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Parents Who Don’t Notice Their Child’s Feelings? Wtf.

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Parents Don’t Notice Their Child’s Feelings? What the actual……..

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Parents who don’t notice their child’s feelings?  Since this type of parental failure (Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN) causes a lot of damage to kids, people often assume that emotionally neglectful parents must also be abusive or mean in some way. And it is true that many are.

But one of the most surprising things about Childhood Emotional Neglect is that emotionally neglectful parents are usually not bad people or unloving parents. Many are just trying their best to raise their children well.  And are damaged themselves. 

So – let’s dive right into the main types of Emotionally Neglectful parents I’ve found working with people. 


Type 1: Well-Meaning-But-Neglected-Themselves Parents (WMBNT)


There are a variety of different ways that well-meaning parents can accidentally neutralize their children’s emotions:

They let you get away with too much.  Not enough rules.  Not enough consequences. (Permissive).

They work long hours, sending the message that material stuff is important and they might use buying stuff as a way of showing their love.  (Workaholic).

They might totally go over the top about their child’s accomplishments and successes.  This makes a kid only want to try things they’re good at – not things for the heck of it.  (Achievement/Perfection).

What makes these parents qualify for Well-Meaning Category 1 status?

They think that they’re doing what’s best for their children.

They’re acting out of love, not out of self-interest.

Most are simply bringing up their kids the way they were raised. 

They were raised by parents who were blind to their emotions, so they grew up with the same emotional blind spot that their own parents had. Not seeing their own children’s emotions, they pass on the neglect, completely unaware that that’s what they’re doing.

Children of WMBNT parents often grow into adulthood carrying heavy doses of three things: all the symptoms of CEN, a great deal of confusion about where those symptoms came from, and a wagonload of self-blame and guilt. That’s because when, as an adult, they look back at their childhood to sort their problems, they’ll often see an innocent but made up picture. Everything they do remember might seem absolutely normal and fine. They’ll remember what their parents did give them and, at first, have no idea that there were things they needed that they didn’t get. 

They’ll blame themselves for what isn’t right in their adult life.

They’ll feel guilty for the seemingly irrational anger that they sometimes have at their well-meaning parents.

They’ll also struggle with a lack of emotional skills unless they’ve managed to teach themselves or met up with an adult who helped them. 

6 Signs To Look For:

You love your parents and are surprised by how angry you sometimes feel at them.
You feel confused about your feelings about your parents.
You feel guilty for being angry at them.
Being with your parents is boring.
Your parents don’t see or know the real you.
You know that your parents love you, but you don’t necessarily feel it.


Type 2: Struggling Parents.

Caring for a Special-Needs Family Member
Grieving, Divorced or Widowed
The child becomes the parent

Struggling parents emotionally neglect their child because:

They’re so taken up with dealing with their own lives that there’s no time, attention or energy left over to notice what their child is feeling or struggling with. Whether they’re grieving, hurting, depressed or sick, these parents would probably show their kids much more attention if they had the bandwidth to do it. 
These parents couldn’t, so they didn’t.  They didn’t notice your feelings enough, and they didn’t respond to your feelings enough. Although the reasons for their failure are actually irrelevant, you have not yet realized this. You look back and see a struggling parent who loved you and tried hard. So –  you find it impossible to hold them accountable.

Children of struggling parents often grow up to be really – like REALLY self-sufficient.  They blame themselves for any struggles they have in their lives. 

4 Signs To Look For:

You have great sensitivity toward your parents, and a strong wish to help or take care of them.  You will be constantly seeing things from their point of view and not your own. 
You’re endlessly grateful for all your parents have done for you, and can’t for the life of you work out why you sometimes feel really angry toward them. 
You have an excessive focus on taking care of other people’s needs and not your own. 
Your parents aren’t harsh or obviously mean to you in any way. 



Type 3: Self-Involved Parents.


This category stands out from the other two for two important reasons:
1.  Self-involved parents aren’t usually motivated by what’s best for their child. They are, often motivated by what’s in it for them.
2. Many parents in this category are harsh and mean and do extra damage on top of the Neglect they’re causing.  

The Narcissistic Parent wants their child to make them feel special.
The Authoritarian Parent wants respect, at all costs. 
The Addicted Parent may not be selfish at heart, but due to their addiction, is driven by a need for their substance of choice.
The Sociopathic Parent wants only two things: power and control.

True dat.

Not surprisingly, Category 3 is the hardest one for most children to see or accept. No one wants to believe that their parents were, and are, out for themselves.

Being raised by Category 3 parents is only easier than the other two categories in one way: typically, you can see that something was (and is) wrong with your parents. You can remember their various mistreatments or harsh or controlling acts so you’ll “get” why your life is messed up. You might be less likely to blame yourself. 

7 Signs To Look For:

You often feel anxious or stressed before seeing your parents.
You often find your feelings hurt when you’re around your parents.
It isn’t unusual for you to get physically sick right before, during, or after seeing your parents.
You have major anger at your parents.
Your relationship with them feels false, or fake.
It’s hard to predict whether your parents will behave in a loving or rejecting way toward you from one moment to the next.
Sometimes your parents seem to be playing games with you or manipulating you, or maybe even trying to purposely hurt you.  Other times the sun might shine out your…well, you get my drift. 

Knowing the type of emotionally neglectful parents you have is super helpful. It’ll help you improve your relationship with your parents if that’s what you want. You’ll also know to protect yourself emotionally when you’re around them.

I’d highly recommend grabbing a copy of Running on Empty by Dr Jonice Webb and gently sorting through the different examples she gives.  They are great. 

I did my training with her and can’t recommend her books enough.  

In the meantime, grab a cuppa, go for a walk outside and be gentle will you absorb all this new info. 

There are things you can do

And I’m only a click away



Parents Don't Notice Their Child's Feelings

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  1. Rebecca Chapman says:

    Thank you.

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