12 definite signs you grew up with an emotionally immature parent

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In an ideal world, we’d all have perfect parents and when it comes to raising kids of our own, we’d all be perfect parents. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. 

And so while some people are more than ready to become parents and have spent years getting ready by saving money and reading as much as they can about parenthood, others find themselves becoming parents by accident. 

That means that it’s inevitable that some people will grow up with emotionally immature parents, and that can have a huge impact on the way that we grow and live. But what are some of the signs that your parents were emotionally immature? 

Well, I’m glad you asked, because that’s exactly what we’re going to be looking at in today’s article. Here goes!

1) You find it hard to express your emotions

People who grew up with emotionally immature parents often find it difficult to express their emotions, because when they used to do that as a child, their parents reacted badly.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that they were aggressive or even dismissive of you, but it does mean that when you tried to express your emotions as a kid, you didn’t get the response that you wanted. Perhaps they ignored you, or perhaps they just didn’t know what to do.

Whatever the case, emotionally immature parents tend to lead to children that struggle to express their own emotions. Like father, like son. And like mother, like daughter.

Unfortunately, it can be hard for people to overcome this inability to express emotions, and your best option is usually to turn to therapy.

2) You feel like you’ve always had to be the responsible one

The children of emotionally immature parents have usually been forced to grow up fast and to be responsible from an early age. In this respect, they have a lot in common with the children of drug addicts and alcoholics.

When you’ve been the responsible one from an early age, that generally continues into your adulthood. This often leaves people feeling as though they need to look after their friends and family to an extent that goes above and beyond what most people would consider to be “normal”.

Of course, much of this is subjective and so it’s difficult to measure and quantify. Still, if you’ve always felt as though you’ve needed to be responsible, it could be because you were conditioned to feel that way because of your childhood.

The good news here is that being responsible isn’t a bad thing, and so it should have fewer negative effects on your life than finding it hard to express emotions.

3) You’re afraid of criticism

Emotionally immature parents tend to be good at criticizing. They’re just not so good at delivering constructive criticism.

An emotionally immature parent will point to a child’s drawing and say, “It’s not very good, is it?” They’ll tell their kids that they look scruffy, that they’re bad at playing musical instruments and that they suck at the things they’re passionate about.

As you can imagine, this leads to adults who are afraid of receiving criticism because it reminds them of the darker times in their childhood. And while criticism has something of a bad reputation in our society, it’s actually vital for our continued growth.

However, you can only grow from criticism if it’s constructive criticism, which is what emotionally immature parents tend to suck at.

4) You find it hard to set boundaries

Boundaries are important for our mental health, because we all need a little space from time to time.

The problem is that emotionally immature parents rarely set boundaries, and they also rarely obey the boundaries that we set when we’re first learning to do so. This essentially then teaches us that there’s no point setting those boundaries because doing so won’t achieve anything.

Many of the problems that emotionally immature parents cause are due to this kind of negative reinforcement. While a regular parent would praise a child and tell them that they’re doing things right, an emotionally immature parent will either criticize or outright ignore them.

The TL:DR here is that if you’ve found it difficult to set boundaries as an adult, there’s a good chance that you grew up with an emotionally immature parent.

5) You find it difficult to trust people

If you find it hard to set boundaries because of your emotionally immature parents, there’s a good chance that you also find it difficult to trust people.

This is understandable, because if you’ve found it difficult to trust your parents, you’re going to find it difficult to trust anyone else. Instead of trusting people by default, you’ll end up only trusting them after you’ve known them for a while and they’ve proved their reliability.

This has both pros and cons. The big benefit is that it makes it harder for people to take advantage of you, but the drawback is that you can miss out on opportunities because you’ll be too busy being defensive to spot them.

Personally, I’d prefer to trust people and to accept the risks that come with that, but that’s just me. You have to decide what’s best for yourself, but don’t let your upbringing cloud your judgment.

6) You have a lot of acquaintances but few close friends

The first thing to say here is that this point isn’t definite proof of an emotionally immature parent. Some people just prefer their own company and don’t have a ton of close friends.

