Kids leave home for lots of reasons: moving to a new home, their parents’ divorce or job relocation, going to camp, needing inpatient substance abuse or psychological treatment, visiting relatives or friends, family vacation, foster care, adoption, running away, and battering.
Among these reasons are many happy ones. Some are normal transitions or sad but common changes in the family. The last one, battering, is the reason kids must leave home at the shelter.
Battering is not happy, normal, or temporary. Leaving home because of severe abuse is considered a bad thing by most of the children. Although they may know this departure is for their mother’s safety, sanity, or even to save her life, they are often angry, confused, and depressed.
In my opinion, they suffer more losses than children going through a divorce or even, for example, temporary foster care. Besides all the losses incurred when they leave home, many of them lose contact with the batterer, friends, relatives, neighborhood, school, place of worship, teachers, coaches, music instructors for a long time. Sometimes forever.
What is worse is that many of them completely lose hope in general for themselves and their family in particular. As they stay away from the batterer and experience all kinds of changes in themselves, their mother, or other women and kids, they change . Consciously or unconsciously, most of them eventually decide their mother did what she had to do. This doesn’t, unfortunately, mean they expect their future life to be vastly different.
Most forgive their mother for uprooting them. Some do not.
I worry most about those kids who don’t seem to forgive. Does this mean, I wonder, if they’ve already identified with the batterer’s illness? The illness that drives him to control all things, especially his partner? That demands obedience and leads him to feel that he has the right to punish or emotionally torture anyone who doesn’t obey?
All I can do is forgive these children and hope they’ll forgive themselves for not being perfect. Forgiving themselves may be the important vehicle they will ever have for changing their future response to life’s stresses and the imperfections of others.
Have you hugged yourself today?