Abandonment takes a toll on toddlers and preschoolers -- two groups of kids who already have their hands full as they're learning to navigate through a strange, new world. Abandonment often occurs as a result of divorce, parental neglect or the death of a parent. Young children are especially susceptible to displaying behavioral issues as a result of abandonment since they don't quite know how to express the complex emotions they may feel. Early interventions and counseling can help your little one cope with her loss.
Social and Emotional Development
Young children need to feel loved, supported and safe in order to have healthy social and emotional development, finds researchers at the reputable, online child health resource, the Zero To Three website. Your little one feels safe when he consistently receives love and affection from his parents. When a child doesn't get enough attention, this can have a lasting, negative impact on his self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. Unhealthy emotional development can definitely influence your little one to act out negative behaviors.
As toddlers -- and some preschoolers -- are still formulating a viable "feelings vocabulary," they usually decide that it's equally effective to throw temper tantrums in public places, (of all places) when expressing anger and frustration. Child abandonment only exacerbates the behavioral challenges that naturally occur during this stage of development. Furthermore, children who experience the loss of a parent during their preschool years were found to have increased behavioral issues later in life, according to a study of 3,492 schoolchildren that researchers at Georgetown and the University of Chicago studied, as reported by Sharon Jayson in USA Today.
Long-Term Behavioral Effects
While toddlers and preschoolers who've experienced parental abandonment may just be getting started with acting out behaviors, research published by the Child Welfare Information Gateway, states that long-term effects of child abandonment can include difficulties during adolescence, juvenile delinquency and substance abuse. This information suggests that it's never too early to get your child the professional help that she may need. You may not have been able to control the loss of her other parent, but you can definitely help your child secure a different outcome other than negative and destructive outcomes.
Counseling is useful in helping your child express his feelings about an absent parent, and can also teach him how to reframe the way he views this loss as it relates to his self-concept. In other words, it's important that your little one learns that it's not his fault that his parent is absent. You can also remind your child that the absent parent loves him very much -- because he's so lovable -- but that he had to go away for reasons that were out of anyone's control.
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