8 Red Flags of Emotional Neglect

Most of us, as adults, tend to downplay the influence that our birth families, or the “family of origin,” as therapists refer to them, have on our everyday decisions and lives. But in reality, the family you were born into and reared you still impacts your adult emotions, behaviors, and decisions.

The term “the good enough mother” was initially used by D.W. Winnicott in his ground-breaking book Playing and Reality in 1953. By establishing a connection between how you experienced your relationship with your parents as a kid and who you are as an adult, he permanently altered the area of psychology and mental health. His core idea was that successfully raising a child doesn’t require having ideal parents. You merely need “good enough” parental guidance.

According to Susan Woodhouse’s 2019 research study, a parent has to raise their child correctly 50% of the time to be considered “good enough.”

Child Abuse and Neglect

When your parents adequately neglect your needs and emotions, it is called childhood emotional neglect. In other words, they do not pay enough attention to what you are feeling, inquire about how you are feeling, relate to you emotionally, or adequately validate your emotions.

Most parents who neglect their children’s emotions are unaware of doing so. They often ignore feelings in general, including their own and those of their friends, family, coworkers, and children. They could have the finest intentions and care deeply about and for their children. Most likely, they are unaware of what they are missing.

Due to this, it may be difficult to identify many emotionally neglectful families. They are “good enough” in the most obvious ways. They may provide you with a place to live, food, clothes, and transportation to soccer practice. However, they don’t openly discuss your issues, provide adequate consolation when your pals offend or instruct you on how to recognize, identify, or control your emotions.

The emotionally negligent family’s one failure is emotional. Perhaps there are enough embraces. There could be sufficient money,  fine clothes, and food. However, the children in this household do not get good emotional awareness, affirmation, compassion, or care.

It might be challenging to recognize or classify emotionally neglectful households. Emotional failures are hard to perceive, unlike emotional abuse or physical neglect.

How Emotional Abuse in Childhood Plays Out in a Family

As a psychologist who deals with individuals who experienced emotional neglect as children, I have seen how it impacts how people relate to their biological families. It often leads to adult children feeling off but don’t know why and adults perplexed by their sentiments regarding their family.

8 Emotional Neglect Warning Signs in Your Family

  1. Your family discussions often focus on trivial issues and seldom touch on emotional, meaningful, upsetting, or negative matters. This might even make it dull.
  2. You sometimes have an unexplainable rage or hatred against your parents (which you may feel guilty about).
  3. Despite your best efforts, you often leave family gatherings empty-handed or dissatisfied.
  4. Instead of immediately handling complex or interpersonal issues within the family, they are often overlooked.
  5. You get a sense that your siblings conflict, but you’re not sure why.
  1. In your family, showing affection is more often done via deeds than through verbal or emotional display.
  2. Emotions—perhaps only the negative ones, but maybe all—seem forbidden in your household.
  3. You feel shockingly alone or excluded even when you’re around your family.

An emotionally neglected family does suffer from its members. They suffer from what isn’t stated, shared, talked about, noticed, and validated. When you spend time with your family, if you pay attention and they are emotionally neglectful, you could notice some of the symptoms above.

What could seem fine is not okay, much like a gorgeous dessert prepared without enough sugar. The emotionally negligent family suffers from a deficiency of a crucial component that may not be obvious but is essential for pleasure and quality. The emotions that should enhance the bonds and coziness within the family are pushed underground.

This explains why you could have felt lonely, stifled, bored, angry, or disillusioned regarding your family. This is why it’s crucial to recognize the issue of emotional neglect in childhood and decide to combat it in your own life actively.

Steps You Can Take

You cannot fix your family. Thus, there is no reason to attempt. However, you may start with yourself. Pick one of the eight items above that pertain to your family and start acting oppositely in your own life.

Talk about important issues, avoid feeling guilty about your thoughts, prioritize self-care while spending time with family, discuss challenging issues, verbally show people your compassion and warmth, and confront negative emotions. You don’t need to do it flawlessly. Simply enough must be done.

Numerous honorable individuals have walked in your shoes and followed in your footsteps before you; many more are doing so right now. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone.

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