After my mother threw me out of her house when I was thirteen, I had no choice but to move in with my father and his new wife (and therefore now my stepmother). My father behaved in such a distant manner towards me that he may as well have been inhabiting a different galaxy, several billion light-years away. And a particularly cold, unwelcoming and inhospitable one.
As for my stepmother, she constantly smothered her own son (from a previous relationship), who also lived in the house, with love, adoration and attention and general worship, whilst almost completely ignoring me as if in an attempt to eradicate the fact of my distasteful and deeply resented existence from her mind.
At dinner in the evenings, I neither spoke nor was spoken to. In the mornings, after my father had left for work, my stepmother and her son breakfasted together whilst I ate mine alone.
I felt like I was some kind of virus – my father and stepmother seemed to wish to avoid any contact with me, lest they become contaminated.
So what are the possible effects on children who are ignored by their parents? I outline the main ones below:
The Possible Effects On Children Of Being Ignored By Their Parents:
– ignoring a child is a form of emotional abuse that can have severe, adverse consequences for the child. These consequences may not just cause him/her problems during his/her childhood, but for the rest of his/her life if effective therapy is not undertaken.
– being ignored seriously damages the child’s sense of self-worth and value as an individual; s/he is likely to start to see him/herself as utterly undeserving of love, attention and affection. In short, s/he is likely to start to view him/herself as intrinsically unlovable
– it is also likely to create problems forming friendships and romantic partnerships due to the very low sense of self-worth outlined immediately above. As a child, I thought I was the least interesting and least likeable person alive on the entire planet.
– being ignored profoundly hurts and this hurt, in young people, very often may express itself through anger, rages, tantrums, aggression and physical violence (my stepmother was fond of reminding me I once knocked a coffee cup out of her hand when I was fourteen. I have no memory of this, but it may well be true) – all of which are ‘acting out’ behaviours (the child does not have the verbal dexterity to articulate his complex and painful inner feelings and emotions. Some children may develop oppositional defiance disorder).
– increased likelihood of making excessive use of drugs and alcohol in an attempt to reduce intolerable mental anguish
Because being ignored as a child will very often lead to us having a distorted and unrealistically negative view of ourselves as adults, cognitive behavioural therapy can be an effective way of correcting our faulty self-perception.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).