It is difficult to comprehend how a parent, father or mother, can abandon a child. Just turn their backs on the little one, born from their bodies. To leave that child to whatever and whomever to take care of them while the parents goes off and does their own thing. It is difficult and probably impossible for me to fathom where a parent’s mind goes in order to abandon a child(ren).
There are two types of abandonment...physical and emotional. Some parents physically leave their children and do not see them, do not financially support the child, and may not even know where the child(ren) are. And some parents emotionally leave their children and are right there with them but have completely checked out and disengaged themselves. Theses parents do not ask the child how their day was, they do not allow the child to express themselves, they do not show quality interest and support for what the child is interested in. I am not sure which is worse, I would imagine both are difficult for a child to deal with emotionally. In either case, the parents displays a degree of self absorption and are too concentrated on meeting their own needs, wants, addictions, distractions, in their lives than that of their children. The same children born from them but never asked to be born. Yes, a hard and blunt truth, but a reality.
Dr. Liz Page, business owner of www.adoptionsolutioninc.com and Licensed Professional Counselor LPC, as well as an adoptive parent herself, agrees there is a distinct difference in outcomes for a child who has a parent who leaves the child but who makes plans for their child by assuring they are safe and financially cared for as opposed to the parent that leaves the child for others to care for them with no input or help from that parent. It’s not to say the child(ren) involved will not still process this as abandonment. But at least the parent has done everything necessary if they themselves cannot care for the child.
Each State has their own definitions and laws on what constitutes legal abandonment. And typically those definitions incorporates a certain length of time (months) when the parent has little to no contact with the child, the whereabouts of the parent is unknown and the parent does not adequately support the child financially.
I am sensitive to this topic not only because of my line of work with over 16yrs as a front line worker in the human/social service field from residential treatment therapy to social work/case management but also because I 'Was' an abandoned child by my father. I have never met him to this day, that I can remember.
Dr. Page, who counsels not only children who have been abandoned but also the adult parents who have abandoned notes that many individuals who were abandoned as children are broken and have all kinds of emotional and mental problems in their childhoods and have gone on to become adults with these same problems. Dr. Page agrees, abandonment is a form of grieving, grieving the loss of love and connection with a parent. Due to the parent’s absence, unfortunately society as a whole bears the weight from the irresponsible and immature parenting to these children and even once and after they become adults.
In reference to my own life experience, I emphasize the word 'was' above because I am no longer a child. I 'was' an abandoned child.
The responsibility of being an abandoned child is no longer on my father or any parent of an adult child. An adult cannot use the excuse of 'I am' an abandoned child anymore. Because they are no longer children. As adults, our emotional wellbeing and health is now our responsibility. But so many people get stuck in their issues of abandonment and then begin their own cycles of dysfunction as adults. I define Dysfunction as a detrimental effect to our day to day life in how we process, respond/react to the world around us. In other words we damage ourselves and/or our relationships with others by what we are doing and the decisions we make.
Now, I’m not saying restitution should not be paid by the parent who abandons their children because it will be paid in some form or another. If a parent shall seek forgiveness of a child they have left behind, they must first seek out that child whether they are still children or have now become adults. They then must sit their child down and apologize for leaving them and beg their forgiveness. This is the only thing a parent, who abandons, can do. Now, however a child process that apology is how a child may process. But, for an adult child this apology should be a freedom toll to free you from all the brokenness if you had 'allowed' being abandoned to capture you from your youth and on into your adulthood.
Again as adults, we do not have the excuse to use our parents failings towards us, to now abandon our children, to become a heavy load to society and our families by not being responsible parents and adults. We do not have any excuses, just as our parents before us didn’t, to wallow in self destruction, self pity, addictions, depression, and other emotional ailments because of what was done to us as children. Is it an easy road to not succumb to family cycles of dysfunction? No it is not. We are set up for failure from the beginning; broken, confused, abandoned, alone, angry, disoriented, along with many other feelings and emotions running through us. And yes, we are even entitled to feel how we feel. I know, I still deal with the residual effects of not having a consistent male role model, natural or otherwise, in my life, and in my very sensitive formative years, my childhood. Childhood is where we form our opinions about the world around us. Our childhoods are where we learn to trust the adult people who we have been entrusted to. So, if those adults are not trustworthy, abuses that trust with us or even absent, then we become more susceptible to becoming mistrustful of others and our own dysfunction can manifest in our lives. Unless we can combat or reduce the effects somehow in our responses and reactions from these early teachings and feelings of being abandoned, we are doomed to continue the cycle.
