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  • Writer's pictureKaren Divya Shekar

When Children Believe Nobody Loves Them

It’s one of those terrible, end-of-the-world things, when children believe they aren’t loved.

As a child who grew up with the perception that both my parents did not love me, even though I was coddled and cossetted, I can tell you first hand, that I came to the realisation not on one day, but over time.

Kids know.

They know who loves them, who’s pretending and who hates them.

They get ‘vibes’ the same way we do about people we know just won’t or don’t love us.

And it’s worse for kids, because they aren’t yet conditioned to accept rejection, hatred or unlove as the way of the world.

With big round eyes I watched the way my parents treated each other and us, that is, my sister and me.

I cannot honestly say we were always loving.

There were times when I have wished I belonged to another family, or had no family at all.

There have been times when I was ashamed of the way my parents behaved. There were times when I scared of them and of what they might say.

Overall, I grew up wary of them, their words were a shaky foundation, which I learnt never to trust.

It led me to depend on myself and my wits alone.

Consequently, at a young age, I outgrew my parents, and never needed them for counsel, support, validation or approval. If I did ask them, I resented that they never knew me well enough to give me the advice I needed.

Parenting isn’t and never will be only about putting food on the table. It’s about so many other things. One of the things it is about, is loving children. No parent’s job is complete without this one basic act.

If Jesus could say, that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, then imagine the impact of this on children!

Children feed on the food of a parent’s nurture, care, and interest in their lives. They do not require much else.

I have heard harsh words spoken.

When parents get angry, the simmering anger has usually been stewing, sometimes for months.

So when they open their mouths to rage, it brings to the forefront their true thoughts and opinions of the child.

They don’t hesitate to let the child know.

‘You’re lazy’, ‘You won’t amount to much’, ‘Nothing you do will ever succeed.’

It comes from a place of deep frustration and vulnerability. Words, handed down from generation to generation, wounding and cutting.

Dear parents always remember this: what’s in your heart will forever come to your lips, and if you have hatred or dislike for your children over something they’ve done and you can’t forgive, it will manifest one day or the other in a rage, an argument, a fight.

How can you not love the image of your own self reflected in your children?

They imbibe, they watch, they absorb and then they manifest. So, who’s to blame?

I imitated the way you spoke.

I have heard children repeat what their parents have said as though it is the sacrosanct law.

One kid refused to believe a method I taught in Mathematics, because her grandmother had explained it another way!

That’s the impact of a caregiver on a child. Kids rarely deviate from what a parent has told them to do.

So why do children disobey?

When they see that you are forcing on them something they do not like (most cases it is concerned with their education) they begin their great rebellion. (I’ll discuss this another day).

I wanted to quit school.

For as long as I can remember, I did not want to go to school. There was a time when I wanted to quit education, stay at home and never leave. It was in class 9. I pushed all my friends out of my life and hated everyone I knew.

I had had enough of the world.

Everyone was worried about my board exams.

But I didn’t care anymore.

I went through periods of loneliness, sheer desolation, when I felt there wasn’t any point in living. My parents never knew, they never found out.

I wore a mask, pretended I was all right, but inside I was a broken-down child, raised by the voices in my head, vulnerable and easy prey for the disaster that came later.

So when I see children act out, hurt, or in pain, I know. I watch their parents grumble and complain. But they don’t understand the heart of a child, the simplest thing yet to understand.

Children crave love.

They crave attention.

They want your love.

They know they aren’t precious to strangers.

So why is there such a breakdown in society between parents and their children?

I’m going to explore some of it in the upcoming months.

Finally, what are we to do with children who believe they aren’t loved?

I’ve got some tips for hapless parents.

1.Examine your heart first.

Are you disappointed in your child? Does your child reflect some of your own negative qualities? Have you some unforgiveness in your heart towards your children?

Think back to the first time you ever felt irritated and angry with them. Was it from their birth?

Change yourself, before you dare to label or curse your child.

2.Never tell, show

It’s unfortunate that words have lost their power to heal. But a mere ‘I love you’ in today’s world means nothing more than empty promises.

That’s why a parent needs to demonstrate love to their children, through deeds that rise from the heart, rather than through words.

3.Watch your words

I have overheard my parents speak about me when they think I’m sleeping or not listening. I have overheard them speak to others about me as well.

A parent’s judgement is the equivalent of God’s judgement if I can compare the two. That’s why watch what you say about your children behind their back or to others. They may hear and not forgive.

I have a friend who is the mother of two beautiful girls. God once told her that the best gifts he had given her were her children. That got me thinking. God saw her children as gifts. Not her property. But gifts.

It puts the whole parenting problem into perspective. The child’s real parent is God, you are the mere caretaker for the duration of the child’s life with you.

So, what will you do?

Will you raise the child to believe they are loved or watch them question their very existence?

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