Not every parent has the emotional intelligence and emotional maturity to teach their children the same.
A person’s age does not always reflect their maturity level. Often, an emotionally immature parent can be like the child in a parent-child relationship, which leaves the actual child needing to teach themselves emotional regulation or not learn it at all.
Many adult children of emotionally immature parents can be left with feelings of guilt while taking on the role of emotional caregiver for the parent.
Here are 3 signs you have an emotionally immature parent, according to YourTango experts:
1. They are uncomfortable with emotional expression
A telling sign of an emotionally immature parent is their consistent difficulty in dealing with their child’s negative or unwanted emotions. They may resort to deflecting, denying, or even belittling these emotions rather than addressing them constructively. Often, this stems from the parent’s discomfort with emotional expression or their lack of tools to process and discuss emotions healthily. Their reactions can inadvertently teach the child that such feelings are invalid or should be suppressed, which can have long-term effects on their emotional development and self-expression.
— Clare Waismann, M-RAS/ SUDCC II Waismann Method Rapid Detox Founder
2. They take everything personally
They interpret the world through an emotional filter and take everything personally due to never learning from their parents how to take responsibility for their role in life’s experiences. They approach things as a child would, and their actual children often feel guilty and shameful if they can’t “make” the parents happy.
— Cassady Cayne, Energy coach, author
3. They lack emotional vocabulary
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 they even have those feelings.
They may lack the emotional vocabulary to correctly identify their feelings. 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.
— Jonice Webb, Ph.D., psychologist and best-selling author.
Dealing with the emotional immaturity of another person is never easy and more difficult when the person is your parent. The parent is supposed to be the one who steps up to comfort and assist with your emotions. Even if you are an adult now, the parent should still have a step up on the maturity ladder from you.
However, the reality of life and socialization makes many people have a lifelong gap in maturely confronting and managing their own complex emotions. If you struggle with a parent whose emotional maturity is lacking, remember you are not to blame, and you are not required to fix them.
If you are a parent who struggles to claim ownership of their emotions, you can seek help by finding a skilled counselor or therapist to help assist you on your emotional journey.
Will Curtis is a writer and associate editor for YourTango. He’s been featured on the Good Men Project and taught English abroad for ten years.