Signs Of Emotionally Immature Parents And How To Deal With Them

Growing up with emotionally immature parents is confusing.

Children are keen observers – they notice a lot more than we may give them credit for, so a child can usually recognize emotional immaturity in their parent’s behavior.

The problem is that children don’t usually have the vocabulary and psychological understanding to accurately articulate what they see.

As such, a child may notice that their parent’s behavior is irrational or immature, but not know how to deal with it, and end up having low self esteem, feeling lonely, confused, neglected, and frustrated.

Parents or caregivers model to their children how an adult should behave, and how the world works. The same parents or caregivers may also hold personal responsibility over behavioral health problems that may arise as a result of being emotionally unavailable, not demonstrating respect for other people’s boundaries, or disregarding other people’s happiness.

If an emotional parent is incapable to raise children, they teach the same irrational behavior to their children, who will either adopt that behavior as they grow older or go to great lengths to distance themselves from their parents to shield themselves from being hurt or to avoid being emotionally overwhelmed.

Both attempts to deal with the parent’s immaturity can harm the child’s development and impact their ability to get close to others in their adult relationships resulting in inadequate healthy attachments.

In this article, we’ll explore what makes a person emotionally immature, how emotionally immature parents affect their children’s well-being, and how you can help yourself heal from a childhood growing up with emotional parents.

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What is an Emotionally Immature Person?

An emotionally immature person (EIP) is someone who moves through life blaming others for their issues. They may feel angry, sad, anxious, or depressed, but instead of looking inwards and working on their difficulties and their own ego, they seek others to be accountable.

They attempt to gain their own sense of control in life by being overly involved and trying to control others. They seek empathy and want others to see and agree with their rigid point of view and are rarely flexible with their own perspective. They tend to find a myriad of reasons and excuses to justify their irrational feelings and behaviors.

“Emotionally immature people don’t step back and think about how their behavior impacts others. There’s no cringe factor for them, so they seldom apologize or experience regret.” – Lindsay Gibson

EI people may find it difficult to accept reality and go to great lengths to get others to agree with their projected version of how things are. They are likely to play the victim during confrontations and are reluctant to accept responsibility for wrongdoings.

What Causes Emotional Immaturity?

There are several reasons why a person may not develop emotional maturity to foster healthy, growth-oriented relationships in adulthood, especially with their children.

A lack of emotional development and maturity often stems from deep wounds of trauma in childhood, where a child may have been neglected, abandoned, abused, or emotionally invalidated to the point where they had to learn what were once survival behaviors, but now have become maladaptive ways of getting their own needs met.

Emotional immaturity in adulthood happens because the child never learned to let go of this maladaptive survival response. They may feel that the whole world is against them, because they have not fully understood why others are frustrated, irritable, and angry around them.

Are My Parents Emotionally Immature?

The child of an emotionally immature parent (EIP) may lack the emotional connection necessary to grow into a healthy, psychologically and emotionally mature adult.

However, if you’re asking yourself ‘are my parents emotionally immature?’ and the answer turns out to be yes, you’ll be glad to know that by simply asking the question you’re on the right path to overcoming this challenging childhood experience.

Psychoeducation is a powerful tool in helping us recognize areas of ruptured attachment and development in our lives and is the first step on the path back to good mental health and freedom from our past traumas.

“By grasping the concept of emotional immaturity, you can develop more realistic expectations of other people, accepting the level of relationship possible with them instead of feeling hurt by their lack of response.” – Lindsay Gibson

If you’re wondering how mature your parents are, consider the following tell-tale signs of emotional immaturity.

Emotionally immature parents

Signs of Emotional Immaturity

These are some telling signs that a parent is emotionally immature:

  • Lack of empathy
  • Being emotionally insensitive
  • Lack of respect or differences in opinion
  • More reactive than responsive
  • Enmeshment (being too close or involved with a child’s life) rather than seeking genuine emotional intimacy
  • Highly self-absorbed or self-involved
  • Low-stress tolerance
  • Attention seeking
  • Demanding respect without earning it

If your parents were (or are) emotionally immature, their behavior may be a sign of an underlying disorder or other mental health conditions.

For example, self-absorption and an expectation to be treated with unconditional respect regardless of one’s behavior is a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder.

Similarly, substance abuse, borderline personality disorder, and codependency can fog the mind. A person’s normal response will be to act without empathy for others, reduce their ability to tolerate stress, and make them react inappropriately to situations rather than respond mindfully and with others’ well-being in mind.

The Effects of Emotionally Immature Parents on Children

Growing up with an emotionally immature or mentally ill parent, which includes a parent who is into substance abuse, has codependency, or is a narcissist, is considered an adverse childhood experience (ACEs) – a type of trauma-specific to childhood that impacts a child’s healthy development.

Adult children of emotionally immature parents face an increased risk of relationship issues with other people, even their own children. This is because our earliest relationship – that with our primary caregiver (usually our mother) – affects how we view ourselves and others as we grow up.

1. Loneliness

One of the most significant and challenging effects of growing up with an emotionally immature parent is the deep sense of loneliness one learns and carries into their adult life.

