their sense of self through their relationship to their parents. A child's self esteem is built on the notion that, "I am of value as a person to the degree to which my parents take interest in me." Children feel their
parents' interest in them by the amount of time spent with them. Many parents
talk of quality time, but the best indicator of quality is quantity and
consistency. These days when parents speak of quality, they really mean
that they do not spend much time with their child, but when they do, they
spoil them. This is not good for children. Rather, children need ample
and regular attention from both parents in their normal living situations.
Let's face it, we only do spend time with people we value, and children
When a parent
is not active in a child's life, the child may be emotionally crushed and
feel unworthy. As such, the child may no longer strive to succeed socially, academically and later, economically. Some children may even demonstrate these feelings of unworthiness through disruptive behaviour. Alternately,
some children develop rich fantasy lives to protect themselves from feelings
of worthlessness. They tell themselves their parent must be doing very
important things otherwise they would surely be here. Such children grow
up with unrealistic views of other people and relationships.
parents find themselves in a bind when the non-custodial parent fails to
exercise regular access. They feel the pain of their child whose heart
may be broken and view them as dying the death of a thousand emotional
cuts. They wonder what to tell their children to help them cope, recognizing
the impact on their self-worth.
how custodial parents can help their children cope with the absence or
inconsistent access of the non-custodial parent:
1. Either directly
or through another person, tell the non-custodial parent, their relationship
to the children is important. Believe it or not, some parents do not fully
realize this. They may have had a similar experience in their upbringing.
In bringing this to their attention, you may suggest meeting with a social
worker for them to discuss and learn about the importance of their relationship
to their children.
2. Remain calm
yourself. Do not exhibit your anger or frustration to your children, as
this will only escalate their bad feelings. Rather, talk with your children
about their feelings. It is appropriate to reassure them that you love
them. It is also appropriate to explain that the non-custodial parent's
absence is a reflection on difficulties they are having and not a reflection
on the children. Be careful here not to bad-mouth the non-custodial parent.
When you bad-mouth the non-custodial parent, you bad-mouth your children
because they recognize they come from both parents!
3. If you know
the non-custodial parent is inconsistent, always have a back-up plan to
structure your children's time. This is not to say you spoil them with
special attention to compensate for the non-custodial parent's absence
though. Rather, children should not be left with nothing to do, otherwise
they may wallow in their grief and get disruptive due to bad feelings.
It is better that they learn to adapt and use their time constructively.
There is no
way to fully protect children from disappointments in life. The key is
to keep the disappointment from being felt as a reflection of their worth.
By helping them understand the situation and making sure their time remains
structured, you can ease the impact of the situation and teach them appropriate
coping skills at the same time. This will equip them to deal with other
disappointments that life may throw their way, so they can integrate the
experience and then move on to other successes.
To see other article by Gary Direnfeld or contact him: click here
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- The Indiaparenting Team