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Friday, October 4, 2013

Dear Jeannie: Adverse Childhood Experiences and Alopecia (Hair Loss)

Dear Jeannie,

I'm writing about an over-sized family of kids orphaned in contemporary America. After several years in the foster care system (some good experiences, some bad), these siblings are finally under one roof again. I'm thinking they'll have anger management issues, identity conflicts (for the elementary/middle school kids), and serious power/authority struggles (for the older teenagers). Some are in therapy and responding well, but a couple of the boys don't respond well to counselors or foster parents. What am I leaving out, and what can be done to help these kids as they grow up?

Wigged Out in Writersville 

Dear Wigged Out,

Well done! What you're describing, several children, separated from each other for years, then reunited under one roof...this is called an adverse childhood experience (ACE). Research has been done indicating that the more ACEs a child has, layered on top of each other or ongoing, the worse the outcomes will be. [Here's a handy quiz you can download to determine a child's ACE score, based on this research.] You can also download this informative flyer that gives the research results in easy-to-understand language. On that flyer, you'll see all manner of additional problems you may or may not want to give your orphans. Research also indicates that the if you want these children to get better, you need to provide them healing relationships that are safe and secure. Here's one of my quotes in my office:
“The more healthy relationships a child has, the more likely he will be to recover from trauma and thrive. Relationships are the agents of change and the most powerful therapy is human love.”
Dr. Bruce Perry
The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog
Hope this helps!

Dear Jeannie,

Layla was an only child who struggled with her weight for most of her life. Her mother was a domineering woman who told her how to dress, how to speak, whom to date and so on. Her mother was the one who demanded she become a plus-size model, because ‘at least she has a pretty face,’ in spite of the fact that Layla dreamed of opening her own soap making business. She became quite successful as a model, but her make-up and fancy clothes were masks to hide how insecure she was about her looks and weight. Much to Layla and her mother’s surprise, she was able to garner the interest of a rich, good looking (but very superficial) man. Despite her doubts and under the strong urging of her mother, she accepted his marriage proposal. Later, she is diagnosed with alopecia (hair loss), and her fiancé went MIA as a result. How will this effect her state of mind, emotions about dating again, and feelings about her mother and her fiancé, should he come crawling back to her?

Writer in the Tropics

Dear Writer in the Tropics,

When a woman's fiancé leave her due to a physical malady of some kind (in her case, alopecia), the effect on her self-esteem would be traumatic. The only circumstance I could think of her ever taking him back is if her self-esteem is so low that she thinks she'll never "land" anyone else better or anyone else at all. The idea of a second chance after so harsh a blow seems ludicrous to someone on the outside looking in, so it would be hard to suspend reader disbelief if she did contemplate getting back with him. She'll be self-conscious about her hair, for sure, and short of therapy and major ego strokes from people she knows and loves, she would not be able to hold her head up high enough to model that "bald is beautiful too." Since she wants to go into a different business anyway, I'd believe it more likely that she squirrels away with her soap making. I would imagine it much more likely for her to be cajoled into a date by feeling an obligation to do so (i.e., he did something for her and asked her to return the favor by being his date somewhere), or making good on some word she gave him (perhaps before the diagnosis). Thanks for writing in!

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