By Katherine Baker, LCSW, Courier & Press, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 –
Unfortunately, all too often we hear stories in the media about children and teens being neglected. Neglect can take many forms, including lack of housing, food and medical care, failure to teach basic personal care, and withholding love and affection. In neglect situations, the child’s basic needs are not being met by the parent.
For many families there seems to be a “disconnect” between meeting a child’s needs and strengthening the bonds of love, affection, care and support. Parents can neglect their children for multiple reasons – loss of a job causing financial strain, loss of public utilities, depression, parent inattention due to involvement with a love interest, addiction to cell phones, or abuse of alcohol and other substances.
As a school social worker, I see the effects of neglect every day. In this writer’s opinion, emotional neglect may do the most damage.
Neglect can leave a permanent scar on a child’s self-esteem and well-being. Self-esteem is defined as confidence in one’s own worth or abilities and tends to fluctuate depending on what is going on in your life.
Children that are left alone, unsupervised, and don’t have regular one-on-one time with a parent frequently have unmet emotional needs. They are not taught the importance of values, morals, and respect for self and others.
Spending quality time with your children should be a priority. However, many children and teens do not get this much-needed attention from parents. They are alone, unsupervised, and left to their own defenses.
On the other hand, children that have actively involved parents tend to have better self-esteem, make better decisions, are better able to respond to the stress of day-to-day living, and are able to verbalize their needs in a healthy manner. The time you spend with your children in elementary school, middle school and high school will promote healthy and responsible relationships.
A big part of parenting is being the parent and not your child’s friend. In addition to spending quality time with children, parents should make rules and enforce them, give advice, show love, care, and respect, role model positive and encouraging behaviors and discipline when needed. If a parent is absent these skills are lost, as the child must meet his own needs and function as a mini-adult rather than a child.
Some children who are emotionally neglected become angry and sullen. Others become depressed, develop unhealthy dating relationships, demonstrate poor academic performance, and may show little respect for others or themselves. Showing your child you love them even when their behavior is troubling can go a long way toward building a healthy relationship.
If you are a parent, guardian, or caregiver, make time in your busy schedule – or better yet – eliminate some of the commitments you have and start nurturing and loving your children. Put down the cell phone and talk to your kids. Teach your children how to communicate face-to-face versus the push of a button. Give your children the love and attention we all need and make sure their basic needs are met. Their future – and their ability to relate to others in our world – depends on it.