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What Affect Does a Parent's Absense Have on Children

The Heartbroken Child

The Absent Parent and the Heartbroken Child

The ongoing absence of a parent breaks the hearts of many children. When a parent has little or no contact with their child for most reasons other than death, illness, or a well explained obligation such as military duty, children often feel that they did something wrong or that they aren't good enough. While the absent parent may be a father or a mother, (interchangeable in regards to absence) the negative effects many children experience and the strategies suggested to combat those effects are often similar. Some of the negative effects children might endure include low self-esteem, anger and behavioral issues, resentment toward one or both parents, and depression, isolation or problems socializing.

Things to Consider before Answering the Tough Questions About an Absent Parent

Empathetic custodial parents can limit or eliminate most negative effects by considering how their own actions and reactions might impact their child's interpretation of the situation. When your ten year old child asks, "Why doesn't Daddy want me?", there's little more heartbreaking. It doesn't matter how old the child is, if they are not asking why their absent parent doesn't call or spend time with them, the question, as well as, their own conceived answers, most likely, ricochet back and forth from their heads to their hearts more often than realized. For the parent who witnesses the pain in their child's face and/or voice, it might be near impossible to hold back from bad-mouthing the deadbeat parent. However, imagine being the child who needs comforting and answers but instead encounters more heartbreak when the parent they live with rants about the parent they never get to spend time with.

Steer away from the blame game

Sometimes children start out blaming the custodial parent for the absence of the other parent. Other times, they blame themselves. Eventually, they might spread the blame to include the absent parent. To concentrate on who the fault lies with distracts away from what's really important - showing them through example how to divert their attention away from placing blame to taking actions to solve the problems at hand.

Some Possible Problems

Child unhappy, feels unloved, and/or insecure because little or no contact with one parent

Child feels resentment, guilt, or anger

Child misses absent parent

Some Possible Solutions

Family Therapy

Listen to child's concerns and make plans together

Communicate what the child is going through with the absent parent and try to work something out.

Children lose twice when visitation withheld due to money issues

The reasons many deadbeat parents give for not spending time with their children range from not being ready for the responsibility, not being able to deal with drama, and feeling that their child would be better off without them. Sometimes custodial parents use visitation of the child as a bargaining chip in an attempt to force the non-custodial parent into paying child support. This strategy rarely results in monetary gains for the support of the child or children. In addition, children also lose the many benefits of having that parent in their lives. To restrict visitation rights may be forbidden as stated in many couple's divorce decrees. These laws were put in place with the best interest of the child in mind.

Absent parent due to ego or anger issues

In contrast, sometimes the non-custodial parent feels slighted by the terms of the child support agreement. For example, they may believe that the amount they are ordered to pay is unreasonable or they may have problems with the amount of time they are allotted to spend with their child. Instead of concentrating on how their contributions improve the lives of their children, they may become fixated on how their contributions improve the lives of the other parent. Initially, they may have hoped to spend more time with their child; however, their children suffer when they allow their disappointment in the terms of the agreement to alienate them from them. Nobody wins in those scenarios, least of all, the child or children.

Working out an agreement for child's well-being

While monetary support is vital for the child's well-being, parents who keep talk and collection of it separate from the relationships they share with their children experience less stress. If parents cannot discuss child support amicably, their lawyers or state disbursement departments will work on rectifying any issues. In fact, in many cases, parents find it easier to talk to each other about other areas of their kids lives when they learn to refrain from bringing up child support. Both parents may become more empathetic to each other’s circumstances if they write down what they want for their children, how their actions or inactions might affect the person their child grows into, how each would feel if they were in their child’s shoes, and what memories the child will have of his or her upbringing, as well as, a list of what each believes a perfect parent would be and do for their children.

How custodial parent might ease child's pain

When it’s not possible for both parents to work together for the benefit of the child, custodial parents can still execute plans designed to ensure the child feels important, loved, and included as an irreplaceable, contributing member of the family dynamic. If the non-custodial parent never spends any time with the child, the custodial parent might designate a certain amount of time each day and a special day of the week to really be present for the child. If both parent and child put away any distractions such as cell phones or tablets and interact with each other, the message of love and importance the child receives will lessen the pain and insecurities of having an absent parent.

Some fun activities parent and child might do together

Make a meal - In addition to having the child help with preparations while keeping safety in mind, the parent could add some elements such as: making a meal originated from a different country, decorating the table or eating area to look like a setting in a fancy restaurant or an outdoor picnic area, or dressing in outfits from different time periods or cultures with music to match.

Make a costume together

Reenact scenes from a favorite cartoon, movie, or game - A makeshift costume resembling the clothes worn in the scene give parent and child things to discuss while preparing. For example, parent might say to child, "Does this hat look more like Mario's or does that one?" This helps parent and child build a trust and openness to share. The child recognizes that the parent values his or her opinion. Parent and child could also paint a background scenery using an old flat sheet. A videotape will give them something to watch together for years to come.