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7 Signs You Grew Up With Immature Parents — And It's Affecting You Now

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Mother and daughter outdoors

If you have spent much time around a small child, you have probably seen how emotionally extreme they can be. Laughing hysterically one minute and in the depths of despair the next, they can switch emotions quickly and unpredictably.

Of course, children are this way because they are, by definition, emotionally immature.

They have not yet had an opportunity to learn how to recognize their feelings, manage them, take responsibility for them, or use them the way they are meant to be used. That is natural.

But the ramifications don't end in childhood. There are many people aged 25 and older who are mired in emotional immaturity. 

So, what happens if one of those emotionally immature people is your parent? It can set you up for some serious challenges not only in your childhood but throughout your adult life, too.

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What is emotional maturity, and how does it affect parenting?

When you think about it, maturity is mostly about responsibility. Children are not capable of being responsible for much because their brains are not fully developed. Research on the human brain has shown that it does not fully develop until age 25.

They, like children, have not learned how to recognize, manage, or take responsibility for their feelings.

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Here are 7 signs if emotionally immature parents:

1. Their emotions run wild.

They allow their feelings to go unchecked and unmanaged, regardless of how it affects others.

2. They are ignorant of their child.

They are unaware of their child’s feelings.

3. They displayed low EQ.

They have little understanding of emotions and how they work or how to respond to them.

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4. They are volatile.

They can show intense feelings like anger, hurt, sadness, or pain at unpredictable times.

5. They possess little ability to communicate emotions.

Instead of saying they are angry and talking about it, they take it out on others with the silent treatment or other indirectly punishing behavior.

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6. They appear emotionally selfish and inconsiderate.

They are willing to hurt their child emotionally to make themselves feel better or get what they want.

7. They reject responsibility.

They seldom take responsibility or apologize after hurting their child’s feelings.

Parents may show some of these signs because they are unaware of emotions in general. Other parents may act emotionally immaturely because they are too self-involved to care about other people’s feelings, even their children’s.

These two types of parents may seem the same, but they are actually not the same at all. Self-involved parents act immaturely because they are uncaring or narcissistic. Whereas the emotionally unaware types are likely the products of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) themselves.

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The unaware type

It’s a parent’s job to teach their child about feelings. A parent who does this well talks about emotions as a natural part of everyday life, asking their child what they’re feeling, naming their child’s feelings, and helping their child manage their feelings, too.

Children who receive this kind of emotional attention and care learn the emotional skills that they will need throughout their lives.

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Unfortunately, many people grow up in families that are blind to the feelings of their members. Their parents may ignore feelings altogether, avoid using emotional words or steer clear of talking about anything meaningful or emotional.

In doing so, these unaware parents are teaching their children to ignore their own feelings. They’re also failing to impart the emotional awareness and life skills that all children need to learn.

RELATED: 10 Tell-Tale Signs You're Emotionally Numb Inside — And Your Childhood Is To Blame

Emotional neglect

All emotionally immature parents are raising their children with at least some measure of emotional neglect.

Emotionally unaware parents might not admit what they feel because they are unaware that they even have those feelings.

They may lack the emotional vocabulary to correctly identify what their feelings are. They may fail to acknowledge their anger and take it out indirectly because they don’t have the skills to express or work out their anger or hurt.

There is good news for these types of emotionally immature parents and their children. Since this kind of emotional immaturity is based on a lack of emotional awareness and knowledge, both parents and children can increase their emotional maturity by learning how emotions work, paying attention to emotions in general, and learning emotional skills.

This is the process of recovery from Childhood Emotional Neglect. Emotionally immature parents who go through this healing and learning process can stop emotionally neglecting themselves and their children. It is powerful, and it changes lives and families in a deep and meaningful way.

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The self-involved type

Narcissistic emotionally immature parents are also prone to overlook and misperceive their children’s feelings but they also, depending on the severity of their narcissism, manipulate and directly harm their children in the process.

These parents will make decisions and engage in actions that do damage to their kids not because they are unaware, but because they do not care. This is what sets the narcissistic parent apart.

While narcissistic personality disorder can be treated, it is a very different process than that involved in CEN. And the effects on the children are very different.

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Here are 4 recovery steps:

1. Accept and acknowledge.

The first step is to accept that your emotionally immature parents failed you emotionally and that this still affects you to this day.

2. Focus on moving forward.

Know that Childhood Emotional Neglect can be healed. You can learn the skills you missed and give yourself what your parents could not give you.

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3. Start to make up for the lost time.

Begin to pay more attention to your own emotions, and also try to notice what other people are feeling too. This will increase your emotional awareness and knowledge and help you become more grounded in yourself and more connected with others.

4. Remember to be kind to yourself.

Have compassion for yourself, knowing that the Emotional Neglect you grew up with is real and takes time and effort to heal.

Seeing the signs of emotionally immature parents is an important start. The next step is to give yourself now the emotional attention you missed out on as a child which will heal your CEN.

Many have walked the path of recovery from Childhood Emotional Neglect, so you are not alone.

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Dr. Jonice Webb is a licensed psychologist recognized worldwide as the pioneer of Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN. She is author of Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. Dr. Webb also offers an Emotional Neglect Questionnaire.

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