This sign is one step down the self-esteem
ladder from perceptions of not fitting in and not belonging. It is almost all
the way to the bottom.
There are a couple of points to consider. Most
children and most adults for that matter sometimes feel unloved and
unappreciated; and many feel a little like this much of the time. Their
feelings may be about low self-esteem; but they are more likely because of some
atypical circumstance. When feeling unloved is a sign of damaged self-esteem,
it is much more constant, much more severe, and very painful.
Your child says, “No one loves me. No one
cares.” You say, “I love you. I care.” You then go on to say,
“Not feeling loved is a hard feeling to handle. I can tell it feels awful
and hurts a lot. It seems like you feel angry and afraid and other confusing
stuff at the same time. Not thinking anyone cares would feel really lonely. How
does it feel to you?” At least your child now knows you care enough to
care about how he feels. That is a start.
I love you’s are cheap; but when you are gentle
and honest, your child learns he matters enough to be listened to. This is a
small bit of self-esteem, a moment when the most important person in his life
respects him enough to deal with him openly and honestly.