13 Jan 2011

by admin

Children Left Behind

The effects that migration processes can have on the features and the dynamics of family structure are numerous and directly inter-related: it is within the family unit that the decision to leave the Country is considered and developed.

Whatever the reasons behind it, migration is nevertheless an unplanned critical event, one that would not normally occur within the confines of family life and one that demands additional resources of strength from all the parties involved, both from the party that has left and the party that has remained behind, in order to face the resulting changes.

The departure of one or both parents brings about a radical change in the life of a family, a change that is more or less expected and controllable by the family members themselves.

The child left behind then has to go to great lengths to deal with the changes in his daily life and adapt to his/her new situation, including the absence of his/her parents and the feeling of missing them for the very first time ever.

From a psychological point of view, children with one or both parents living abroad may react in a number of ways, such as developing behaviours born of the trauma they have experienced or functionally adopt mechanisms to adapt to a situation that they find stressful. Such reactions depend on the manner in which the family functioned prior to the separation, the relationship between family members, the character of the child him/herself and external factors such as the supportiveness of the remaining family members.

The emotional abandonment felt by children left behind results from the lack of the kind of affection that can only come from physical closeness, namely physical contact, caresses, kisses and clear demonstrations of affection. A single remaining parent cannot always compensate for the empty space left behind by the partner that has gone away. Often this empty space can often be better filled by grandparents or uncles and aunts who take the place of the absent parents

The child may in any event face some serious forms of neglect: feeding neglect (due to being deprived of food, fed too little, fed the wrong type of food or fed irregularly), personal care (ill-fitting or unseasonal clothing), personal hygiene, healthcare and medical care (lack of basic healthcare, vaccinations, regular medical check-ups).

This kind of depravation is manifested by the child in the following ways:

  • Deterioration in the child’s scholastic performance (drop in performance, absenteeism, increase risk of leaving school, arguments with teachers and school friends).
  • Unhappiness, anxiety, tendency to feel depressed, lack of motivation, apathy, indifference towards what is happening;
  • Attention deficit disorders, lack of concentration and inability to complete tasks;
  • Lack of long-term perspective and inability to look to the future;
  • Problems in building up self-esteem
  • Increasing display of unacceptable behaviours (aggression, substance abuse)
  • Suicide as a way of putting an end to the extreme suffering being experienced by the child.