Are you struggling to make sense of your emotionally unavailable parents? You’re not alone. Millions of people around us are sailing across similar waters.

As an adult, our parents provide us with an essential sense of guidance and validation in our lives. The emotionally available parents help you show that they care about you for who you are as an individual- they are invested and interested in your life.

But all parents are not emotionally available to their children. The emotionally unavailable parents make it hard for their children to trust and build meaningful relationships with them. 

Here, I’ll look at the signs of emotionally unavailable parents and how to deal with them.

Table of Contents

What is an Emotionally Unavailable Parent?

According to 2017 research, emotional availability is a crucial indicator of relationship quality. It extends beyond the essential characteristics that promote attachment during childhood and takes into account a parent’s ability to develop a favourable emotional environment that supports education, independence, and personal development.

Emotionally unavailable parents don’t meet the psychological requirements of their children and do not provide them with the comfort and validation needed for their mental health. 

They have been unresponsive in moments when emotions were expected. Such parents are unable to offer their emotional responses in the face of your emotional needs. Growing up with emotionally unavailable parents develops deep-rooted insecurities, anxiety, fear, depression, dissociative identity disorder, and bipolar disorder in their kids.

Why are some parents present but absent?

Present but absent is a self-explanatory concept, meaning parents are still in the home and unavailable. 

When parents are not able to share their hearts or express love and affection for their kids, they are in the act of present but absent parenting.

Absent parenting doesn’t mean physically absent, but it is understood as the emotional unavailability of parents, lack of active involvement, and unresponsiveness to the kids’ needs.

Kids are always looking for affirmation from their parents, whom they view as their ideals. So if you never get praised or don’t feel loved, you’ll feel lonely even in a home full of people. When a parent is consistently absent, the children assume that they are not worth their parent’s time.  

Here are a few examples of present but absent parents,

  • They never say, “I love you.”
  • They are around but unapproachable
  • They are always busy watching TV, working, or using the screen
  • They shun physical affection
  • They are going through prolonged stress 

Also Read: How To Ask For A Divorce Peacefully: 9 Things To Consider

How absent parenting might hurt the children?

Kids crave affirmation and attention. Children would develop a low sense of self-worth without attention, affection, kind words, and quality time. They wouldn’t feel smart, attractive, loveable, or worthwhile. The children might feel rejected daily if a parent is present but absent in performing their duties. 

Since the children of present but absent parents don’t believe in themselves, they are reluctant to step out and try new things. Unfortunately, this results in the deprivation of self-worth and self-confidence. 

In a nutshell, if parents don’t give their children the necessary affection, attention, and love, they’ll find it somewhere else. 

Unfortunately, this behaviour leads to dangerous outcomes in children, such as self-harming and drug abuse. 

Signs you have emotionally unavailable parents

Let’s unpack the signs of emotionally unavailable parents.

1. Your parents don’t listen to you.

Detached parents don’t listen to you; it doesn’t matter to them what you say or how much you try to be a good listener.  

Detached parents are unable to pay attention to their kids. They’re either entirely withdrawn or preoccupied. You may feel frustrated, unwanted, and unloved due to their inability to pay attention and the lack of validation necessary for healthy relationships. 

2. They’re not interested in your life.

Emotionally unavailable parents don’t ask about what is going on in your life; it’ll make you feel that they’re not interested in who you are, and they can spend their time better with someone else.

If there is less conversation at home, this develops the feeling of loneliness and boredom in you.

This behavior is frequently accompanied by feelings of inadequacy, which is entirely normal but is also untrue. You’re not insignificant just because your parents aren’t well-socialized. They are at fault, not you.

3. They never validate your hard work or achievements.

You score well on a tough test and do well in sports and other activities, but your parents don’t validate your hard work and achievements. They scarcely respond when you inform them.

It can be devastating when they don’t care about what you do with your life or what you have achieved.

Emotionally unavailable parents don’t recognize your efforts, and this lack of recognition can cause you to question their self-worth and potentially lead you down a negative path. 

4. Your parents aren’t engaging in your activities.

It might be sad and upsetting to realize that your parents are missing out on the exciting things happening in your life if they aren’t interested in participating in activities with you.

If you think this is happening, talk to them about why they don’t want to join and see if there is anything you can say to convince them to change their minds or at least be more receptive to the notion of once a week being a family activity night.

