5 strategies for coping with parental emotional neglect
Emotionally neglectful parents fail to properly see, feel and hear their children. Consequently, their children often crave attention, validation and support, even in their adult years. Although such needs are reasonable, adult children of emotionally neglectful parents’ insistence on having them met by their parents perpetuates unhappiness and disappointment. If that behaviour seems familiar, here are 5 strategies for coping with parental emotional neglect to help you get out of that cycle:
1- Let go of the ideal family fantasy: most of us were conditioned to believe that our families are the first and most reliable sources of safety, love and support. That is a fantasy. Even though some experience safety and security while connecting emotionally with their family, others feel ignored and alienated by their self-absorbed and emotionally immature parents, which has a negative impact on their emotional development. If you grew up in an environment of emotional neglect, keeping the ideal family fantasy alive through always hoping that one day your parents will change and honour how you feel is counterproductive.
2- Get the support you need from emotionally mature individuals: if you feel invisible, insignificant or inadequate when you share your feelings with your parents, that means they are not suitable to give you the emotional support you seek. When feelings of hope try to convince you otherwise, do not entertain them. Go talk to an emotionally mature friend instead. If you do not have one, hire a therapist.
3- Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries: whatever is going on with your parents has nothing to do with you, most of the time. Their lack of interest in you does not mean you are uninteresting. Their difficulty to connect emotionally started way before you were born. Therefore, draw a line between you and them. Remain in your body, especially when around them, and do not feed the narrative that you are the reason for their emotionally neglectful behaviour.
4- Practice self-love: as a mature adult, you no longer depend on your parents to feel loved, competent and good enough. You can get those needs met through relationships with things and people outside your family circle. Friends, loving partners, pets, colleagues, neighbours, and even random people you come across have their ways of showing respect and love for you. A rich spiritual life or beliefs that help you cultivate a sense of being part of something bigger than yourself also give you a sense of belonging and inner safety.
5- Practice emotional maturity: break the habit of relying on external factors to feel better about yourself and start honouring your own emotions. To deal with the anger and sadness you carry as effects of your relational trauma, allow time to process your grief. Having a good cry when the need arises and expressing your anger creatively or through exercise are healthy means of regulating your emotions.
If you suffered trauma from emotional neglect and need professional help to heal, contact me to book an appointment and find out more about Attachment-Focused EMDR therapy.