I know for myself, with having an absent father. I mainly struggle in the area of processing male authority. I am quite sensitive to a male telling me what to do. And if that male just has a modicum of ego with that authority then my Ram horns come out...it is time for battle. But I know this about myself and I try to curb it as best as I can. But it is a struggle and I know without a doubt it is a residual effect of not having male authority in my childhood. And its not to say that everyone processes like myself.
The emotional manifestations of childhood abandonment varies from person to person, males to females.
Other women who lack male authority in their lives may go the complete opposite of how I process. They may seek male authority in the form of a destructive lifestyle with a very authoritarian male who is abusive. Or they may crave male attention so much that it can manifest into what professions they choose like becoming a Stripper. Statistical studies show that a high number of strippers and porn stars come from broken homes that either includes one or both parents having abandoned them in their formative years, early childhood. Other manifestations for women, may be in the form of anger. This anger can be expressed outward or inward. It is rare for women to process anger outward but the ones that do, will be seen in the light of drama queens, physically fighting with others, or much negativity in their lives, ECT. But women typically turn their abandonment issues inward. Which manifests in them abusing drugs/addictions, sexual promiscuity, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental/emotional health concerns.
Males on the other hand have a high sensitivity to lacking their same gender parent, the father. Male children who are abandoned by their fathers are especially outward in their processing of that abandonment. Males who lack or have lacked a consistent male role model in their life are more likely than a male who had an active father, to become physically violent and antisocial in their behaviors. Men also process abandonment and turn to substance abuse along with having mental health needs (depression, anxiety) that they are typically self medicating with the drug abuse. Men are also less likely to seek help for their addictions/mental health than women.
Just for the record, I’m not saying that everyone who has been abandoned by a parent goes on to live a life of dysfunction and destruction.
But I am saying that a high number of people who have been abandoned in their childhood struggle with some form of dysfunction in their adult lives. On a scale of great dysfunction to little dysfunction. Which I happen to believe is normal because we do not live in a perfect world. There is not such a thing as the perfect childhood, or parent. There are no guarantees. Even in two parent homes, dysfunction can live, and be passed on to children. Some parents are model parents and their children still go on to live adult lives in dysfunction. And then there are still others who not only suffer abandonment from one or both parents, but also may have suffered from abuse and neglect from just about everyone they came in contact with in their childhoods, these individuals may go on to be loving, balanced and highly functioning adults and raise high functioning children as well.
Which ultimately brings me to my point. That no adult can use the excuse of once being an abandoned child to live a life of dysfunction and destruction. To hurt themselves and others, and primarily the children that they go on to procreate. It is our responsibility as adults to figure out "the whys" of our lives. Why do I get so angry when a man tells me what to do? Why am I staying away from my children two or three days at a time? Why am I sad most of the time? Why does that situation make me anxious? Why just about every time I drink alcohol, I get into a fight? Why have I turned to drugs to cope with my life? Why do I prefer to be alone than to spend time with my spouse and children? ECT. But too often, we are not asking the whys, instead; we are asking "why me"and playing the pity card which enables us to stay in our dysfunction and so our lives and relationships continues to erode. It comes down to a resistant arrogance to asking for help, and ego tripping in admitting we have faults.
Depending on the severity of the dysfunction and how much of our lives are being affected will help us to determine how much help we may need to start combating these issues that have developed from having been an abandoned child. The reality is that abandonment often times can trigger dysfunction and that is what we have to grasp. The excuse that we don’t have, is to stay in it. Because the longer we stay in it, the more it affects not only us but the world around us...our children, our grandchildren, and so on. And there begins the family cycle of dysfunction. And there begins the debt society has to pay for 'the father’s sins’, if you will.
So how do we combat the residual effects of abandonment? Like any problem we first have to admit to ourselves "Houston we have a Problem". If we do not admit we have a problem or problems, then we can’t begin to fix them or reduce the holds they are having on our lives and our decision making.
How do you know you have a problem or problems? Typically you would have had more than one loved one telling you, you have a problem. And most likely you have had several people tell you this. Not everyone can be wrong. Another way to possibly tell you are having problems is to look to your children and relationships with loved ones. Are they severely strained or broken? Or have you spent time incarcerated because of this problem that continues, issues on the job consistently, is this problem causing you financial hardship, legal concerns, lacking housing/homelessness, do you feel or are people telling you, you are isolating yourself from others, and/or consistently lying to others to cover up the problem, ECT. So really recognizing that you have a problem, goes hand and hand with asking the "whys".