However, it can also be a sign that you struggle to make attachments, which often happens when people grow up with parents who are emotionally immature. When that’s the case, you really need to look inwards and to determine which of the camps you fall into.

If you’re like me and you just prefer your own company, it might not be a problem if you don’t have many close friends. However, if you’ve always longed to be part of a close friend group but have never been able to build those relationships, ask yourself whether it’s a result of your upbringing.

If it is, you can take steps to correct the situation.

7) You don’t feel close to your family

Again, a lot of people don’t feel close to their family, and so this one factor alone doesn’t prove anything.

With that said, people with emotionally immature parents are more likely than most to feel distant from their family because they were raised differently and weren’t conditioned to build the same relationships that other people enjoy.

And so yet again, this is one of those where you’ll need to look inwardly and figure out why you feel the way you do. If it’s because of your parents and their emotional immaturity, there might not be much you can do. Often, the damage has already been done.

Still, if you can find it in your heart to forgive them and to work on rebuilding your relationship, you should do so.

8) You have abandonment issues

If you were raised by an emotionally immature patient, it’s more than likely that you struggle with abandonment issues.

That’s because these kinds of parents often leave their children unsupervised, and even when they’re with them, there’s often a mental distance in place of a physical one. They miss school plays, recitals, graduations and other important events.

Most of the people that I know who were raised by emotionally immature parents have managed to turn this disadvantage into an advantage. They’ve learned self-reliance and got used to not basing their happiness on whether other people show up or not.

It’s just a shame that they had to go through adversity to learn this skill.

9) You struggle to contain your anger

As children, we naturally learn from our parents, and that starts by imitating them.

This affects everything from the accent that we speak in to the way that we learn to walk and play. And as you can imagine, if you learn to control your emotions from someone who can’t control their emotions, you’re not exactly going to be a master of the discipline.

And so if you struggle to contain your anger and have unhealthy ways of coping with it, such as punching walls or drinking alcohol, then it may be a sign that you learned those emotional immaturities from your parents.

If you can, look for a better way of dealing with your anger. I’m a big fan of channeling that anger into a workout, although you have to be careful not to overdo it and cause an injury.

10) You have low self-esteem

A lot of us suffer from low self-esteem in today’s fast-paced era of interconnectedness and social networking. That’s because we compare ourselves to other people.

The problem is that social networking sites only provide a snapshot into people’s lives. For example, we see the holiday snaps from our friend when they go on the vacation of a lifetime, but we don’t see the extra hours they put in at work to afford it or the depression that they’ve been dealing with.

But if you grew up with an emotionally immature parent then you’re particularly likely to suffer from low self-esteem because of the way that you’ve been brought up. And unfortunately, low self-esteem is another one of those areas that there’s no quick fix for.

My best advice would be to find a good counselor who can work with you to develop your self-esteem, and to pick up a hobby that you love at the same time.

11) You find validation and affirmation from external sources

One of the consequences of having low self-esteem is that we often turn to external sources for our validation.

This means that we find it difficult to appreciate a job well done, even when we know in our hearts that we should be proud of ourselves. For example, I have a writer friend who’s one of the most talented people I know, but he’s never happy with his work until after someone’s read it and told him how good it is.

This occurs because when people are kids, they’re constantly looking for validation and affirmation from their parents. In a healthy upbringing, this won’t be a problem because they’ll eventually learn to find this kind of validation internally.

With emotionally immature parents, not so much.

12) You struggle to cope with change

A lot of us struggle to cope with change, and that’s only natural. As human beings, we’re creatures of habit.

At the same time, change is inevitable and it comes to us all eventually, and so if we want to become well-rounded people then we need to get used to it. We can acknowledge that we struggle with change, but we still need to accept it.

Yet again, this is one of those signs that suggests that you struggled with your parents’ emotional immaturity as a child. When your parents don’t provide stability, you hang on to anything you can, and that results in you struggling to process change and even to fear it.

The good news is that you can change, and I appreciate the irony here. But you’ll find that if you’re able to learn to cope with change, you’re going to find yourself more emotionally intelligent than your parents ever were.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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