Childhood Neglect- The demise of innocence in a child
By: Sanjana Dash
You’re on your day off, browsing your phone when your child comes and tells you something. Instead of looking at them, you nod your head and ask them not to bother you right now. You might not always intend to do this, but sometimes you need time off. Does your break take you away from your child? Have you heard of childhood neglect? If not, here’s the time to think about it.
What is Childhood Neglect?
Childhood neglect is one of the most common mental health conditions, yet one of the least recognised. It means to neglect a child’s basic needs like emotional, health, education, etc. It is not what a parent does to a child, but what they fail to do.
4 Types of Childhood Neglect
1) Physical Neglect – Physical neglect is when parents or guardians fail to provide children with food, clothing, or shelter. In such scenarios, kids are malnutrition and unkempt. For example- leaving your child unattended at home, frequently asking them to order food online instead of providing home-cooked meals, etc.
(2) Educational Neglect– When you keep your child away from school and college, you are violating their fundamental right to education.
3) Emotional Neglect– When you stop paying attention to children’s emotions, you start to distance yourself from them. They feel their feelings are worthless, so they stop sharing them. For example- Being too strict with them or comparing and humiliating them in front of others.
4) Medical Neglect– The failure to provide adequate health and mental care. It also implies ignoring a doctor’s advice and doing as you wish. For example- you are skipping vaccine sessions and overlooking their mental health and overall well-being.
The Prolonged Effects of Neglect
The ill-effects of childhood neglect are carried on till adulthood and play a crucial role in your relationships and work life.
1) Constant feeling of Emptiness– You always feel a void in your life, and nothing seems to fill the space no matter what you do.
2) Fear to seek help– Since childhood, you couldn’t rely on anyone for anything. You were left to mend for yourself and learned to distance yourself from the world.
3) Delving in self-doubt– Your parents never acknowledged you or your achievements, so you often dwell in self-doubt and negativity.
4) Difficulty expressing– You cannot freely express your feelings because no one valued your emotions as a child.
5) Fear of rejection– You do not take rejection well due to the constant neglect in your life. We have all experienced rejection somewhere in our lives, but it can trigger you.
6) Distancing yourself from the world– You refuse to socialise due to your fear of rejection and avoid people as much as possible.
Moreover, the severe effects of childhood neglect push people to the extreme depths of addiction and substance abuse. They opt for these roads to fit in and live their everyday life.
Causes of childhood neglect
Childhood neglect is a growing concern for various reasons, but it occurs mostly intentionally or unintentionally. Often, parents or guardians do not realise that they neglect their children.
1) Relationship Issues– Children grow up witnessing their parents’ constant arguments and separation that impact their mindset. Often, parents take their anger out on their children, making them believe and holding them responsible for their fights. When these children become adults, they carry the same thought processes in their relationships.
2) Lacking parenting skills– Parenting isn’t easy. It is a continuous process of learning and experiencing various situations. Most of the time, if the parents have been victims of neglect, they eventually pass on the same to their kids, also known as the ripple effect.
3) Absence of elders– In nuclear families, where both parents are working, and older people are absent, children don’t get enough love and attention and thus, tend to wander off.
4) Domestic violence and addiction– If you or your spouse are physically aggressive or depend on alcohol too much, then your kids will eventually emotionally distance themselves from you and learn your negative traits.
What can we do about it?
Every situation has its solution. Now that we have identified this condition, it’s high time we treat it as well. Here are some options for you to explore:
1) Learn to acknowledge your emotions– Growing up in an environment wherein your feelings were not recognised and considered essential, you will have difficulty identifying them on your own. However, a lack of emotions affects your decision-making process. Try to seek help from your partner or close friend to have emotional support.
2) Voice out your needs– After identifying your wants and needs, share the same with your near and dear ones for them to know you better. For example, If you feel down, ask for a hug or for someone to sit beside you and listen to what you say.
3) Seek professional help– Don’t shy away from therapy. A good therapist cannot erase your past. However, they will provide tools to help you better and secure your future with your present. You will further learn to trust others, build self-esteem, handle rejection, and practice self-love.
4) Self-talk– Believe it or not, self-talk is the most effective practice which should be opted for by everyone. Hear your thoughts and understand where it is coming from. Do not judge yourself. Consciously encourage yourself by believing you can and you will.
Raising a child isn’t an easy task. And as a parent, it is your responsibility to care for your children in every possible way until they are old enough to fend for themselves. Don’t worry; there is nothing called a ‘perfect parent’. It’s a learning process, and it’s okay to make mistakes. But what’s not okay is never to rectify them. Spending time with your children and understanding their needs is essential. I am not saying to pamper them, but you should not avoid them either. Read a book with them or play board games to keep them entertained. Go out for walks or involve them in baking. The choice is yours, but the time is now.
After all, childhood is the most treasured aspect of our lives. If lived happily, it creates a bucketful of memories. However, if snatched away, it leaves a scar for the rest of our lives. If you or your loved one is a victim of neglect, you must seek help immediately. It’s always better to treat the condition than live with it and suffer silently.