How to Cope With Emotionally Immature Parents

Emotionally immature parents aren’t always obvious. However, if your parents were immature, there’s a good chance you grew up feeling like things were just off. Even if they met your basic needs, you may have found it challenging to navigate your family members or even feel comfortable in your home. You may have also felt responsible for looking after your parents or caring for yourself, even from a young age.

Signs of Emotionally Immature Parents

Emotional immaturity comes in many different shapes and sizes. That said, all emotionally immature parents fail to provide the basic safety and support a child needs to thrive. This immaturity can stem from many factors, including intergenerational trauma, mental illness, or substance abuse, but the accumulation of these actions can affect you throughout your upbringing and into adulthood.

Here are some of the main signs indicating emotionally immature behavior:


Self-Centered Behavior

People with emotional maturity strive to have balanced and reciprocal relationships with others. On the contrary, emotionally immature parents often exhibit more selfish behavior, including:

  • making most or all conversations about themselves
  • constantly putting their own needs above others
  • becoming overwhelmed or resentful when someone else is in the spotlight

Emotionally Distant or Neglectful

Emotionally mature parents prioritize giving their children appropriate security and autonomy. They are there to cultivate their development and provide a sense of unconditional support.

Immature parents, on the other hand, often come across as aloof or disconnected. Instead of focusing their efforts on parenting, they may have presented as far more involved in their work or other relationships. And when they were around, it felt like they were physically present but emotionally absent.

Overly Controlling

Neglectful parents can be emotionally distant, but some also fall on the opposite end of the spectrum where they are hyper-involved in their child’s life. If your parent was controlling, they probably wanted to dictate your actions, and they likely had a very hard time accepting your unique personality.

These types of emotionally immature parents tend to:

  • disregard healthy boundaries or the need for independence
  • assume that they “know best” no matter the circumstances
  • prioritize their own feelings about a given situation instead of their child’s feelings

Inability to Apologize or Take Accountability

One of the hallmark signs of emotional immaturity is the unwillingness to accept personal responsibility. When something happens, it’s your fault (or someone else’s fault), but never theirs. As a result, they often have limited empathy for others, and you probably grew up feeling like you were always in some kind of lose-lose situation.

Unwilling to Take Care of Their Own Mental Health

Nobody chooses to have mental health issues, but emotionally immature parents don’t prioritize getting the treatment or support they need if they’re struggling. Instead, they often default to denying they have a problem, lashing out at others, self-medicating their symptoms, or deflecting more blame onto you.


How to Cope With Your Immature or Self-Involved Parents

It can be frustrating and unnerving to truly come to terms with your own childhood. Recognizing the impact of your parents’ emotional immaturity often feels devastating. You may need to grieve the parents you didn’t have and the childhood you didn’t experience.

Here are some gentle reminders to remember if you have emotionally immature or rejecting parents:

Consider Practicing Emotional Detachment

Your parents may not be capable or willing to provide you with the emotional intimacy you desire. This isn’t your fault, but continuing to put that expectation on them may result in you feeling perpetually disappointed.

Instead, it may be worthwhile to consider how you can engage in more emotional detachment. This may mean avoiding talking about certain topics altogether or limiting how much emotional expression you share with your parents.

Stop Trying to Impress or ‘Live’ For Your Parent

As much as possible, it’s important to build self-awareness and recognize how you may be still trying to meet your parents’ approval. Children rely on a deep emotional connection with their parents to feel secure. The emotional loneliness that results from having an immature parent can feel so painful.

But it’s important to remember that, as an adult, you get to write your own screenplay. You are now in charge of your life and emotional well-being. You don’t have to manage your parents’ reactions or their fluctuating emotional needs.

Set Healthy Boundaries for Yourself

It’s common for emotionally immature parents to expect their children to meet their needs. But this isn’t your inherent responsibility. Even if you’ve stepped into a caregiving role in the past, that doesn’t mean you need to continue fulfilling that role.

Be mindful of codependent patterns. You’re allowed to prioritize your own needs and set non-negotiable limits for yourself. You’re allowed to say no when you don’t want to take on a certain obligation. Setting boundaries is often the defining feature of what breaks cycles in families, and these limits can also offer you an invaluable sense of peace and personal integrity. 

Prioritize Other Healthy Relationships

Unfortunately, people who have had histories of emotional abuse may be more inclined to repeat similar patterns in their adult life. If you struggle with your self-esteem, you may spend time with people who reinforce you feeling poorly about yourself.

It’s so important to focus on building and nurturing meaningful relationships. Make sure to spend time with people who validate you and believe in your worth. These relationships should be reciprocal, and they should result in you feeling better about yourself after spending time together.

Therapy for Emotionally Immature Parents and Emotional Neglect in Seattle, Washington

Adult children of emotionally immature parents can grow up feeling neglected, frustrated, misunderstood, and ashamed. Even if you function well in everyday life, you still may feel lonely, depressed, or immature yourself. You may also notice relationship difficulties or problems with emotional regulation.

In my practice, I specialize in helping adults feel more grounded and authentic in their daily lives. Emotional neglect can result in complex trauma, and it can coincide with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Regardless of your specific circumstances, you deserve to be seen and supported, and I would be honored to help you build a better life for yourself.

Contact me today to schedule your initial consultation.


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