Though a parent may have been there physically, they may have been emotionally distant or showed no compassion or empathy for your emotional experience, leaving you to deal with your strange, unfamiliar, or sometimes, harmful emotions on your own.

Given the natural proximity that occurs between families living in the same house, you may feel a family bond to your parents, but such a bond is not the same as having a secure attachment style.

Secure attachment is a prerequisite for healthy development and is ruptured when a parent exhibits emotional immaturity.

“Growing up in a family with emotionally immature parents is a lonely experience. These parents may look and act perfectly normal, caring for their child’s physical health and providing meals and safety. However, if they don’t make a solid emotional connection with their child, the child will have a gaping hole where true security might have been.” 

Lindsay Gibson

2. Insecure Attachment

If you didn’t develop a secure attachment style with your caregiver (i.e. they didn’t attune to your physical and emotional needs with consistency and compassion) then you may have developed an insecure attachment style, which can leave a lasting imprint of loneliness and abandonment on the psyche.

Lindsay C. Gibson is a clinical psychologist who specializes in emotional neglect in children who grow up with parents who are emotionally immature. In her book, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents, Gibson explains:

“Emotional loneliness is so distressing that a child who experiences it will do whatever is necessary to make some kind of connection with the parent. These children may learn to put other people’s needs first as the price of admission to a relationship. Instead of expecting others to provide support or show interest in them, they may take on the role of helping others, convincing everyone that they have few emotional needs of their own. Unfortunately, this tends to create even more loneliness, since covering up your deepest needs prevents genuine connection with others.”

Lindsay Gibson

The emotionally lonely child may learn to reject or suppress their own wants and needs because those feelings were neglected by incapable or passive parents.

In their adult relationships, these children may struggle to express their own hurt feelings or get their needs met because they don’t know how to ask, or fear an overwhelming or irrational reaction from their partner even if they did ask.

The experience is deeply lonely and may drive the adult child of emotionally immature parents towards maladaptive coping behaviors to overcome their loneliness and sense of disconnection from their inner selves.

In relationships, the adult child of emotionally immature parents may not know how to establish healthy boundaries. Instead, they will accept feelings of loneliness, distance, and immaturity in their partner because they were conditioned to allow those things in childhood.

How do you Deal with Emotionally Immature Parents?

How your parents raised you was their responsibility. Parents are responsible for attuning to, and meeting, their children’s physical, emotional, and psychological needs so that they can grow into healthy emotionally mature adults.

Unfortunately, many parents get caught up in their own issues to the point that they may forget to be mindful of what they are teaching their children.

Many people claim to have had a bad childhood, where their parents were immature, irrational, or unloving. Still, if we continue to blame our childhood for our present-day issues, all we are doing is allocating blame on someone else for our problems, which is a sign of emotional immaturity.

One way to break the cycle of immaturity and not make the same mistakes your parents did is by taking responsibility for your own well-being and not blaming others to make you feel better.

You may want to lash out at your parents or try to control their behavior, but these are also signs of emotional immaturity. Instead, it’s best to do what they didn’t and do some inner work.

This involves letting go, cultivating healthy detachment, bringing mindful awareness to your emotions, and accepting that you’re the only one responsible for how you move forward in life.

Overcoming the difficulties that stem from growing up with emotionally immature parents is by no means easy, but the rewards are more than worth the effort.

Liberating yourself from your own emotional experiences in the past leads to more freedom, healthy self esteem, greater self-compassion, and significantly improved familial and romantic relationships.

If you need extra help dealing with your emotional parent and and the effect that had on you as a child, don’t hesitate to speak to a therapist.

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Should I Speak to a Therapist?

When we think of the term ‘grief’, we often think of death.

However, grieving isn’t exclusive to the loss of life. If your parents’ behavior was neglectful and made you feel lonely, guilty for expressing yourself, or ashamed of who you are, then you may be experiencing grief for the loss of secure attachment and a supported childhood.

A therapist can help you explore your own negative emotions and early life experiences to help you understand your childhood and adulthood with significant depth.

In therapy, you can recall your childhood narrative and get heard by an attuned and compassionate individual, which goes a long way in reducing the feelings of isolation and loneliness associated with growing up around emotional immaturity.

A therapist can also help you discover deeply held yet false beliefs about yourself that you may have learned in your childhood. Uncovering these false, limiting beliefs can help you in developing your self awareness, practicing self compassion, and identifying your own undesirable characteristics that inhibit you from reaching your full potential.

Eventually you’ll discover ways on how to make positive changes in your life that can help you establish or maintain healthy relationships in the future.

2 thoughts on “Signs Of Emotionally Immature Parents And How To Deal With Them”

  1. I thought I might be suffering from other mental health issues, but as I didn’t want to trouble anyone with how “small” my issues were, I kept thinking complexly and finally thought of searching about it. luckily, it’s not an issue related to my mental health but to my parents. I’m relieved it’s just not me suffering these. This page helped me understand what I was unable to. Thank you.

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