Secondly, I believe you have to be motivated to change in order to address the issues that abandonment causes. I also believe that you can’t be motivated until you care enough. Until you grasp the significance of how destructive the dysfunction can be to others and for generations into your family. Motivation has much to do with cause and effect. I am motivated to run and exercise because I know running will effect maintaining my weight, to help keep me healthy and fit. This is individual and personal and even more so, its gradual and over time. Motivation is about the end results or continued results of progress. If we don’t see results fast enough then we are less motivated to think what we are doing will cause an end result. We are no longer motivated. Now, lets place this same line of thinking onto a life span. The very reason that things are so gradual, and slow to manifest is the very reason how we can remain in dysfunction. Nothing happens overnight. Some consequences are immediate and concise while others may not show up until twenty years later. And this is often the case in abandonment issues from being abandoned as a child. Yes, we will see these issues forming in the child as they grow but things do not culminate to full responsibility until adulthood. Which is also why abandonment can become a choice for the parent who will abandon their children, because they may not grasp and/or see their dysfunction playing into their children’s lives until the children themselves are possibly adults. And possibly by then the parent who abandoned their children when they were children have gone on to find recovery and peace in their own lives. Which then can even become a source of resentment for those adult children towards their parent. "Oh, now they want to be in my life, now that I have children...now they want to be a grandparent...yeah, I will show them"! I have heard abandoned adult children say this more times than not. Or this attitude culminates into their responses towards the parent who abandoned them; they may withhold visits of that grandchild, with the grandparent. Punishment.
So in essence the person has to be motivated to understand how far reaching their dysfunction can be into the lives of their loved ones. And how it does often become the family cycle of dysfunction. That what they do, does effect their children and for a long time. I have heard and have said it myself..."What I do as a grown woman isn’t anyone elses business." Or you hear "What I do, don’t have anything to do with my kids, they will be okay!" No, really what we do, does effect our children and their children. So, we have to believe and be motivated to make the changes, to help end the cycle.
Thirdly, we have to seek and accept help. Again, as mentioned earlier, the help we need will be determined by the problems we have developed over the years and how adversely they have damaged our lives. Some, may need just to sit down with the parent(s) that abandoned them and start the healing process and just start talking. Again, an apology can and should work wonders as this is all that a parent who abandoned their children can do at the point when their children are now adults. And its all that should be required "for the healing process" of the once abandoned child.
…Asking a parent to do more or requiring that parent to "pay you back" for abandoning you is absurd and useless time wasting and will only cause more anguish that often times can lead into new dysfunction. Its best to just forgive, and move forward from this point on.
Some people may have developed more serious and very damaging issues in their lives due to their feelings and processing of abandonment. Things like drug and sexual addictions, eating disorders, clinical depression and anxiety, and severe anger issues. Professional help from drug and mental health facilities must be sought out. Asking family members to help you acquire help is a step. Again, the responsibility and choices are for you to make. Having an addiction, doesn’t mean we are void of choice and responsibility. Just ask the number of people who have come out of addictions or the numerous folks incarcerated for making bad decisions while under the influence. They were still responsible for their actions.
The things that are important in our lives are the things we give our time, resources and attention to. The children we bring into this world deserves that from us. We owe this to them. When we decide to engage in sexual activity, we are saying we are ready to take on the responsibility of raising a child. My personal and professional opinion is that when you have a child, you become an adult and must be granted the accessibility to resources to care for your child. Our lives are no longer just about us, it now includes a tiny being who is depending on us to care for them and raise them to be productive members of society. When children are abandoned by their parents, their first teachers, the people who are to love them the most, it’s no wonder that so many issues can and does develop in the life of a once abandoned child, and then that child can become society’s child to raise. Unfortunately, society doesn’t do the best job of raising other people’s children. But, thankfully we grow older, and wiser and we can take control of our lives.
We can stop the cycle of family dysfunction. Just as our bad decision making can be far reaching into our children’s lives and generations, so can good and positive decision making. The healing process from abandonment can start today.
Author/Writer Miriam Adams-Washington lives in the beautiful city of Los Angeles, California. She is a freelance writer and published novelist of one book to credit. She is in the process of publishing her second book. She is a creative spirit and also owns a small business in the Shea Butter Industry doing business under Naturally Muah by Miriam. She can be contacted on her Etsy shop www.naturallymuah.etsy.com