Dysfunctional family roles part 3
Lost child/the quiet one
It is true that there is no family that is 100% either functional or dysfunctional. Each family have some level of both functionality and dysfunctionality. Children need much more than just having their physical needs met. They need nurturing in order to grow into well adjusted individuals. In families that face adverse conditions such as a parent having untreated or poorly managed mental illness or unhealed trauma, the home environment is not healthy so the children miss out on nurturing.
When children are raised in a dysfunctional family, they take up certain roles that make the family feel more comfortable, peaceful and as such, the family looks functional. While the family looks better and seems to have improved, these children grow up to become dysfunctional people. Most of these roles are difficult to change until a person acknowledges that they are unhealthy and need to change or gets professionally helped. In this article, I will talk about the lost child.
Escape from the chaotic family environment
The Lost Child is also referred to as the quiet one. The lost child seeks the privacy of their own company to avoid family chaos. In their family, the lost child feels that their parents are not emotionally present for them. To escape the family situation, they make themselves very small and quiet which may work for them in the early years.
The lost child seems to feel the strain the family is under and minimizes their demands on the parents and also on their siblings. These are the kind of children who will sparingly spend the little given to them or even save part of it to use it another time so as not to strain the parents more. Because of their quiet and invisible nature, the lost child is often forgotten.
Have you experienced being at home yet something happened and everyone participated yet you missed? I met someone who shared that she was often forgotten by the parents during meals. Most of the time, the mother would serve the rest of her siblings (they were many), then she would realize one child had no food yet all the prepared food had been served. The siblings would be asked to willingly share each a little and that is how she would get her food.
She was a typical lost child. Did you feel very different from all other family members? Did you feel like none of your parents or siblings understood you? Did you feel you had no say and everyone else had something to say? If you answer yes to these questions, then you were a lost child.
The lost child as an adult
The lost child begins to feel controlled by the family hero who basically runs the whole family. Lost child is lonely and isolated which leads to depression and suicidal tendencies. Since the lost child has never known how to connect emotionally, they’ll withdraw whenever someone befriends them. The lost child is insecure and easily withdraws pushing the other person away which in turn leaves them feeling even more rejected.
Out of this feeling of rejection, they develop fear of forming relationships. The lost child lacks communication skills, interpersonal skills and by extension has issues with intimacy. The lost child can take the other extreme; being very independent. The lost child is used to doing things their way and as such, chose not to burden anyone.
The belief that they are alone motivates some of them to work very hard making them very successful yet very lonely. The lost child can become a workaholic. Because they have all the time in the world to themselves, they pursue and attain many academic degrees. They also have low self-esteem. The lost child when overwhelmed, can use unhealthy mechanisms such substance abuse, workaholism etc. to cope with loneliness.
As a spouse
At dating, they are likely to attract abusers. They have never learnt to connect emotionally and the abusers’ relationships are also superficial. The lost child may not detect the abusers because both of them do not know how to connect emotionally. The lost child expects so little since they are already used to being self-sufficient.
A lost child even where they may detect abusers’ tendencies, may not confront it because they are already used to just being observant and withdrawing from controversies since their childhood. To withdraw, they may let go the relationship or, they may just withdraw from the trouble the abuser is causing into their quiet world. By ignoring problems, they imagine that the problems will die off by themselves.
In marriage, a lost child is self-sacrificing. They have known what it is to be alone even in tough times so they sacrifice for those they love. They out give themselves and may end up being “doormats”. They can give at their own expense. They can live with abusers while trying to avoid conflicts.
The lost child is terrified of intimacy and therefore difficult at forming satisfying relationships. They act in either extreme; not needing their spouses or being too clingy to fill up for what they never received as children. They largely lack healthy boundaries. Assertiveness is a skill that is so difficult for them to use and even when they know what they need, they are afraid to communicate it so as to avoid conflicts.
To their children
A Lost child may end up being too permissive as a parent, in fear of their children going through isolation and loneness like they went through themselves. In quest of giving their children a different life, they create unhealthy bond (being too close) where the children’s way prevails. They may take either extremes; over involved in their children’s lives to keep them away from facing what they faced or they may abandon their children emotionally just the same way they were emotionally abandoned.
The children of the lost child do not learn relationships skills from the parent who is supposed to model interpersonal skills. The children therefore grow up lacking the ability to manage relationships. The lost child as a parent teaches their children not to express emotions, just the same way they learnt. The children of a lost child grow up with pent up anger and are likely to become violent or abusers. They could also be at risk of suicide.