NUMBER 964 • 18 MAY • nurturing belonging
In his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen (1992) writes, “Trust is that deep inner conviction that the Father wants me home:” Attachments develop in a child’s earliest bonds with caregivers. When attachments are secure, children develop a healthy sense of belonging. Children who do not feel wanted usually have difficulty trusting others. As a result, they easily become disheartened, discouraged, and dejected – not just about a few specific things, but about life in general. Longing for love, they are at the same time deathly afraid of it.
Daring to Trust
Victor was well-protected against adults. Every time we started getting too close to him, he would reveal his philosophy: “I’ve been hurt so many times, that I’ll hurt you before you have a chance to hurt me:” Youth like Victor have a not-so-subtle way of sabotaging every significant relationship they enter. Their fear of being hurt becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that leads them to conclude, “See, I knew you’d just leave me like all the others:”
When we learned more about Victor’s family background, we found that he had never known his father. And the first thing he recalls about his mother is her saying, “I wish you had never been born:” Knowing his mother, we doubt she would ever remember making such a statement. But Victor does, and it continues to haunt him even as a young adult. He needs one person who will stay with him long enough to redefine his image of a parental figure.
Not only do young people need significant adult role models, they need positive peer relationships as well. But sometimes peers bring out the worst in one another. Parents often com plain about “those kids” their son or daughter hangs out with who are a bad influence. Such friendships are frequently not the result of a child succumbing to peer pressure. Young people who do not trust adults gravitate to friends with whom they feel comfortable and accepted.
SCOTT LARSON & LARRY BRENDTRO
Larson, S., & Brendtro, L. (2000). Reclaiming our prodigal sons and daughters: A practical approach for connecting with youth in conflict. Indiana: National Educational Service p. 75