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  • Katherine Wiens

It Wasn’t Just the Abuse That Harmed Me


Moving from a home you’ve lived in for 22 years causes distress, both physically and emotionally. This happened to me recently - we moved from the beloved family home we'd lived in for over two decades into a smaller house. This transition made me think about how moving has affected me in my life. Twenty-two years is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place. However, the houses I lived in as a young child were a much different story. During those years, I lived with my biological family and we moved 11 times in a short 7 years. To say our living situation was unstable is an understatement. The instability I experienced as a young child is what my book, Bars, Dumps and Other Childhood Hangouts is about.


During the first ten years of my childhood, there were also various forms of abuse. Abuse in childhood is horrific and needs to be processed and worked through as an adult. However, there are also things that can cause emotional distress for children that we may not think of as harmful. Chronic moving is one thing that affected my childhood.


When a child moves around a lot, it is difficult to create stable friendships. Moving can also cause a change in schools. This was true for me. Because of this, I didn't have consistent friends in my young life. Having stable friendships as a child creates a sense of security. Children count on their friends and they are people a child can relate to and feel less lonely. Friends can help children understand themselves better and gain a sense of safety and belonging. Not having close friends as a child affects the formation of a child’s personality and how they view themselves.


Moving around a lot as a child creates insecurity because they may feel like they don’t fit in or belong anywhere. This affects how individuals view themselves, not only as children but as adults as well. When we feel like we don’t fit in, this can cause us to feel a sense of worthlessness. Developing a strong sense of self is an important part of our emotional health. When we have a good handle on who we are, it is easier to face the challenges of life.


Moving a lot as a child is just one thing that isn’t abusive but can still harm our emotional health and sense of self as a child. There are other things that affect us as children and can also shape our adult life.


Being adopted can be one of those things. Too often people paint a rosy picture of adoption. Adopted individuals have challenges with their identity and sense of belonging. And while adoption can be a better outcome for the child, there is also grief and loss to process in childhood and later in life.


Anything that takes the child away from one or both parents for an extended period can be traumatic. We would not consider these things as abuse, but they can still affect a child in negative ways. These include: parents being away for military service, missionary service where the child attends boarding school, parents being gone from the family for work, and incarceration.


Poverty and addiction can also cause emotional harm in a child’s life. While not considered abusive in themselves, they create instability in the home and can affect a child’s sense of self and security.


Knowing who we are and where we belong has a powerful impact on our ability to live a healthy life. These things not only affect us as children but as adults too. If we struggle with these issues we may have low self-worth and difficulty in forming relationships. We may also suffer from anxiety and depression.


In my childhood, there were many forms of abuse and this is what I have focused on in my healing journey. This is also the theme of my childhood memoir, Bars, Dumps, and Other Childhood Hangouts. But things that are not considered abusive also affected me as an adult. Many people have issues in their lives that may not seem harmful because they do not fall under the umbrella of abuse. None of these things are as harmful as abuse, but they also need to be considered if we struggle with our emotional health as an adult. So, if you are struggling but don’t really know why consider one of these things from your childhood.




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