West Ridge Academy demonstrates when otherwise healthy homes are suddenly disrupted by one of the siblings acting out, some of the kids in the family may find themselves wondering exactly where they fit in. The "Lost Child Syndrome" will discuss the various options that the other kids in the family can do when faced with the prospect of one of their brother or sister acting out. The family members may not realize it, but all of them are equally at stake in this family matter, including the acting-out child who may be draining most of the family's time, energy and resources.

According to West Ridge Academy a parent’s tendency is to focus solely on the acting out child, consequently leaving little time for interaction with the remaining children who are equally in need of attention and care. The siblings who are not creating any problems will soon harbor some resentment against the one who's acting out, and may soon start acting out themselves in an effort to compete for their parents' attention. If this unhealthy environment is not clipped early, professional help may be required in order to restore balance and order in the family.

Likewise, parents often have feelings of guilt because they are angry toward the acting-out child. Some parents may feel hurt, confused, angry, tired and resentful, while others may not know how to identify their feelings. It would be easy to assume that the entire family is cracking under the pressure. These stresses may lead to some serious ramifications, such as marriage problems, withdrawal of parental support, or the nagging feeling that perhaps they're just not good enough to be parents.

When a family tries to cope up with the constant challenges of handling an acting-out child, more often than not, the other children will take on additional family roles in an attempt to maintain order within the chaotic, stressful and fragile family environment. The following are some of the roles children may assume in the Lost Child Syndrome:

The Lost Child: Any child or multiple children may assume this role but it is usually assumed by the youngest child. "The Lost Child" will try to be as invisible as possible; this is the way that he copes with his problems. Even as these kids approach adulthood, they will find it difficult to form meaningful relationships as they are already accustomed to staying in the periphery. Outwardly they appear withdrawn, isolated, and prone to depression. Because of this, they become susceptible to addiction-forming habits towards drugs, alcohol, pornography and other sexual activities. Some of them struggle to find their sexual identity. The "Lost Child" often relates to a feeling of being unimportant, alone and virtually invisible to other people. Because they have seen that the acting-out child was "rewarded" with their parents' attention despite his bad behavior, they will subscribe to a crooked sense of belief that good behavior will likely be ignored or neglected.

The Scapegoat: This child receives the brunt of his family's desire to relieve the conflicts and tension in the family. Most often, this particular role is assigned to the acting-out child by default. Scapegoats often make it appear as though they are untouchable, tough and angry at the world; even though deep inside they are actually feeling neglected, unloved and irrelevant. A scapegoat is used as a diversionary tactic when a family chooses not to address other pressing family issues head on, such as: marriage difficulties, addiction problem in the family, lingering grief, recurring illnesses, and other similar issues.

The Hero: By default, this is often assumed by the eldest child as he tries to fill the void of parental responsibility left in the virtual absence of his parents. Due to the fact that their self-worth is defined by their ability in becoming a perceived able caretaker, heroes usually bond with other individuals which need to be looked after. They appear as high achievers to the outside world, but deep inside they actually feel alone and inadequate.

The Mascot: This child provides the much needed comic relief amidst the family's adversities which diverts their attention, albeit temporarily, from the depressing matters. In a way, they serve as the relief valve in a pressure cooker composed environment due to the family's various concerns. Sometimes, mascots do have problems of their own however such as a tendency to be hyperactive or a difficulty in learning. Even though they may appear as though they don't have a care in the world, deep inside they actually feel a lot of fear in facing the world.

During the times when the family is in chaos and family members voluntarily step into these roles, boundaries become blurred and communication lines become confusing. The family begins to cycle through the routine of constant chaos unaware of the damage and dysfunction each role is playing out within the family. A fragile family atmosphere is thus created, as each family member tries to tackle issues within the roles that they have assumed or were given to them.

If this is not resolved, 'lost children' will be exposed to substantial emotional harm, stunting their personal growth as well as their function towards the family. Next week's article will provide the parents with the required resources to spot these negative and often destructive roles, and how they can create positive family roles in their place.

For more information visit West Ridge Academy's home or podcast.

Author's Bio: 

With a 15-1 NAAS accredited student teacher ratio K-12 program, West Ridge Academy is a top level school. Opening its doors in 1964, West Ridge Academy has helped over 25,000 troubled teens. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=236-JRQzXYQ