Are You The Child of Emotionally Immature Parents?

An emotionally immature parent may fail to recognise their child for who they are.  So being with the parent always involves a sense of disappointment, of not being seen, of not being enough.  It can be draining to be with a parent who fails to recognise your individuality.

An emotionally immature parent may see you as there to make up for their own emotional and psychological deficits.  When they reach out for you they are doing so to make up for their own narcissistic deficits rather than because of a sense of the value you possess. 

Growing up with emotionally immature parents can have a profound negative effect on us. 

  • It impacts our self-worth
  • interferes with appropriate emotional regulation
  • can make it hard to trust yourself
  • can undermine your self-confidence. 

It can leave you forever trying to take care of your parents or feeling like you should somehow make things better for them.  All of these things get in the way of developing yourself, your life, and your potential.

Emotionally immature parent: when we are left with a sense of loneliness

How does it happen?

It is likely that our parents have themselves suffered trauma which has interrupted and damaged their own capacity to mature appropriately.  This leads to our parents remaining immature, held back from developing into the people they could be.  Out of this our parents can become demanding and see it as the child’s responsibility to make things better for them.

This undermines appropriate emotional development.  Emotionally immature parents may have very little sense of the way they have affected their children. 

  • The parent is vulnerable in the area of emotional need. 
  • The parent tends to be driven by their emotions and feelings.
  • The parent lacks the psychological bandwidth to be able to think and take responsibility for themselves.

Children of emotionally immature parents have to learn to understand and live with their own wounds and traumas as well having to understand what happened to their parents.

In a recent interview, Gabor Mate was asked why children from the same parents turn out so differently, he replied that this is because each child actually comes from different parents.

He meant that nothing remains the same, that everything changes, including parents. When the second child comes along the family is different to when the first child was born. The parents might have matured in the interim, they might be in a different stage of their own development, or their economic position might be different. No two children actually come from the same paraents.

The challenge is in being able to develop useful insights into ourselves and our parents.  If we don’t do this we are likely to become drawn into co-dependent relationships in which we seek out vulnerable people and dedicate our lives to trying to make things better for them.  This becomes a circular and destructive way of relating.

An emotionally immature parent may become too involved or unhelpfully absent from their child’s life. 

One moment they are demanding all kinds of things, the next they have withdrawn completely. They are unpredictable.  They show very little understanding of their children’s emotions.  They exaggerate and manipulate situations, and their children out of a mistaken sense of getting their children to give them what they need.

Relating to the child in this erratic way undermines the natural capacity to regulate and manage one’s own emotions and moods.

The emotionally immature parent tends to feel that they are the centre of the world and that everything is about them.

According to psychotherapist Dr. Lindsey Gibson there are 4 different kinds of emotionally immature parent  

  • the passive parents, who can’t be bothered to get involved
  • the driven parents, who never slow down
  • the emotional parents, who are compulsively over-involved or neglectful
  • the rejecting parents, who detach completely.

If you were raised by emotionally immature parents you may have acquired a sense that there was something wrong with you, that you weren’t enough. 

This can interfere with your own emotional state of mind.  It may leave you feeling that you are insufficient and disappointing.  This isn’t true and we need to find ways to correct our sense of ourselves.

To develop and mature emotionally and cognitively requires parents and caregivers that can respond and recognise our emergent identity, appropriately. 

Growing up with an emotionally immature parent may have left you with lingering feelings of anger, loneliness, betrayal, or abandonment. Your childhood may have been a period when your emotional needs were unmet.  You may have had to take on adult levels of responsibility and found yourself having to look after your parents. 

Over time these experiences leave us with emotional wounds. 

If you are going to break out of this cycle you will have to pay attention to these wounds.

The emotionally immature parent – establishing poor emotional regulation in the child

Being raised in such a poorly emotionally regulated way creates a sense of rejection in the child. 

This Be The Verse, Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   

    They may not mean to, but they do.   

They fill you with the faults they had

    And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn

    By fools in old-style hats and coats,   

Who half the time were soppy-stern

    And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.

    It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

    And don’t have any kids yourself.

How do we break the cycle?

In my psychotherapy work, I try to help people to develop a greater understanding and insight into themselves. 

Our problems tend to have contexts only we often fail to recognise this.  Psychotherapy, being a confidential relationship provides a safe and secure space in which to develop a greater understanding of ourselves. 

The more we develop our insight the more we become able to change.

Contact me

Having the chance to speak in a confidential setting is key to developing a genuine sense of personal freedom. Out of this, you may be able to develop a clearer understanding of how your problems have developed, and of what you can do to change the way your life develops.

I have been working with people on issues such like this for twenty years.  My work is built around helping you to develop greater insight into who you are, and how you live. 

Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my approach might help you.

Mobile: +44 7980 750376