I’ve written blogs about physical, sexual, and verbal/emotional abuse, but there is one more kind of abuse I’d like to address…neglect and abandonment.
First Understand What Is Neglect and Abandonment?
You can be considered neglected or abandoned when you don’t know where your parents are, if they have left you alone, or have failed to maintain contact with you. It also includes being left alone in circumstances where you suffer serious harm, lack adequate food, housing, clothes, medical care, even education or supervision.
Another common childhood experience is being emotionally abandoned by a parent. When parents are critical, dismissive, or preoccupied to the point that it communicates to a child that “You don’t matter,” or “Your feelings aren’t important“. This makes a child feel unloved, unaccepted and misunderstood.
Abandonment can also be experienced when one parent disappears from a child’s life. It can happen at a very young age, or it can even be when you’re a teenager or young adult. A parent walking away from the family, divorce situations, and even suicide of a parent can lead to deep feelings of abandonment and communicate to a child, “You aren’t worth being connected with.” The common factor is an outright decision by the parent to not be a part of their child’s life any longer.
Netasha expressed her sadness over having her father leave her mother when she got pregnant. “They went through all the court stuff and he told the judge I was his mistake and that he wanted nothing to do with. So it’s not that I hate him or anything, I’m just disappointed in his decision. It would have just been easier growing up with him around. I’m about to graduate high school and go to college.
Don’t Cover the Pain with Unhealthy Choices
For a child who has been abandoned by a parent, it’s easy to try to fill that void with unhealthy relationships. Kristy commented on how she’s lured into relationships with destructive guys: I am lured to these guys because I have almost no relationship with my father, and I want to replace that missing love with a boyfriend. Having the poor relationship with my father makes me feel like I did something wrong or need to prove I’m worthy of love from a man. Therefore, I’m attracted to a jerk who will test my limits and make me endure mentally and emotionally scarring situations to prove I am worthy.
Remember It’s Not Your Fault
It’s easy for anybody, regardless of age, to think the disappearance of their parent is somehow their fault. This is not the truth. As a young person, you cannot carry the blame for a grown adult’s abusive decision. They are simply operating out of their own place of hurt and pain, and that can be caused by a number of things, in particular, their own abusive upbringing.
Learn to Forgive
It’s normal to feel angry when you have been betrayed, abandoned or hurt in some way. If that anger is not dealt with, you will soon become bitter and miserable. The process of forgiving someone does not excuse what they did or in any way say it was O.K. It just gives you the freedom to move forward and no longer be tied to the person that hurt you.
Look For a Mentor
You may think a stand-in parent won’t work for you, but I have talked to many students over the years where a substitute parent or mentor has made all the difference in the world. Just knowing someone really cares for you can make a huge difference.
Laura’s comment says it all: I have gotten the chance to get closer to my band director at school. He has helped me so much this year. He is like a dad to me.
But how does one go about finding a father figure? Morgan sent me some great advice: I think they should go to a grandpa, uncle, or even an older brother they know loves them, and just spend time with them. Chat with them. Go to lunch with them. Everything that those suffering from Father Hunger would want to do with their dad. It certainly wouldn’t replace their dad, but it would bring some love from a male father figure into their life and fill some of that void.
If you determine you are living in a neglect/abandonment abusive situation, it’s important that you tell someone. Find someone you can trust to talk about what’s going on at home. It will help you get perspective on your situation, and help you decide what actions you need to take to protect yourself.
You can always chat with TheHopeLine. You can also call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). There is always hope and there are ways to deal with abuse going on in your own life, or to help someone you know who is going through abuse.
I’ll end with some advice from Travis: It definitely helps to have two or three good friends you can turn to anytime you need anything. I usually try and make myself to be one of those friends they can turn to, a shoulder to lean on, and someone they can confidently trust.
Also, download our eBook for more information on abandonment and how to cope with it!