When Marely Cifuentes’s sister, Emely, asked her to paint her sneakers, the 10-year-old aspiring artist took to the task with gusto. But when her mother dismissed her handiwork, Marely was heartbroken and returned the shoes to Emely with a note explaining her unfinished work.
WATCH BELOW: Do boys need more emotional support than girls?
“Mom said she didn’t like them and that broke my heart,” Marely wrote. “I don’t need you to break it more. Now that I see it, I agree with her.”
Emely said that her sister’s note was truly upsetting and took to Twitter to relay the unfortunate tale.
Although the incident turned out to be a misunderstanding — Marely’s mother wasn’t unimpressed with her work, she was merely upset because she thought Marely had painted Emely’s shoes without her permission — Dr. Jillian Roberts says that a lack of emotional support from a parent can have devastating effects on a child.
“This would constitute a form of neglect,” the family psychologist, founder of Family Sparks and associate professor at the University of Victoria, says to Global News. “Children growing up with a cold or distant parent could form an insecure attachment with their primary caregiver, which would then negatively affect how they formed attachments in other relationships going forward in their lives.”
In a study conducted at Eastern Kentucky University, researchers found that emotional support from parents was important in an adolescent’s academic self-efficacy and self-esteem, and it had an impact on a child’s confidence, perceived worth, and self-sufficiency in school. Similarly, researchers at Vanderbilt University found that “parents that may be nearby but that are not emotionally invested or responsive, tend to raise children that are more distressed and less engaged with their play or activities.”
Roberts says parents should act like a “bookend” to their child’s day by starting with a meaningful exchange or conversation at the beginning of the day and ending on a similar note. She also says leaving them notes in their lunchbox or sending loving or humorous texts throughout the day is a good way to connect and show them you’re thinking of them.
“Parents should prioritize any special event in the child’s life. A track meet or a ballet recital should take priority over a work-related meeting.”
The result will be a confident child with a high sense of self-worth, she says. That child will also feel more secure in their ability to put themselves out there — whether that’s socially or in a professional career-oriented way — and they’ll be more successful in their relationships.
While Marely’s mother cleared up the misunderstanding, the artist hopeful also received a deluge of support and praise from the Twitter community. Emely’s post received more than 88,000 retweets and 3,500 comments, many requesting Marely’s artistic services. A YouTuber and designer even asked to buy some of her work.
And it looks like all the online encouragement worked. A day after her original tweet, Emely posted: “Marely herself said that all this encourages her a lot to make more art work :).”