It is hard to imagine an innocent little one struggling with something as complex as abandonment. However, abandonment can affect people of any age, even babies. To recognize abandonment issues in people, especially children, it is important to understand what abandonment is and why it is significant when considering someone’s wellness.
Understanding abandonment.The term abandonment may seem obvious to some people. Many think of it as simply being abandoned. The idea people often have is of a person being abandoned in a dangerous situation, leaving them to handle it on their own.
While this can be one type of abandonment, there are different ways people can experience abandonment. This is especially true of children.
Abandonment happens in a variety of scenarios. The basic premise of abandonment is when someone is left without the care they should have from another person. This can happen in a variety of ways.
Some possibilities include:
- Neglect from one or both parents.
- One or both parents being absent physically or emotionally.
- The loss of a loved one.
- A friend moving away.
- Divorce (your own or that of your parents or another close loved one).
- Witnessing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
- Experiencing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
- Exposure to persistent arguing.
These are only examples. Numerous possibilities can lead to feelings of abandonment.
Why abandonment is important to consider.
While abandonment is not a mental health diagnosis, it can lead to things that affect one’s mental health. The aftermath of abandonment is significant, especially in children.
Abandonment issues may stem from abuse, neglect or psychosocial stress experienced during childhood, such as divorce, death or illness. These traumatic experiences may have a significant effect on brain development and lead to psychiatric symptoms, such as depression and substance abuse disorders, later in life. – Lizzie Duszynski-Goodman
As you consider the effects of abandonment, neglect, abuse, and family instability on children, it is important to consider their behavior. Children often cannot express why they feel what they feel. They don’t understand that it is a result of abandonment. Instead, they may exhibit behaviors that are difficult to understand. This happens in adults as well.
Abandonment issues are a form of anxiety that occurs when an individual has a strong fear of losing loved ones. People with abandonment issues can have difficulties in relationships. They may exhibit symptoms such as codependency, clinginess, or manipulative behavior. – Zawn Villines
When a person, especially a child, has experienced abandonment, it is important to look for behavior that indicates such. This enables support people to form a treatment plan that helps the individual.
Signs of abandonment issues in children.
First, it is important to recognize that all children experience healthy separation from their parents. For some, this can cause temporary anxiety, often called separation anxiety. This is a normal part of development in babies that are 6-12 months old through 3 years old.
Signs of normal separation anxiety at this age can include:
- Not wanting to leave their parent or caregiver.
- Crying or having a tantrum if their parent leaves.
- Experiencing anxiety when going to daycare or preschool.
If a child exhibits these things temporarily, it is considered normal. If these symptoms persist, normal separation anxiety can evolve into an intense form of separation anxiety that warrants support.
It is important to consider the cause of the separation and how it affects the child. When you consider abandonment, this stems from unmet needs. It can be hard to know that this happened, especially in young children. This is why it is helpful to look for signs that help you recognize possible abandonment issues in children.
Possible signs of abandonment issues in children include:
- Trouble concentrating in school. Sometimes it can even cause misbehavior in school because they struggle to concentrate and they need focused attention.
- Not wanting to be alone. This can manifest in a variety of ways including not wanting to sleep in their bed at night or not wanting to play in a room without the parent. They can develop an intense fear of being by themselves.
- Intense separation anxiety that does not resolve.
- Panic when they cannot see their parent.
- Persistent illness such as stomachache or headache that interferes with normal life activities..
These are just a few examples of possible evidence of abandonment issues in children.
It is important to note that the presence of these behaviors does not automatically mean that a child has experienced abandonment or any type of abuse.
If you recognize signs of abandonment issues in children.
Knowing what to do if you see these signs can feel overwhelming. While these may be signs of an abandonment issue, they may also be signs of other things, some of which are developmentally normal. That is why it is essential to get help in addressing these things.
Here are some tips for you:
Make sure the child is safe.
This is the number one priority when you have any concerns about a child. That does not mean you are in an emergency. It does, however, mean you should ensure that the child is not in danger and has his physical needs met.
Notice how often you see the behavior. Consider whether it is a one-time instance or if it happens repeatedly. Look at any other factors like changes in routine, fatigue, or hunger. If there are any medical concerns, be sure to discuss them with the child’s doctor.
Look for appropriate support.
This is not something you need to (or should) handle on your own. If a child is struggling with abandonment issues, there is a reason, and it will require the help of a group of people willing to support the child. Consider who is part of the child’s support team. Doctors, teachers, trusted family members, and counselors are good people to consider.
Reassure the child.
Give the child consistent attention and reassurance that he or she is loved and safe. Be present with him or her emotionally and physically.
Provide for their needs.
Be aware of any needs that are not being met. Consider whether they have clean clothes or the food they need for their whole day. Helping meet these needs can provide relief and reassurance in practical ways.
Develop a routine.
Consistent routines can help a child who is struggling with abandonment issues. It provides a framework in which they can learn to function and trust that their needs will be met. Consider how you can support their daily routine whether you are with them for the whole day or part of the day.
Demonstrate kindness and compassion.
Showing a child who is struggling kindness and compassion can make a big difference in helping them open up and trust people.
Give them space to talk about things but don’t force it.
This enables the child to build trust and feel safe.
Set up counseling for the child.
Talking to a counselor trained to work with children is an important part of helping them.
Get support for you.
Sometimes it can be hard to know how to handle a situation like this. Seeking professional support for you can be just as important as being there for the child. You need to be well to help them get well.
Help is available.
If you suspect a child is struggling with abandonment, there is help available. Trained counselors can work with the child in a way that is comfortable for the child. This will help him open up to the counselor so any problems can be addressed.
Abandonment issues are complex, but they are not hopeless. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV) God is ever-present, always there to help.
Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with me or another child therapist in our online counselor directory to learn more about how counseling can help address abandonment issues in children.
“The Gardner”, Courtesy of Jonathan Borba, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Girls by the Stream”, courtesy of IIONA VIRGIN, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Boy”, Courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “You Can’t See Me”, Courtesy of Ben Hershey, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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