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The hidden bruises that result from emotional neglect


Published: Jun 04, 2013

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John is an eight-year-old school boy who never seems to be able to concentrate in class and pay attention during his lessons. His homeroom teacher had been trying to reach his parents for weeks with no success.

John used to be a very active child in school. He would be excited to answer questions and participate in class activities. His teacher noticed that lately he seemed to lack energy and he rarely seemed interested in the lesson anymore. She questioned the student about why he didn’t seem interested in his work anymore. John simply answered he didn’t know.

After weeks had gone by, the teacher spoke to the principal who decided to intervene. The principal made a visit to John’s home and was able to report back to Mrs. Smith about John’s home situation — John’s parents had gone through a recent divorce. After conversing with John’s mother the principal deduced that no one noticed John’s sudden and recent change of behavior. John’s mother confided to the principal that she felt overwhelmed because she was suddenly raising her four children and was working two jobs just to meet her bills and responsibilities.

John’s mother had been so stressed out by her sudden change of circumstances that she no longer had time to pay attention to John or his siblings as she did before. In addition to being unaware of what was occurring in her children’s lives she had developed a severe case of depression — this led to her coming home and taking out her anger on her children. She started shouting at them or blaming them for her problems.

John not knowing how to relate or understand the sudden change in his mother became withdrawn and stopped eating. He blamed himself for his mother’s problems. John’s principal suggested that both his mother and her children seek aid and counseling to help them through their trying period.

Healing the nation

All forms of abuse hurt. Child abuse seems to be one of the most destructive forms of abuse in our society today. For whatever form it may take, child abuse does not just affect the present situation in our communities and nation but also our future stability and progress.

Many of the children that are abused grow up to be abused adults, who carry the same scars of childhood within them. Unless they seek or are given help to heal those wounds incurred as children, these same adults will practice or continue the same learnt behavior in adulthood. This will in turn affect their relationships, possibly their work ethic and even the manner in which they raise and treat their own children.

What is child abuse?

Child abuse has been defined as an act, or failure to act, on the part of a parent or caretaker that results in the death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation of a child or which places the child in an imminent risk of serious harm.

Child abuse can occur in any number of ways including physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and sexual abuse.

Emotional child abuse and neglect

Emotional abuse is the repeated rejection and humiliation of a child, constant negative communication, withholding love and affection and the ultimate destruction of the child's self-esteem.

Signs of emotional abuse can include physical problems resulting from stress, poor performance at school or low self-esteem.

The child may appear depressed, excessively passive or aggressive, experience sleep problems and have slow development.

Neglect is the failure, intentional or unintentional, of a parent or guardian to provide food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and education for a child.

Emotional abuse and neglect can go from mild to very extreme cases. However, even a mild case of emotional abuse or neglect can greatly affect a child’s development and ability to perform.

Signs of neglect can include unkempt appearance, lack of medical or dental care and developmental lags.

A child who is neglected may beg for food, steal, show lack of interest in anything, appear flat, tired and listless and have constant fatigue.

We are one people created equal by God and for the purpose of loving and being loved. Let us work together to heal ourselves, families, communities, nation and world.


• For more information, check out our website at www.bahamascrisiscentre.org or contact us. Email us at bahamascrisiscentre@yahoo.com or call us at 328-0922. If you, or someone you know, has been the victim of child abuse, you can also call Child Protective Services on 322-2POD, 326-1451, 326-0526 or 326-5560 or the Child Abuse Hotline: 322-2763.

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