It's Not Just Clutter
Almost all of us begin by trying to help our parents.
The first question most children ask is “how do I make them see?”
The primary reason children seek help is that our parents pretend nothing is wrong.
Focusing on our parents often leads us on a wild goose chase, trying to solve problems that are not ours to solve.
Children do not cause hoarding disorder (HD) or hoarding behaviors.
Children are not the solution.
Many believe hoarding is “the problem.” But by definition, our problem is not hoarding disorder.
That's our parents' problem.
Many of us are desperate to help our parents.
Many feel it is our duty to save parents from themselves.
We are consistently misdefined by hoarding professionals as their “supporters,” their “helpers,” their “caregivers,” erased as dependent children and trauma survivors, and misdirected to serve our parents, instead.
We may believe it is our only purpose because, frequently, serving our parents is the only way to gain their recognition or approval and appeasement helps keep us safe.
Meeting their needs on their terms is often the only option for trauma bonded children held hostage by parents' mental illness.
Everyone misdirects us to help our parents and nobody has any help to offer us.
You cannot control the weather, either. It cannot be your fault, or your responsibility. But for children buried alive, there is no help. Helping hoarders is the only game in town.
Trauma festers unrecognized, leaving us vulnerable to perpetual retraumatization, conflict, hopelessness, resentment, and estrangement.
Imprisoned in shame and secrets, there is nowhere for us to turn.
We don’t seek help because of "clutter," or even mental illness. We seek help because our parents’ problems have stolen our childhood and consumed our lives.
Biased hoarding professionals disregard children's developmental needs, ignoring abuse, while blaming and shaming us for "damaging relationships" and "rejecting and abandoning" parents instead.
Our parents’ needs eclipse ours from birth.
Then professionals expect us to "repair the relationship," our parents broke and do not want to fix.
These self-proclaimed “experts” demand we continue serving parents' needs, misrepresent children as “helpers,” and “supporters,” "caregivers," so they can turn around and label children "unhelpful" and "unsupportive" of mentally ill parents who abuse and neglect us, often from birth.
We get institutional betrayal on top of retraumatization from mandated reporters, researchers, clinicians, social workers, cleaners, and organizers who deny the trauma we endure to demand understanding from us while judging us “difficult,” “resentful,” and “angry” when we seek their help.
We do not need lectures to support parents who can't reciprocate, and do not want help.
We do not need “psychoeducation” exploiting misplaced guilt and trauma bonds to support parents hurting us.
We need health, safety, and protection from parents when they endanger us. We urge you to ask trauma experts, instead.
Help for hoarding disorder is not help for children and families.
It not only diverts us from healing trauma but retraumatizes instead.
At the IOCDF, they pretend this blame shifting is "help for families."
Experts know better.
See also Research on HD Relatives.
Lots of parents with HD, and many adults with many challenges, tragedies, and traumas take responsibility for themselves and seek help to mitigate the impact of adult problems on vulnerable, dependent children.
Many people with HD do not force anyone else to live in unsafe and unsanitary hoards or deny and avoid their problems until it destroys their family.
Imagine a mother with anorexia starving her children, too, while professionals deny trauma and demand understanding?
Depriving children of the basic necessities of life, forcing us to live in squalor and disrepair, without heat, water, or sanitation is child abuse.
A hoard is no place for a child. Healthy parents do not bury children alive.
Denying children safe food, shelter, and nurture demonstrates parenting is gravely impaired.
"The problem" is not "hoarding disorder."
Cleaning a hoard will never miraculously reveal healthy parents underneath.
Despite the freak show on TV and increasing recognition of the public health challenges hoarding poses, hoarded children are still invisible.
We are forced to navigate denial, invalidation, and misdirection alone.
Googling our way through the world, we discover hoarding and think we have found the answer.
Lost in our parents' problems, we cannot see our own.
Instead of the answer to our problems, many of us find misinformation, judgment, and retraumatization.
We do not see our experience anywhere.
But you are not crazy, and you are not alone.
The constellation of parenting behaviors, family dysfunction, and living conditions traumatize children throughout our lives, and across generations as we struggle to protect our own children, and break cycles of family dysfunction, trauma, and abuse.
When children seek help, we don’t need help with hoarding disorder, psychoeducation, or hoarding specialists rationalizing child abuse any more than children need rehab for their parents' drug addiction.
To us, the mismatch is obvious.
Imagine addiction professionals demanding compassion and patience from traumatized children to extract more and better caregiving for parents who deny their addiction, while imprisoning children in a meth lab?
Imagine addicts forcing children to shoot heroin with them, while researchers label and judge children "unhelpful" and "unsupportive"?
Abuse is a behavior, not an intention, and not an illness.
Naming abuse never requires blame.
Your feelings about your parents are yours alone.
Health and safety for vulnerable, dependent children must come first.
Compassion and understanding must be reciprocal.
Of course, you feel hopeless, frustrated, and alienated when "experts" in hazmat suits demand patience and compassion from children imprisoned in excrement and infestations, by our own parents.
What else would you feel when "experts" return to their safe, comfortable homes, shaking their heads at our “negative attitudes,” “resentment,” and “unhelpful” feelings?
Those days are over. You’re here now. And we’ve got your back.
At MYCOHP, your hope is in your hands.
You can break the cycle, no matter what your parents do.
At MYCOHP, we put the needs of developing, dependent children first.
We understand your complicated and conflicted feelings.
We never judge you.
We never mistake children for helpers, supporters, or caregivers for anybody else.
We will never ask you to give understanding that is denied to you.
Or to forget everything you overcame to get here.
The future is ours.
See Complex/Childhood Trauma and C-PTSD for more information about childhood trauma and assessment tools to meet your needs.
To hear more from other COHPs about the challenges we face, see: VOICES.
To learn more about what’s out there and our alternatives, see Research with HD Relatives and Help for Children and Families.
See also: Frequently Asked Questions.
MYCOHP/COH, Inc. run two private, confidential, peer support groups for minors/youth and adult children of hoarding parents. To join, email us at:
MYCOHPemail@example.com (up to 21).
ChildrenOfHoardersfirstname.lastname@example.org (18+, formerly Yahoo ).
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Photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash