Children and Youth in Limbo: A Search for Connections

By Nadia Ehrlich Finkelstein | Go to book overview

3
Children and Youth in Limbo

Children and youth in limbo are young people caught in the problems that adults create for them. They do not know who will care for them until they can care for themselves and so have no predictable future. Uncertainty creates terrifying fears, since their dependence makes them equate abandonment with death.

Whereas life preservation for animals depends on instinctive regulation in unfolding sequence, the human being must depend much longer on parental care, and the feelings surrounding the early symbiosis persist as an inspiration throughout the life span. For the sake of approval by the parents and because abandonment has such disastrous consequences, the child will sacrifice whatever ego integrity is called for in order to survive. If the price for acceptance is to absorb unrealities, accept an irrational identity or role assignment, be persecuted, be overindulged, be scapegoated, be parentified or what have you, this price will have to be paid; to be alone or pushed out of the family either physically or psychologically is too unthinkable. [ Framo 1970:163]


THE SITUATION

Behaviorally, the child who is constantly teetering on the verge of physical or psychological abandonment makes urgent appeals for help. Striking out, school difficulties, running away, fire setting, rock throwing, stealing, depression, and drug abuse are all familiar to mental health professionals.

Even the best practitioners get sidetracked by children's frighteningly unsafe behaviors and the how-tos of child management. But we need to keep in mind the family and cultural context of the young people in trouble. The child in limbo often is the product of a family in which the father's and

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