The term dysfunctional family is used to give a name to a family that does not function within normal parameters. There may be alcoholism, drug abuse, neglect, and abuse. These disturbed families harbor children who, because of their debilitated families, are not capable of living the lives they should have.

As a result of the dysfunction in these families, children take one of four different and predictable, limiting roles. These roles include the hero, the scapegoat, the lost child, and the mascot. This article will focus on the lost child, what it consists of and, how to heal.

Who are Lost Children?

Lost children spend an excessive amount of time hiding in plain sight. They expend all their energies trying not to get noticed by anyone, including teachers, other children, and their caregivers.

This behavior is usually the result of neglect and abuse, where the child felt trapped and unable to escape. Their only line of defense was to remain quiet and still knowing that eventually, the traumatic event will pass.

Lost children are mostly made up of third-born children but can be any child from oldest to youngest.

Lost children, in early childhood, develop a belief that they are powerful enough to blame themselves for the woes of their families. They feel they want too much and that they do not have a place in the world. They learn early to be quiet, unassuming, so they are out of the way.

The lost child spends a great deal of time daydreaming, fantasizing, and creating worlds in her mind where she is happier than with her true family. They love to do solitary activities like watching TV, playing video games, and reading.

Lost children are invisible, lonely, and afraid.

The Lost Child as an Adult

Adult lost children, because of their upbringing, are not equipped to handle the world. This is because they have disconnected from their families. This means they are left without any knowledge of what to expect in life or from relationships.

Adult lost children feel left out, angry, isolated, sad, confused, and powerless because they did not learn in their childhoods how to get along in the world. They might go from relationship to relationship searching for the family she did not have or form no relationships at all.

Their problems with relationships are directly related to their treatment in childhood. Lost adult kids feel people cannot be trusted and that they must remain self-reliant and not trust anyone else to meet their needs.

Harmful Belief Patterns in Grown Lost Children

Invisible children as adults tend to keep self-defeating beliefs that they formed in early to late childhood. The first belief is that they have the power to hurt others around them by taking up space in the world.

Grown lost children form what is called omnipotence guilt, the belief that they have the power to do anything and guilt because they cannot. Omnipotent guilt basically is the belief that I have the power to do anything for my loved ones and guilt because I cannot achieve happiness for them.

Another harmful belief is that people are too unreliable, unstable, and fragile for them to depend on them. As children, these lost adults were faced with grown-ups in their family who could not be relied upon to meet their physical and emotional needs. So, it makes sense they would believe this in adulthood.

Four Signs You Might Be a Lost Child

While the following traits of a lost child are pertinent, they are not all-inclusive. The four signs are they are isolated, numb, self-sacrificing, and lack intimacy.

Isolated. It makes sense that someone who hid from stress and abuse as a child will become an isolated adult. Lost children in adulthood mimic being an introvert. They have few friends, are reserved in showing their true feelings, and avoid social activities.

Numb. Adult lost children have problems feeling emotions. They may have difficulties feeling sad when something bad happens, or difficulty feeling happy. They have lived in this numbness since childhood and are practiced at hiding their emotions.

Self-Sacrificing. Most adult lost children are selfless, they give generously to others, especially those they love. However, this trait can be self-defeating as these invisible children now grown to be adults, give too much of themselves. They lose their own needs in the shadows. This giving trait makes adult lost kids vulnerable to people who would take advantage of them. The cause of being self-sacrificing to a fault is that as children, they never asked or received much from their caregivers.

Lack of Intimacy. Most lost children raise themselves, and as adults, they fail at any intimate relationships they attempt to form. This failure is the result of a lack of enjoyment of physical and emotional intimacy caused by the lack of connections they made in childhood.

How to Overcome Being an Invisible (Lost) Child

Recovery from any amount of childhood neglect and abuse is not simple. It takes much time and dedication, however, it can be done.

The first step is to establish a relationship with a mental health professional. At first, the relationship an adult lost child forms will be very surface, meaning they will not disclose much. This is especially true of emotional feelings.

The only way to defeat being a lost child is to face your past head-on. That does not mean you will do it alone, like in the past. Therapy means to experience the rage and loneliness you had as a child with someone else who can help you understand your feelings.

Adults know they have reached healing when they refuse to live as victims of other people’s dramas and no longer consent to not being in control of their lives. They will also be capable of saying no to the requests of others without feeling extreme guilt and shame. Finally, they have become capable of feeling free to focus on their own dreams.

“Be brave enough to live the life of your dreams according to your vision and purpose instead of the expectations and opinions of others.” ~ Roy Bennett

“Reality is a dream that someone was brave enough to conquer.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

“Dream your own dreams, achieve your own goals. Your journey is your own and unique.” ~ Roy Bennett


Learning Mind:

Tom Moon: