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Rita Battat Silverman has a BA in psychology from Texas Wesleyan University and resides in New York City. She has been a life coach for over 30 years. She also works as a talent manager and freelance literary agent. Ms. Silverman knows firsthand what it is like to grow up as a “replacement child,” having been born 18 months after the death of her 14-year-old brother. The realization of the impact on her life came to her as an adult during a chance conversation. Upon exploring the subject for many years, she realized that there was a serious lack of consciousness about this experience and the impact it has on a family.

View Replacement Children: The Unconscious Script on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/nfkj6sm

Rita Battat Silverman Gives an Interview to SV’s Bob Shuman:

How did you find yourself exploring the subject of replacement children? 

Abigail Brenner, MD, my co-author, and I researched past studies and found that there had been very little exploration of this subject–the information was from decades ago. Yet, this is a wide-spread phenomenon, and there is a serious lack of consciousness about the experience and its impact on the family. 

 

Who is the replacement child?

The term replacement child is conceptual rather than literal. It was coined in the 1960s to describe an actual psychological syndrome and is not about "replacing" anyone, which of course is an impossibility.

 

How do you define the phenomenon?  

Replacement children refers to the experience of individuals who are enmeshed in an unconscious script to fill a void left by another in the family who has died or become in some way incapacitated. This situation or syndrome develops when parents are in turmoil, attempting to cope with the loss of a child without getting to the place of being able to fully move forward in their lives. Inadvertently, they are placing an undue burden on another child in the family. Even well-meaning parents–often overwhelmed and unaware of the patterns being established—may carry over their expectations, fears, and guilt to a subsequent child or an existing child.

 

This does not sound like such an unusual situation, really.

The phenomenon can affect a child at any stage, often involving an existing child or teen.  Parents, who have lost a child (which may also include the loss of a pregnancy), are survivors trying to find various ways to cope. But, if they are unable to process their grief enough so that they can move forward in their lives, the grief may manifest in the lives of their children.

 

And that’s the replacement—

These children will then have the experience of being a replacement child.

 

What are some of the shared characteristics of replacement children?

They share a common experience–they are all caught up (to different degrees) in the arduous mission of having to carry on for another.  The burden of carrying this responsibility can present in a number of different ways, such as perfectionism, survivor's guilt, anxiety, low self-esteem.

 

Is it possible to be a replacement child, without having lost a sibling?

Definitely! For instance, one person I interviewed had a brother who, as a young teen, got into drugs. The family was falling apart. This young girl then became an overachiever, as she tried to fill in the void and heal the family. 

 

Do the parents of such children share commonalities?

Yes: Unprocessed grief because of a loss of a child. The loss can be due to any number of circumstances besides a death, including an incapacitating illness, or the emotional loss of a child.

 

Do you feel that there is resistance or denial in the health community toward understanding replacement children and their issues? 

Not necessarily a resistance but many otherwise excellent therapists are completely unaware of the subject. As a result, core issues may be missed completely in therapy.

 

How should therapists approach this subject? 

They need to go beyond the basic questions and topics. It is necessary to probe into the significant circumstances surrounding the family. For example, what was happening when the person was born or adopted?  Or, in later life, what was the experience when the role of "replacement" was pushed on a child (after a sibling’s life was radically shifted due to accident or illness)?

 

Give the answer to an essential question about replacement children that you realize I'm not asking.

There may be the question of why siblings see their experiences so differently than others in the family. A huge loss or trauma changes people. Some are able to regain a sense of balance faster than others. After the loss of a child, especially with a baby, the parents may lose their confidence and be acting differently. For examples, they may be overprotective or unable to bond with the next child if they haven't been able to process grief and get back a sense of balance. A parent may feel very self-assured with one child, yet, after the devastating loss of another child, may be emotionally depleted and incapable of being available, in the same way, for the child that follows that loss.

 

How can replacement children begin viewing their inheritance in positive ways?

The most powerful way to change your life is to begin with awareness. When your consciousness changes you can begin to work on what you need to change. Also, the challenges often serve as a catalyst for developing skills, talents, and areas of resourcefulness. Many adult replacement children are extremely successful people. Only a partial list would include famous replacement children, such as Katharine Hepburn, Carl Jung, Salvatore Dali, Vincent van Gogh, Peter Sellers, Elvis Presley, James Barrie, and Barbara Walters.

 

After reading your book, what might be a proactive next step for someone in this situation? 

It is essential for the adult replacement child to gain a full, in-depth understanding of how the events in his or her life, especially those surrounding the loss of a sibling, have impacted him or her.  This is true, even if the loss was before his or her birth. We don't just outgrow and heal from negative inner feelings but learn to function in spite of them. When we recognize we respond in certain ways, we can start to understand what feelings and thoughts are behind our thoughts and actions.

Thank you very much.

Replacement Children: The Unconscious Script (Sand Hill Review Press Paperback)

Rita Battat Silverman and Abigail Brenner, MD

View Replacement Children: The Unconscious Script on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/nfkj6sm

Copyright 2015: answers (Rita Battat Silverman) and questions (Bob Shuman ); all rights reserved. 

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