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Respect and the Hidden Hurts

Webster defines hurt as, "to cause physical pain or injury to." When one family member physically hurts another it is usually obvious: there is a red mark, bite, or bruise. Because this physical hurt is obvious, it is somewhat easier to treat.

Hidden Hurts—Another definition of the word hurt is "to cause mental distress." This is a hidden hurt. When a family member is constantly teased or reprimanded about weight, height, freckles, grades, or shortcomings, the person may feel hurt. In another situation, there may be a family member who feels hurt or emotionally abused where he or she is belittled, or when there is a lack of love or support between family members. When this behavior continues over time, the hurt family member may develop a negative sense of self-worth or may show extremes in behavior, such as being aggressive, withdrawn, or passive.

Hidden Hurts Influence Children—If a child is experiencing this hurt, it can delay his physical, emotional, or cognitive development. Children's minds and spirits are often more fragile than their bodies. The hurt of having their feelings wounded can deeply affect children. These hurts do not disappear; they stay, fester and become a part of the child's "self-picture" which she or he carries through life.

Often children who are experiencing such emotional hurt will exhibit physical, emotional, or verbal symptoms that recur throughout life. Family members need to think about what they say to each other. Words can hurt as much as slaps, and can be more dangerous to individuals within the family and to the family as a whole.

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