cumulative impact, risk versus reward in letting kids play football and crash into each other versus experiencing teamwork, hard work, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, I believe we, as parents and people who love children, need to think about another type of concussion, one different than the crashing of heads in football helmets, or the smacking of the frontal lobe as a soccer ball is header by a teenaged Mia Hamm wannabe.
Please consider, if you will, the EMOTIONAL CONCUSSION.
If parents, sporting equipment companies, school systems, pediatricians, neuroscientists, researchers, journalists, and others in this debate would think about the emotional concussions suffered by children in homes run by addiction, abuse, and dysfunction, I believe we could help a lot more children.
I am talking about the one-in-four school aged kids who live in a home run by alcohol and drugs. If you add in the children living in homes run by some other type of dysfunction – addictions to food, sex, pornography, spending, gossip, religion, and control, plus those who live in homes where there is physical, emotional, sexual, or spiritual abuse, the percentage of children affected goes way up.
The life-in-dysfunction emotional concussion is a day-in-day-out brain bludgeoning by stress-induced hormones of adrenaline and cortisol. It wires developing brains for flight-or-fight. It desensitizes kids to insanity and violence. It sets people up to continue a family legacy of dysfunction.
These ongoing emotional concussions set up a cascade of disasters. And there’s no coach or trainer on the sideline holding up three fingers or checking for dilated pupils before sending the anxious child back into the game. Kids living in the abuse of constant emotional concussions have to stay in the game. There is no time out. There are no rules forcing them to sit out the next two or three games. The ongoing stress of emotional concussions is their way of life, wiring brains for hyper vigilance; arresting development; stunting emotional growth.
Like leopards born with their parents’ spots, these children are marked for re-dos of their parents’ lives. Think about it: the family with the single mom whose mother was a single mother, whose granddaughter becomes a single parent. The family with three or four generations of alcoholics. The family with suicides.
I speak for the children when I say that as much, if not MORE, attention needs to be dedicated to the study of EMOTIONAL concussions, and the PREVENTION of emotional concussions.
If the politicians supporting Pre-K education (which is a noble endeavor) truly want to make a difference, we have to start teaching parenting education to children when they are children. And then teach it all the way through school. And bring the parents in when the kids are young and teach the parents how to take care of themselves, so they are more likely to model sane and loving behavior to their children.
Taking these “drain the swamp” measures could truly help solve the $80 billion a year problem.* Helping people KNOW better and supporting them can help them do better, and help their children do even better.
If a parent saw the brain scans of a child stressed by a family addiction and abuse versus the brain scan of a child living in a relatively peaceful home, it might make a difference. It might help them realize that to care for their children they have to care for themselves. It might help them stop inflicting their own emotional concussions via addiction and other self-destructive behaviors.
This is a much saner fix than having emotionally concussed kids end up in treatment facilities, prisons, dead or able to access guns.
Hurt people hurt people. To stop the cycle, we’ve got to stop hurting people, especially the most vulnerable among us.
Resources that may be a help:
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