I started self-harming because my dad was never there for me and my mum didn’t care what I was doing.
“Attention seekers” is a term used by an awful lot of people who have been in a close vicinity with children. What I find the funniest in toddlers is, sometimes they make noises and cry without a tiniest teardrop trickling onto their cheek. I always assumed they do it to capture their parent’s attention and maybe they do.
Stepping into adolescence, the need for attention does not gradually fade away. The quote at the top of this post are the words of a teenager, who reached out to us and shared her story. The need becomes deeper – deeper than they are able to communicate and deeper than we realize. From a dependent toddler to a seemingly independent adolescent, one thing remains – the need of attention.
We all know what being an adolescent feels like. It’s like stepping into a realm of ever-changing seasons. A negative body-image, bullying at school and even the birth of a younger sibling, can become an outset for Depression. Issues like these may seem trivial now but for an adolescent, they are the hardest to deal with. At a time like this, parental neglect and lack of understanding of the kid’s feelings can prove detrimental. Research has proved that these teens are at the highest danger of self-harm and suicide. A Reuter’s article on research findings in adolescent suicide risk
It is crucial to know the impact of parental neglect and invalidation of one’s feelings on their Mental Health. What goes inside the mind of a teenager struggling with her body image? When there is no one to help her see the uniqueness and beauty she in fact carries, the odds are that her self-esteem may fall. She may even begin harming herself. An adolescent is being bullied at school because of his timid and introverted nature. I believe he may find it a lot more difficult to communicate his feelings to anyone, than an otherwise extroverted kid.
Low self-esteem, fear of being harmed (physically or mentally in bullying) leads to a perception of worthlessness and self-hate. A teenager going through this mental storm definitely needs an anchor but in some cases, parental neglect adds to the burden. When a parent fails to give adequate attention to their kid, that’s when depression hits its lowest point.
“I think I’m not good enough to have my mom’s attention“, “I feel inadequate.”
“The need to be good enough” and “the need to compete for their parent’s attention” take root. A parent’s unresponsiveness feeds on the self-worth of their child. Childhood Abuse and Parental Neglect- Effects on Mental Health
Some parents may give attention to their kids. But they may fail to acknowledge their child’s emotions and often dismiss them as insignificant and unaddressed. They “invalidate” their child’s feelings and deny that he/she may be going through a struggle. Where can a child turn, if he/she doesn’t have emotional support from the family? Some find friends to sail along in this storm who manage to bring them over to the other side. Others aren’t fortunate enough and remain plagued by self-worth issues well over adolescence.
If you have been a child or a teenager who endured parental neglect during those hard times of your life, we are glad that you made it so far. Parents do play a substantial role in building up the self-worth of a child. But if that crucial phase has already passed in your life, less can be done about it. If your family didn’t take time to make you realize your worth, its time for YOU to take hold of it and grasp the value of your life yourself.
You are unique, even if your parents didn’t tell you so. (Fun fact: Did you know that your DNA is unique to you. There is only one, just one, like you in this world. And That’s you!) Don’t bother about the people who bullied you because that is a reflection of their character, it has nothing to do with you! You don’t have to be ashamed of your body anymore. Because God gifted you with it. You are endowed by certain unique characteristics by your Creator. Don’t hate yourself, take time to know yourself.
If you are a parent or plan to have kids in the future, remember this -A keen look into your kid’s life and a deliberate conversation is what makes all the difference. Your treatment of your children will dictate how they do for the rest of their lives. Being a parent is a joy and at the same time, it is an enormous responsibility. Your kids are a world within themselves. Take time to observe, listen and show them your love.