It’s pretty obvious that 8-year-old Watchful is struggling with his traumatic past: self harming, refusing to eat, panic attacks, a very negative perspective on the world, etc. But sometimes it seems his 10-year-old sister Joyful is “punished” for coping well.
Joyful was the victim of trauma and neglect, too, and she’s what psychologists deem “resilient.” She has good social skills, is generally happy, and does well academically. Her behaviors are quite mild in comparison to Watchful. She gets loud and laughs a lot when nervous. She asks a lot of questions, pretending not to understand when you ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do. She has a combative attitude towards her bio family.
And she lies. A lot. Crazy lying that is so obviously not true. She’ll spin out three whoppers in one breath and that all contradict each other. Like, “Watchful spilled the milk because he never wants to drink anything,” “the dog (who is just slightly larger than a Chihuahua) bumped the (very heavy wooden) table and spilled the milk,” and “there was no milk in the glass, someone must have missed the glass when they were pouring the milk and got it all over the table.” Clearly, not all three statements could be true. And really, we all know that she somehow spilled the milk and doesn’t want to own up to it, because in the past she would have gotten beaten for spilling milk.
From a social worker’s and therapist’s point of view, lying about spilled milk just doesn’t stack up to repeatedly injuring yourself until you bleed. And I get that.
But does good coping skills mean a child doesn’t deserve therapy?
Some of my friends would say, “why try to fix what’s not broken?”
I’d say that Joyful needs help in understanding why a trusted adult repeatedly abused her. That she deserves to be taught that it’s wrong and that she didn’t deserve to be hurt. That there are better, more loving ways for adults to interact with children. This is what therapy does.
Yet, every time one of the county workers checks in on our family, they zero in on Watchful’s scary behaviors and overlook Joyful’s needs. Got any advice for me? I’m all ears on how to make sure Joyful gets the help she needs, too.