When children experience a trauma, especially one involving a parent or caregiver who has neglected areas of the child’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development, it can result in symptoms of abandonment issues that persist until they are processed. These things can even linger into adulthood. Some of these include:
- Chronic stress and fear
- Stunted development
- Lack of trust
- Unhealthy relationship patterns
- Difficulty regulating emotions
- Withdrawing from peers
- Inability to open up to others
These behaviors do not automatically indicate abandonment issues; however, it is worth considering if you notice these behaviors repeatedly.
How to support a child with abandonment issues.
While you may not be able to fix the problem that caused abandonment issues for a child, you can support and love children struggling with abandonment issues.
Offer consistent reassurance. Kids who have been abandoned or neglected struggle to trust people and things that should be afforded to all children. These include things like food, shelter, clothing, safety, and education. If a child went without these or struggles to trust people in their life, reassurance can go a long way to helping them.
The key to offering reassurance is that it is consistent. You need to be committed to showing up, providing, and generally doing what you say. Any slip in this area can feel like a setback. While no one is perfect, any efforts you can make to offer consistent reassurance will be helpful.
Be kind and show compassion.
Sometimes kids that have experienced trauma involving abandonment have not been treated well. Similarly, they may be acting out in ways that seem undeserving of kindness. It is important to do all you can to respond with kindness and compassion. These can go a long way toward building trust and relationship, as well as providing the security the child longs for.
Follow a daily routine.
A daily routine may seem like something that makes life run smoothly, but to a child with abandonment issues, a routine can be much more impactful. Following a daily routine offers a sense of stability that a child in this situation may lack.
Routine can make life feel predictable and reassuring for a child. Knowing what to expect each day allows the child a sense of safety so he or she can let go of some of the anxiety he or she carries.
Check in regularly.
Some children enjoy talking about their feelings, while others hold things inside. No matter what, you should keep showing the child that the door to communication is always open.
When you check in and ask a child how he or she feels regularly, the child learns to trust that you are there to support him or her and that you genuinely care about his or her thoughts and feelings. This does not need to be in a dramatic, sit-down conversation.
It can be casual check-ins when you ask how he or she is doing, if there is anything he or she needs, or what worries him or her. Give the child plenty of opportunities to share with you so he or she can trust you will be there to love him or her.
Pray for them.As a believer, you have the assurance that God cares about the child in your life. Talk to God about him or her. Ask God for help to love the child well. Even more, ask God to heal the wounded places in his or her heart.
Jesus promises: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14, NIV) You can ask God to heal their wounded heart, confident that He will do it.
Pray with them.
Much like praying for the child is important, it can be helpful to pray with the child. Begin teaching him or her about the love of God and His promises. Praying with him or her can teach:
- God is always with us.
- We can always talk to God.
- God is always faithful.
- He will help us.
- God will never leave us.
Christian counseling is a great resource to help you and the child who struggles with abandonment issues. The counselors in our office are here to listen, support, and offer strategies that can help.
Reach out today to set up an appointment with me or another counselor experienced in abandonment issues in children. You don’t have to walk through this alone.
“Cardinal”, Courtesy of Opal Siegal, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Green Bee-Eater”, Courtesy of Yanissa Metselaar, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Robin”, Courtesy of Opal Siegal, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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