As hard as we try to give our children the best life possible, sometimes things are just out of our control. It can be devastating and confusing for kids when life doesn’t go as they think it should. In our home we have had to deal with some very difficult issues following a divorce and subsequent abandonment from a father.
Abandonment refers to a parent’s choice to have no role in his/her child’s life. This includes failure to support the child financially, as well as failure to communicate with the child or have any type of active role in the child’s life. Sadly, parental abandonment leaves a child with lingering questions about his or her own self worth. As the remaining parent, you can have a huge impact on your child’s self-esteem and ability to cope with the absence of the other parent by being alert to the following effects of abandonment:
Children who have been abandoned may reject everything about the absent parent: In some cases, children who have been abandoned by one parent will make an effort to completely reject him or her. You’ll see this when a child expresses the desire to be the exact opposite of the absent parent.
What You Can Do:
* Affirm your child’s own unique qualities.
* Allow your child to share his or her thoughts and opinions.
* Instead of arguing over your child’s rejection of the absent parent, simply respond with a benign statement, such as “I can understand why you might feel that way right now and I will support you in your choice.”
Children who have experienced parental abandonment may be prone to developing poor self-esteem and a sense of shame surrounding the parent’s absence. They may even question whether they could have contributed to the absence, whether they somehow “deserved” to be abandoned, or whether the absent parent believes he or she is better off without the “burden” of a child.
What You Can Do:
* Be very clear in telling your child, repeatedly, that he or she is not at fault.
* Be specific when you praise your child.
* Provide opportunities for your child to develop relationships with other adults, whom you trust, who can also convey genuine, positive messages about your child’s abilities, character, and contribution to others.
Children who have been abandoned may have difficulty expressing their emotions: Children who have experienced parental abandonment may also have difficulty sharing their feelings. They tend to keep their emotions bottled up and lack the trust necessary to share their true selves with others.
What You Can Do:
* When your child does express an emotion, affirm that you still love him or her – even when he or she is angry, sad, or frustrated.
* Be trustworthy. Make a special effort not to share your child’s confidences with friends and acquaintances.
* Provide regular opportunities to connect with your child, creating an atmosphere where he or she will be free to open up when the time is right.
Resources: Balcom, Dennis A. “Absent Fathers: Effects on Abandoned Sons.” The Journal of Men’s Studies 6.3 (1998): 283+. Questia. 31 Mar. 2008 [http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001348916].
Anne Leedom is the publisher of www.parentingbookmark.com, a national parenting website for raising caring kids. Anne is also the Founder of www.netconnectpublicity.com, a premier online placement agency for experts and authors. Anne writes for various national websites including Beliefnet.com and Drlaura.com. She lives in Northern California with her two daughters.