Children’s Behaviour when parents exhibit Hoarding Behaviour

A friend and colleague recently contacted me regarding behaviour she had seen in one of her contacts.  She poses an interesting question and I thought you all might be interested.

VB writes: Is Hoarding in the genes? Have you ever seen young children hoard? In a family I recently worked with, one of the children cried and was very upset when his Dad sent a couple of pieces of furniture to the curb hoping someone would pick up for free.! (The aunt is a “collector” and another aunt shows evidence of hoarding behaviour.) Dad is worried about his child. He understands not wanting to part with toys, but furniture? Any thoughts or advice for this situation?”

Here is my response: Although there is much work currently being done with children of those with hoarding behaviour,  I am not aware of any definitive research on the genetic link for hoarding behaviour. We do know, however, that individuals with chronic disorganization, of which hoarding behaviour is a subset, personify objects and have unusually high emotional attachment to objects. These charact traits I see in the children of my clients all the time.

In the absence of a psyche degree, we as organizers ought not to be trying to remove or change those traits but there are tried and true techniques for managing them so the impact of the traits is not harmful. My fear is that this child has now been emotionally impacted – which he/she will remember long after the furniture is gone – and carry forward to other objects preventing him/her from healthy separation in the future.

Try this:
1. Let the child “say good-bye” to the furniture just like they would a friend.
2. Take a picture as part of the goodbye process and create an agreement on how long the picture hangs around.
3. Help the child understand the furniture needs a new home that can use it better. It will have new life with its new family.
4. Help the child understand objects have a natural life cycle with us. We need/ desire, they come, we use/love/use up, they leave (donation/ sale/recycle/garbage), they have a new life.

I’d be interested in hearing from others on similar experiences to VB.

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