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The Judgments We Are Fighting

September 1, 2010

I sat down to lunch today and the Wednesday Anchorage Daily News was sitting on the table. I picked it up and remembered why I don’t subscribe. There is very little news that isn’t already stale, and I have great disappointment in most of the uninformed opinions I used to read. In any event, there was an opinion piece by Elise Patkotak about what she refers to as “damaged youths.” Her story then went to discuss her experience with juvenile correction facilities. From that point, her judgments went wild and accusatory. Here is a quote from that article.

“Most kids in juvenile correctional facilities are essentially orphans, whether or not they have living parents. Many of those parents — and I use that term loosely — were really little more than egg and sperm donors. Once the child was born, they used him or her to meet their own physical, mental and emotional needs in ways often too horrific to describe. Their concept of parenting was based on the child meeting their needs, not vice versa. When these children reach the age of incarceration, they are usually broken and sad, with a sadness often expressed as rage.”

Such harsh judgments about parents, with extreme condescension, fails to acknowledge the intergenerational trauma that has affected the parent as well as the child. Correctional officers I talk to speak of three generations of incarcerated family members—grandfather, father and son. Many of these men are in for drug crimes, for using drugs that help them to deal with their own family derived trauma. They pass this trauma on to their children for a variety of reasons related to their inability to resolve that trauma.

Ms. Patkotak then talks about “a group of dedicated and concerned adults [who] walk into juvenile corrections facilities around this state and try to make a positive difference in a young person who has already known more pain and sorrow that most adults will know in their lifetime.” Ms. Patkotak does not live in my world. Judging the parent will not change the child unless we help the parent. The adults who are most likely the parent of the incarcerated child probably most likely do know the same pain as their child. Where, I ask, is that group of dedicated and concerned adults working to help parents overcome their family derived trauma so they can help stop the transmission of intergenerational trauma. For that matter, where is the assistance for our veterans to deal with their war inflicted traumas. [I digress]

Research has taught us that dealing with historical and family generated trauma is critical for reclaiming our happiness. If Ms. Patkotak would read the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, followed up with reading “In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts,” by Gabor Mate, she might have more sympathy for traumatized parents. I certainly hope so.

We need more education, information and resources to help stem the tide of afflicted children. We don’t need more harsh judgments and blame for parents. Chugachmiut’s Restoration to Health Strategy is being designed to help parents learn about and deal with their personal trauma, teach them culturally appropriate parenting skills and intervene with children who experience childhood trauma.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2010 11:47 AM

    Amazing thread, thanks and greets for publisher.Greets, Ken

  2. October 12, 2010 11:09 AM

    I am doing research for my university thesis, thanks for your helpful points, now I am acting on a sudden impulse.

    – Laura

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