Imprisoned by a parent’s mind: A child’s eye view of alienation

“I work with alienated children, I know them and I understand them. From the children who tell me they hate me as much as the parent they are rejecting, to the ones who hug me and thank me in the months after the necessary changes have been made to their lives, I know them well. I can predict their behaviours and reactions and because of that I can create a road for them to travel on, even when they are adamant they do not want to follow me. What I know about alienated children is that their minds are precious, they belong only to them and their right to grow to adulthood without having their mind be the battle ground for adult issues is paramount. It is the only thing that really matters in the end. How we help children to put down the burdens they carry is about how we understand the stories of their lives, those stories which govern their beliefs about themselves and the world around them and the stories which prevent them from having the healthy, loving, supportive relationships which give them hope for the future. Being big enough and brave enough to challenge the adults who are harming their children is about being concerned with children’s needs first. It’s not about rights, it’s not about justice, it is about mental and psychological health and promoting that in the lives of children over everything and anything else.”

Karen Woodall

I write from sunny Croatia, Dubrovnik to be exact, a place where my maternal grandmother spent some happy times. I know this place from the stories she told me, it is familiar to me even though I have never been here before. The power of narrative in children’s lives is underlined for me by this experience, here is a place I have never been and yet it is a place I feel that I know. It is not exactly as I imagined it but it is near enough for me to be powerfully reminded of the days I sat in the garden with my grandmother as she told me that in Dubrovnik, where the lemon trees grow, the old women all wear black and talk about politics. In my young mind, Dubrovnik became a place of pilgrimage, a place where I would find the blessed land of my grandmother’s dreams…

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