How Childhood Emotional Neglect Impacts You in Adulthood
People who faced childhood emotional neglect or CEN continue to struggle with many challenges even after becoming adults. CEN struggles cause complications for people because it’s difficult to identify the source of emotional wounds, unlike physical injuries.
Childhood Emotional Neglect
Childhood emotional neglect is when parents have ignored or belittled the emotions you had while growing up. It’s when a person grows up with parents who fail to offer emotional support or empathy for their child’s thoughts and feelings.
When a child lacks this acknowledgment of emotions from their guardians, the child begins to have a distorted view of their feelings. They begin to question their thoughts and wonder if their perceptions and points of view about anything in life matter.
As children get older and continue to have neglected feelings, they will also develop resentment for their parents. As a part of this resentment, they may claim that they don’t need that kind of support from their parents and that the support is a weakness.
The Need for Parental Emotional Support
You might be someone who grew up with emotionally neglectful parents.
You might have tried to rid yourself of the need for emotional validation from them. The truth is the need for emotional support and attention from our parents comes wired inside of our brains. We are born with it. The deep desire to have our parents care about what we feel is something all humans share.
Do not see this need as a kind of weakness; instead, understand that it is a natural part of being human. No matter how hard you try to be free from it, it will return. That is because it is innate and real.
Parents who put their children through CEN, whether consciously or unconsciously, have denied their children of a human necessity. They have denied an emotionally secure and stable support system that helps their child can understand themselves, the world, and other people.
If you faced CEN and are now an adult, it may be the source of other struggles in your life you aren’t aware of.
Effects on Your Adulthood
CEN has a profound effect on your relationships and how you feel about yourself. Without the necessary structure and support from your parents, emotional connection and depth are likely challenges.
While emotions are not all of who you are, emotions are a part of who you are—and so they need healthy attention and understanding. CEN children have a difficult time with emotions, often not knowing how to handle or express them. They may doubt or neglect how they feel and cannot effectively set healthy boundaries for themselves or other people they have relationships with.
CEN will also make having deep emotional connections with people more difficult. If you guard your feelings with your friends, or you’re reluctant to share things that are deeply important to you—it may be a result of your CEN.
Along with friends and intimate partners, CEN causes tension and turmoil in your relationship with your parents. You may have grown up with conflicting feelings for your mother and your father. These emotions quickly change from love and appreciation to anger and resentment. Those contradictory emotions make your relationship with your parents difficult and confusing.
CEN results in many challenges for children as they grow up and those problems follow them into adulthood. It’s important to acknowledge that these problems are real and understand how to address them appropriately.
Creating Healthy Boundaries
Your neglected childhood emotions cause psychological disarray as you grow up. The way to create order and stability with your feelings, thoughts, and feelings is to develop healthy boundaries.
Start by acknowledging your feelings and accepting that it’s ok to feel the way you do. Creating healthy boundaries is to recognize your needs first and to take responsibility for them.
Your intentional boundaries for yourself are the acknowledgment of the standards for what you need physically, psychologically, and emotionally and your unwillingness to allow anything that does not meet those standards.
Limit Time with Parents
One of the boundaries you set might be to limit the time you spend with your parents. If you are continuously emotionally neglected by your parents, you need to adjust your expectations for their support. Discipline your disappointment by understanding that you may never be able to change your parents and that structured and limited time with them might be best for your emotional health.
Consider a Conversation
Think about your parents and consider if the emotional neglect you feel is because they intentionally ignore your feelings or if it’s because they are willing to give support but have trouble relaying it. If you have the latter case, it may be worth having a conversation with your parents about the neglect you feel for a chance of a better, more stable, and healthier relationship with them.
There are habits you can develop to help yourself despite CEN. You cannot change how you were raised, but there are tools to help you grow beyond the challenges and help you address the problems.
Writing is powerful because it solidifies thoughts and helps you get in touch with your innermost self. Our thoughts and emotions can be hard to comprehend when they remain in our heads for us to ponder. Writing puts intentional clarity to what’s going on inside of us, so we can determine what to do with that inner dialogue.
Whether you write in a journal or a diary online—there are ways to help yourself become more self-aware. You can look for a free online journal or online diary to help you give your inner dialogue a voice.
Therapy is another way to get help with CEN struggles. Therapists help you build a healthy relationship with yourself, whether they are in-person, through online therapy, or with e-counseling.
Having a therapist can help you become vulnerable with your feelings so you can express them appropriately. As a mentor and sometimes a friend, a therapist can support you to develop better emotional and mental habits.
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