Why is my child so spacey?!

They are there...and yet not!

There is a plague that strikes during the teenage years.  Its symptoms include ignoring (“Not hearing you”), forgetfulness, and just being generally ‘checked out’.  But your child takes it to a whole new level…right?!

You tell your mom, your pediatrician, you complain to your best friend, but they all say the same thing…thats normal for a teenager.

But is it?

Well, yes and no.

There is a lot going on in the teenage brain that contributes to their spaciness.  Hormones, stress, fatigue, and addiction to technology (just to name a few) all wreak havoc on their ability to pay attention to…well, US!

But there is a ton of evidence that children from challenging backgrounds have an even harder time focusing.

A child that was born into a perfect world would have a birth mom who had good nutrition and proper medical care, living in a low stress environment.  She would give birth in a safe and secure setting, raise her child lovingly and with lots of attachment, provide good nutrition to the child, and that child would grow up and live happily ever after.  Right?

Well, in that scenario, the childs brain would grow and develop with normal wiring, delivering messages through efficient pathways, with normal hormone levels that provide just the right amount of juice at just the right moment for optimal thought processes and reactions.

But that isn’t what happens in kids from challenging backgrounds.  Birth-moms are in less-than-ideal situations, nutrition is often lacking, and the child suffers multiple, SIGNIFICANT disruptions in their world!  Even one disruption (ie-not being raised with their first mom) is enough to cause re-wiring of brain pathways.

So, the same information that goes into a teenage brain that hasn’t been re-wired from trauma, and gets slugged down with hormones, stress and lack of sleep…gets REALLY CLOGGED in a brain whose circuitry looks more like a bowl of spaghetti from all the confusing things that happened to them in their life.

ALSO…researchers have found that kids who have had trauma (scary,unpredictable, chaotic events) and/or disruptions, medical issues, learn to dissociate in order to cope.  The events were too much for their little brain to comprehend, so they ‘checked out’.  Being fully ‘there’ would have blown their minds and/or broken their little hearts, so they just kinda…left.

I had one mom recently tell me that she was driving home from a fun event and glanced back to find her 13 year old daughter mindlessly coloring all over her arm.  “She was all spaced out and when I yelled at her to stop, it was like I had awaken her out of some trance!”  A behavior that didn’t make sense for a 13 year old to be doing, is perfectly common for a 2 year old.  Her daughter had ‘slipped’ back into her 2 year old self and was either on a little mini-vacation from stress or re-hashing some event from that time.

So now, whenever things get confusing or stressful, they just…leave.


1.  Its easier to deal with.

2.  It takes longer for the information to work its way through the funky wiring in their brain.

Will it ever get better?  Yes.

Time, maturity and happy experiences help to straighten out the wiring and heal their brain.

Just like repetitive negative events messed up the wiring…repetitive, positive experiences help to fix the wiring! 😅

Check out Karyn Purvis work on this here.  Pretty interesting stuff!


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