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Beginning Steps to Overcome Childhood Emotional Neglect

Childhood emotional neglect happens when caregivers consistently fail to meet their child's physical, emotional, or psychological needs. Such neglect exists on a wide spectrum, but it can leave adults feeling deeply wounded, misunderstood, and unprepared for life. If you were emotionally neglected, it is possible to heal and feel more authentic and fulfilled. Let's get into what you need to know.

Name What Happened

Emotional neglect is a form of emotional abuse, and emotional abuse is a significant form of childhood trauma. Naming your experience can be empowering, even if you feel close to your parents or can recall happy memories from your childhood.

This is important because denial, intellectualization, and minimization often keep people in the dark. You might even excuse your parents because they were recipients of intergenerational trauma themselves. But if you experienced childhood emotional neglect, there's a good chance you've been gaslit about your own feelings or needs. Perpetuating this denial or avoiding your stress only hurts your self-esteem and makes it difficult to understand your own emotions.

People use different language to describe what happened. For you, it may be helpful to say, "I had a profound fear of my father." Or, "My mother was emotionally unavailable growing up." Or, "I experienced both childhood physical abuse and emotional neglect." These statements can be affirming during the times when you find yourself doubting your past or feeling frustrated by your own sense of resilience.  

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Negative Emotions

Some parents emotionally neglect their child's feelings by suppressing anything that seems negative. For example, maybe your parents shamed you for crying or told you that you were overreacting when you became angry. Perhaps they laughed at you when you became afraid.

If that's the case, it's possible you naturally deny or limit yourself from accessing emotions today. You may feel guilty about how you feel toward your feelings, or you may think you're being selfish for tuning into your own needs.

That said, your feelings are real and getting in touch with them can be deeply empowering in building greater self-awareness. You can get in the habit of feeling your emotions in several ways, including journaling without any real agenda or by following a specific journaling prompt, meditating and reflecting on any body sensations or feelings that arise, or meeting with a trusted mental health professional.

Hold Onto Secure Attachment

Survivors of emotional neglect often find themselves in tumultuous relationships that mimic patterns of their childhood. This, of course, can be devastating, and it can lead to retraumatization.

But the more you embrace nurturing healthy relationships, the more you pad yourself with much-needed emotional support. Secure attachment exists on a large spectrum, but people with this attachment style generally can:

  • identify and maintain healthy boundaries with others

  • provide emotional support for a variety of feelings

  • exude a sense of emotional validation and emotional well-being

  • hold themselves accountable when they make mistakes or misattune to others

Give Yourself What You Never Received

It's a misconception that a parent providing shelter and food is enough. In addition to meeting basic physical needs, a child's emotional needs also must be consistently met. These emotional needs include attunement, validation, and a sense of safety.

Of course, most emotionally-neglectful parents have good intentions when it comes to parenting. But intentions are different than impact, and it's still possible to be hurt by your parents or experience child abuse even if they tried to do everything right.

As an adult, you now have the chance to give yourself what you never received. This might look like stocking your kitchen with your favorite foods to make yourself feel comfortable. It might entail treating yourself with the grace you were never given or the ability to pursue a hobby that your family didn't let you participate in.

Practice Self-Compassion

Self-compassion refers to doing your best to meet emotional needs. It also means practicing self-kindness when you're having a hard time. You are only a human, and you are never expected to cope or heal from anything perfectly.

As you learn more about how emotional neglect impacted you, you may naturally feel a sense of discouragement or hopelessness. People who practice compassion towards themselves accept their feelings without letting them define them. They are not victims of their circumstances- rather, they recognize that they are part of the inherent human collective. Instead of punishing themselves, they aim to be patient and gentle when they are struggling.

Strengthening Your Emotional Regulation and Mental Health With Resurface Group

Childhood neglect can have a profound impact on your physical and mental health. It coincides with numerous issues, including low self-esteem, destructive relationships, substance abuse, eating disorders, emotional detachment, and insecure attachment styles.

At Resurface Group, we provide trauma-informed treatment dedicated to help people strengthen their emotional responsiveness and heal from their past hardships. We are here to support your well-being and give you the coping strategies you need to take care of yourself.

Contact us today to learn more about our dynamic programs.

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