Young People Ask . . .
Why Doesn’t My Parent Love Me?
“Before my dad divorced my mom, we used to go to the beach, eat out, and ride around in his car. Then it completely stopped. My dad changed. I guess he divorced me too.”—Karen.*
FAR too many young people suffer similar feelings. Like Karen, they sense that a parent no longer loves them—or never did. We do not mean here the passing negative feelings that may arise as a result of temporary friction between youths and their parents; nor do we refer to the resentment that sometimes arises in response to parental discipline. Rather, in some cases parents are guilty of genuine neglect, failing to give their children needed attention and discipline. In other cases there is a pattern of severe, harsh treatment, perhaps involving cruel words or physical blows.
Few things wound more deeply than rejection by a parent. “It made me feel unwanted and neglected,” Karen says. If you have ever been in such a difficult position, consider some suggestions on how to cope with your feelings. Be assured that even if your parent’s support is lacking, you can succeed in life!
Understanding Your Parent
To begin with, it is right for you to expect your parent to love you. A parent’s love for a child should be as natural and reliable as the rising of the sun. God expects parents to show such love. (Colossians 3:21; Titus 2:4) So why do parents sometimes neglect, abandon, or mistreat their children?
One contributing factor may be their own experiences in life. Ask yourself, ‘Where did my parents learn about raising children?’ In many cases parents can only draw on their own childhood experiences with their parents. And in our harsh modern world, with unprecedented numbers of people “having no natural affection,” such training is often deeply flawed. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) At times, the result is a terrible chain reaction, with parents mistreating their children just as they were once mistreated.
Additionally, parents may be profoundly unhappy for any number of reasons. Some try to escape misery and frustration by immersing themselves in work, alcohol, or drugs. William and Joan, for example, grew up with an alcoholic father. “It was hard for my father to commend us,” Joan says. “The worst, though, was his anger when he got to drinking. He would yell all evening at my mother. I was often afraid.” Even if parents are not overtly abusive, their behavior may leave them with little energy to give their children needed love and attention.
William feels that he understands what was behind his father’s erratic behavior. “My father grew up in Berlin, Germany, during World War II,” he explains. “As a boy, he experienced untold horrors and saw a lot of death. He had to struggle for his life every day just to get something to eat. I feel that my father was seriously affected by what he went through.” Indeed, the Bible acknowledges that people under severe oppression may act irrationally.—Ecclesiastes 7:7.
Do William and Joan feel that their father’s experiences excuse the way he treated them? “No,” says William. “His background is no excuse for the heavy drinking and poor conduct. However, being aware of it has helped me to have more insight into my father’s behavior.”
Your accepting the fact that your parents are imperfect and learning something about their background can go a long way toward helping you to understand them. Proverbs 19:11 says: “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger.”
Coping With Your Feelings
There are other negative feelings that may afflict you because of the situation at home. For example, the lack of attention from both of her parents made Patricia feel “worthless and unlovable.” LaNeisha found it hard to trust men in general after her father left when she was just eight years old. And Shayla found herself craving attention from virtually anyone she met, just to replace the void left by a mother whose life was “controlled by drugs.”
Anger and jealousy can also be problems. When Karen saw her remarried father showing his new family the love that she longed for herself, it made her feel “very jealous at one point.” At times, Leilani even felt that she hated her parents. “I constantly fought with them,” she says.
All these feelings are understandable, given the circumstances. How, though, can you constructively cope with such negative emotions? Consider the following suggestions.
• Draw close to Jehovah God. (James 4:8) You can do that through personal Bible reading and regular association with his people. As you see the way Jehovah deals with others, you will come to know that he is loyal. You can trust him. “Can a wife forget her suckling so that she should not pity the son of her belly?” Jehovah asked the Israelites. “Even these women can forget, yet I myself shall not forget you,” he promised. (Isaiah 49:15) So pray regularly to God. Do not worry about getting your words just right. He understands you. (Romans 8:26) Realize that Jehovah loves you even when it seems that no one else does.—Psalm 27:10.
• Confide in a trusted adult. Make friends with spiritually mature ones. Openly express your feelings and concerns to them. In the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you can find spiritual fathers and mothers. (Mark 10:29, 30) You may need to take the initiative, though, to open up to them. Others will not know what you are feeling unless you tell them. The relief that comes from unburdening your heart can be a real comfort to you.—1 Samuel 1:12-18.
• Keep busy by doing things for others. To ward off the danger of self-pity, try not to dwell on the negative aspects of your situation. Rather, learn to appreciate what you have. Open the door to a world of opportunities by “keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” (Philippians 2:4) Set spiritual goals, and then work hard to pursue them with a positive attitude. Serving the needs of others in the Christian ministry is an excellent way to keep your focus on others instead of yourself.
• Continue to show respect to your parents. Always remember to stick to Bible principles and standards. That includes showing your parents honor. (Ephesians 6:1, 2) Such honor would rule out adopting a vengeful, vindictive attitude. Remember, no amount of apparent wrongdoing on a parent’s part can ever justify wrongdoing on your part. So leave matters in the hands of Jehovah. (Romans 12:17-21) He is “a lover of justice” and has very strong protective feelings toward children. (Psalm 37:28; Exodus 22:22-24) As you continue to show your parents the proper respect, try to cultivate the fruitage of God’s spirit—above all, that of love.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
You Can Succeed
There is no doubt that the lack of a parent’s love can hurt. But parental failure need not determine the kind of person you will become. You can choose a happy, successful outcome for yourself by putting the foregoing Bible principles to work in your life.
William, quoted earlier, is a full-time volunteer at a branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He says: “Jehovah has given us many provisions to help us cope with these tragic situations. What a privilege to have such a loving and caring heavenly Father!” His sister, Joan, is a full-time pioneer minister, serving where there is a greater need for evangelizers. “Growing up, we saw a clear distinction ‘between one serving God and one who has not served him,’” she says. (Malachi 3:18) “Our experiences gave us a strong determination to fight for the truth and make it our own.”
The same can be true in your case. “Those sowing seed with tears will reap even with a joyful cry,” the Bible says. (Psalm 126:5) How is that verse relevant? Well, if you work hard to apply right principles under difficult conditions, your tears will eventually be replaced with joy as you experience God’s blessing.
So keep working at drawing closer to Jehovah God. (Hebrews 6:10; 11:6) Even if you have suffered years of anxiety, frustration, and guilt, these feelings may gradually be eased and replaced with “the peace of God that excels all thought.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
Some of the names have been changed.
[Box on page 21]
Do You Feel . . .
• That you have little value or worth?
• That it is unsafe or unwise to trust others?
• That you need constant reassurance?
• That your anger or jealousy is out of control?
If your answer to such questions is yes, talk things over with a trusted parent, elder, or spiritually mature friend as soon as possible.
[Pictures on page 22]
Take positive steps to cope with your feelings