There’s an unfortunate segment of parenting which creates what I call orphans. The definition of orphan: a child who has lost either parents through death, or, less commonly, one parent. For the sake of this article, I speak of orphans created because both parents are alive and ABSCENT from their children’s lives on a daily basis. When I say “absent parenting” it means either the parent (mother and/or father) are either with the child on a daily basis but is not providing guidance and structure, or the child is living with relatives and neither parent is physically present on a daily basis to provide guidance and structure.
I personally know of at least 2 separate instances of this strange phenomenon in which both parents are not physically with their children. In both cases the fathers are already not involved on a daily basis with the children because they have relationships and families; the mothers have left their children in the care of relatives and are living in another location—or out of state for weeks and months at a time. Sometimes the siblings are living in separate homes as they wait for a parent to come back for them. This is extremely detrimental to our communities.
A child needs attention, nurturing, and guidance every day from at least one consistent parent. When both parents are gone through choices of their own, the child is left with painful unanswered questions. One of which is “why doesn’t mom/dad want me?” Now, some will say that the parents are away so they can find jobs and send for their children and that would be a reasonable response. The problem with that is often even when one or both parents are physically present they fall into the other category of being ‘at home’ with the child but still not providing much needed guidance and structure. Either way, it’s a lose-lose situation for the child.
They don’t provide the child with consistent rules: be home by 4, homework before play, chores, or bed time. Children aren’t being taught values such as honesty, hard work, and respect. The result is a hurt, angry, and broken child who eventually becomes rebellious to the point of self-destruction which will eventually spill into the community.
Our children are the most precious commodity we can ever produce. They don’t come with instructions, but with the wealth of information available at our fingertips today on the internet, parents today can do better. Here are some common sense tips:
- Don’t be selfish. Your life is no longer your—it’s the child’s.
- Teach them their colors and ABC’s while they are still in diapers. They will be better prepared for school.
- Hang up the party shoes. If you had a child in your teens (like I did), it’s a real bummer but again- it’s not about you It took me a whole year to learn that one and unfortunately, there’re adults who still haven’t.
- Give them guidance. Teach them respect. Nail that and the rest will come easier
- Give them structure. Bed time—as in a time they need to be in bed (with stories), curfews, and discipline (not abuse!!)
- If you are the NON-custodial parent and distance is a problem, SPEAK TO YOUR CHILD DAILY. Even if it’s to say “good morning” and “good night, I love you”. Stay connected.
- Don’t abandon them! They need to see and be with you EVERY DAY. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your extremely bright and gifted child is “mature” and “knows better”. He/she needs you.
You may not realize it but when you leave your children for days and weeks at a time, you are neglecting their growth and development. You’ve orphaned them. And that is truly selfish.