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A parent leaving their children by choice is a tragedy, and the other parent is left behind to pick up the broken pieces. Unlike the unfortunate, untimely death of a parent, child abandonment can leave children hoping and waiting for their parent’s return. It can also leave the single-parent family in financial ruin, creating legal issues and chaos if the absent parent cannot (or chooses not) be involved.

Typically, child abandonment refers to a parent’s choice to willfully withhold physical, emotional, and financial support from a minor child. In simpler terms, abandonment occurs when a parent fails to fulfill their parental responsibilities and chooses not to contact their children. Most of the time, child abandonment happens when one parent decides to leave; sometimes, both parents abandon their children.

If you’re raising children as a single parent, you may anticipate your kiddos will start asking questions that you should be prepared and equipped to answer. The following tips can help nurture your parent-child communication skills, so you can, in turn, help your kids understand and cope with child abandonment early on.

Understand Why the Parent Has Left

Whether your partner abandoned you during pregnancy or left long after birth can help you understand why this individual has elected to abandon the family. Of course, everyone has unique reasons for doing what they do. Still, some common causes include mental illness, a history of abuse, immaturity, and simply not wanting to parent a child.

Some parents who abandon their children stay in touch for a while before moving on; others pack up, leave, and do not try to remain in communication with either their ex-partner or children. If you can identify a reason for your partner leaving you and your children, this can bring you some sense of closure, even if there are still legal battles to be dealt with.

Explaining Abandonment to Your Child

If your partner abandons you during pregnancy or while your child is an infant, you will not need to explain their absence for several years, at least. If, however, he or she leaves when the child is old enough to require an explanation, it can be challenging to come up with one. It is best to avoid bad-mouthing your ex.

Try to find something positive to say and help your child focus on good memories. If their relationship reconciles in the future, looking back on good memories will help, even if you do not feel particularly charitable toward your ex. Also, keep in mind that your ex is part of your children.

By painting the other parent in a negative light, you are painting your children in a negative light. In turn, this negative-lit mindset will grow and develop in your children (unintentionally and unbeknownst to them), in different aspects of, and throughout their lives. Try providing matter-of-fact answers to questions that come up.

Be as open, honest, and transparent as you can without offering any information that your children may not be emotionally ready or prepared to hear. For example, while an older teen can probably understand that your ex had an affair and moved on, a very young child will only find that upsetting and confusing.

Pursue Legal Action If Necessary

Your ex can choose not to spend time with your child, but he or she will still be required to pay child support in many cases. If you know where they are and where they work, the court system can take care of this. A legal resource group can help you represent yourself to have child support taken directly out of your ex’s paycheck, if necessary (and if possible). In some cases, of course, child support will not be able to be collected.

If you decide to get married to someone else and adopt your child, you will need to go through legal channels to terminate your ex’s parental rights. He or she might be willing to sign a form, which makes it logistically simple. However, if not, you might need to go to court to prove that your child has been abandoned. Be aware that you will no longer receive child support payments from the child’s biological parent once parental rights are terminated.

Take Care of Yourself

Being a single parent is difficult, and becoming a single parent due to child abandonment is even more difficult. It is essential to engage in self-care to the extent possible; this will help you feel better and achieve some of your goals, and it will also help you be a better parent to your child, who might also be struggling. Focus on the basics of a healthy diet, exercise most days, and enough sleep. All of this might be hard to fit into your busy schedule but do your best.

Do not be afraid to reach out to others for help. For example, if you have a relative or close friend living nearby who can take your child for an hour or two per week, this opens some time you can spend on yourself. You might also be able to find a drop-in daycare option. Sometimes, churches and recreation centers will offer free childcare for a couple of hours, particularly during the holiday season, when the assumption is that parents will shop for holiday gifts.

Of course, you can use this time; however, you would like and should not feel guilty about taking a bubble bath or getting a massage. You can also be creative with the time you have after your little one goes to bed. Plan to walk on the treadmill, lose yourself in a novel, work on a hobby, or decide to leave the dishes in the sink overnight and go to bed early yourself. You need and deserve time to care for your own physical and emotional needs so you can be there for your child.

Child abandonment can cause various issues for the entire family left behind. Therapy may be required throughout the challenging months and years ahead, but it is, nonetheless, a pathway toward resilience – a healing journey within and beyond child abandonment issues. And later, if the time comes when your children express interest in contacting and connecting with their other parent, additional support may be needed.

If you need help navigating the foreign legalities and complexities of child abandonment, do not be afraid to seek professional help. Family Law Legal Group can provide the much-needed guidance and support you and your family deserve.


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