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Make It True

Make It True

written by Diana Rose Frances


Unconditional compassion IS the root of humanizing the traumatized child

I worked in a small, community-based group home for boys ages 12 – 17 in Denver, CO. This community-based group home had a small, long-term staff that acted as not only guardians and caretakers for the boys, but as a caring extended family.

Each child had a primary mentor, that acted as guardian and stand-in-parent. My assignment as a primary for a new child was not an easy one. His attitude and behavior made it difficult to connect with him. At the time, I honestly did not enjoy being around this child. As a person who prides myself on being authentic, honest, and transparent with my words and emotions, I struggled with how to speak to and about him.

In my mid-twenties at the time, I was new to care giving. I felt at a loss of how deal with this seemingly dead-end situation. I eventually built up the courage to address my concerns with another staff member that had been there much longer than I had. She smiled at me, calmly, and reassuringly. She told me “Just tell him you like him a lot, and you care about him, and so you want to spend some one-on-one time getting to know him better.” In my outspoken fashion I replied “But none of that’s true!” Quickly, and in a more serious tone, she replied “Then make it true.”

I was blown away in that moment. I had narrowed down my options to either remain honest and distant, or lie and say “nice” things to a child. She challenged me to change the truth in my heart, and stretch myself to see the good in a child that had experienced so much bad. Before that experience, I did not think it was possible to authentically change your feelings from the inside so quickly. I took her advice. I was happy to find out that I was wrong, and she was right. I found through shifting my lens from an irritated caregiver to an unconditionally loving support system and cheering squad, I found a fondness for this child.

The remainder of our time together at the group home, I am happy to say, was positive and fun. I took my colleagues’ firm, but compassionate advice, and I changed the way I viewed and expected “results” from our boy. He, in turn, felt safe and genuinely important, and was able to show some parts of himself that were warm and funny. I found out he was a comedian and he had a side that was sweet and vulnerable. I only found out, however, after I changed the way I approached him.

I changed for the better due to the advice that I received that day. Without it, I doubt my work with severely traumatized children could have amounted to much. Unconditional compassion IS the root of humanizing the traumatized child. I found a way to “make it true.”

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