5. They barely put any effort into spending time with you.

Emotionally unavailable parents don’t put any effort into spending time with you and making you feel necessary. It can be devastating to know that they don’t care about you and are not proud of you. 

This type of behavior is a marker of someone with detachment or self-centered issues and makes you feel worthless and unloved.  

Try to get them to open up to you about the things in their life that are most important; perhaps they’re stressed out or overworked right now.

6. They are constantly yelling every time you make a mistake.

Emotionally unavailable parents yell at their children when they make mistakes; it can leave lifetime scars. 

It is vital for parents not to practice this behavior as it has a long-lasting effect on their child’s life. 

Sometimes, parents lose their temper and start shouting and screaming over inconsequential things. But if yelling and screaming remain relentless, there’s a reason for concern. It’s not a healthy practice.  

7. “I love you” is not included in their dictionary.

Parents need to show their love for their kids. Therefore it might be upsetting if they don’t express it or act affectionately.

Parents should try to reassure their children that they would do everything for them and that they would always be there for them no matter what happens.

Every day should include time spent with each child as well as holidays and other occasions like birthdays; this helps to build a strong connection between parent and child, which is important throughout childhood development.

Also Read: 10 Ways To Be Grateful In Hard Times

Helpful tips for healing from unavailable parents

Healing from emotionally unavailable parents may take some time since old habits are deeply rooted, but there are some tips to begin the healing process.

1. Be aware of their conditions

 Healing inner wounds begins with the awareness of the problem. If your parents are emotionally unavailable, it would be a painful experience. However, there are some things you should do to help lessen the effect of their condition.

Don’t blame yourself for their flaws. You need to comprehend where this emotional unavailability comes from and how to overwhelm it. 

2. Try not to take things personally

Some people think that it’s essential for children to like the things their parents like and do, but that isn’t what always happens. 

You may not like your parent’s ideas about what is good and bad, so you don’t need to take things personally as well as to make them feel bad about themselves.  

3. Know it’s not your fault

Please don’t blame yourself for their mistakes. Try not to blame yourself for any issues in your relationship with your parents because you’re not responsible for them. They have problems that need to be sorted out to make it up to you and become more emotionally available, so don’t let them make you feel guilty about anything.

4. Don’t force your parents to change

It’s almost impossible to change another person entirely. Change comes from within. The behavior of your parents may be hurtful, but forcing them to change can make the matter worse. If you try to change their actions and words, it may be very frustrating for them to deal with.

5. Engage the inner child in you

In some cases, emotionally detached parents behave like troublesome children. Play and artistic activities might draw attention to the inner child who wasn’t accepted for being themselves. Developing that perspective will assist you in avoiding internalizing their barbs and carelessness.

6. Distance yourself from your parents

When emotionally unavailable parents don’t want to recognize their emotional unavailability and continue to engage in their hurtful behavior, it is ok to distance yourself from such relationships which harm your life. You are free to distance yourself and set your boundaries.

7. Get in touch with other people who are emotionally available

Seek out the emotionally engaged people; they’ll help to show you what emotional availability looks like. 

Identify emotionally available people by watching how they interact with others and which positive traits they have that you admire.

You can also develop closer emotional relationships with other family members like uncles, aunts, and grandparents.  

8. Seek guidance from professional

According to Denq, therapy can provide significant healing advantages by emulating parental emotional availability.

You can analyze your thoughts, communicate your feelings, and just be yourself in therapy without worrying about being judged or disapproved of.

Also Read: 10 Ways To Control Your Emotions When Stressed

Final thoughts

An emotionally unavailable parent may meet your physical requirements, but it doesn’t mean they can emotionally connect with you. While some parents may only occasionally display emotional detachment, others may be hostile or fail to provide even the most basic care.

Your ability to manage your emotions as an adult may be impacted by having grown up with an emotionally unavailable parent. You can heal by connecting with your inner child, but you may need to put your parents at a distance for a while.

It may be beneficial to speak with a mental health professional if you believe that an emotionally distant parent’s effects are still detrimental to your wellbeing. If you need any help or advice, you can reach out to me by scheduling a free discovery session with me. As a mental health professional, I’d love to help you deal with this.

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