How to Know if You Had Emotionally Immature Parents, How to Heal, and How to Parent Differently

How to Know if You Had Emotionally Immature Parents, How to Heal, and How to Parent Differently

Let's talk about emotionally unavailable, immature parents...

How do they affect us as we transition into adults?

How can WE break any generational trauma so we stop the cycle and not pass emotional immaturity on to our children?

First, what is an emotionally mature or emotionally regulated parent?

The way I like to explain it is a parent who is capable of taking themselves, their emotions, and their experience out of a situation when talking to a child. They have to ask themselves whether my feelings matter because I am talking to a three-year-old. And of course, even as a parent, your feelings F*KING MATTER, but it's about being cognizant of the emotional maturity within the situation, and what is the best way to express those feelings? Is throwing a tantrum with a toddler really the best way to create safety, love, and a bond with your child? No, it is not.

So, an emotionally mature and regulated parent can connect with the child in front of you while thinking about things objectively and conceptually but still maintaining that intimacy and emotional bond. It's all about having your own perspective and understanding your own world, but also being DEEPLY attuned to your child's needs, emotions, and experiences.

The most important thing is that you are NOT invalidating their experience but rather staying super regulated and putting all your attention and awareness on them. You are trying to understand them so that you can either meet their needs, draw a boundary, or help regulate them in a way that allows them to feel safe.

Emotionally mature people are able to feel and manage their own emotions. But many people, including many parents, don't know how to.

So, let's dive into why that is...

IMPORTANT: if you have grown up in an environment where you did not know what unconditional love feels like, you will not know how to give unconditional love to yourself or others. We can get stuck in a "shame loop" and become very degrading and hurtful to other people because we think that it is normal to only get CONDITIONAL love...Our nervous system thinks it is normal to only get conditional love. And if we do not believe that we are worthy of unconditional love, or we have never experienced it, then we often don't believe others are worthy of unconditional love either.

Ok... but what is the difference between conditional love and unconditional love?

I want to be very clear for anyone who doesn't know:

Unconditional is the idea that you do the worst thing in the world, and I STILL LOVE YOU.

Conditional love is when you behave like XYZ, or when you do ABC for me, then I'll love you.

So, as soon as your partner is being a little bit of a dick, you withdraw your love. As soon as your child is having a tantrum, you withdraw your love and shame them for it. You conditionally love them. You are choosing when to give them love... and then you are removing, retracting, or revoking the love to punish them.

So, part of being emotionally mature is to provide unconditional love, NOT conditional.

If we grew up recieving conditional love from our parents, we often feel like we can only conditionally love ourselves. We talk negatively to ourselves. If we have a hard day, we aren't bringing in self-compassion. Instead, we are shaming ourselves. We are telling ourselves we should be doing better. And because we do it to ourselves, we can also do it to others. Whether we are just thinking it in our minds or actually saying it out loud, we are giving other people conditional love because of emotionally immature parents. This can be very lonely and isolating. It means we can take on everything as our own fault. We take on a massive burden. We will wear that burden until it feels like it suffocates us. From this, we create so many trauma responses, micro and macro, because we find a way to adapt and survive. The worst part is most people don't even realise when they're in this kind of trauma response. So, any little situation can become habitual loops because they have had to learn to survive.

What are some trauma responses?

  • People Pleasing: you manipulating other people
  • Overeating: a way to shove down your emotions
  • Not eating: a way to get control

There are so many different things that we can do that we are not consciously aware of, and we do it as a way to try and survive. We do it because we've had to. We have had to adapt and survive when we did not feel safe, loved, seen, respected, honored, etc.

We have to remember that when we were children, our children could not understand things that an adult can. An adult can look back on past situations as a child and understand your parents' perspective, but you didn't understand that perspective as a child. As a child, when your mom was yelling bloody murder at you for no good reason, you felt like you were in great danger. Of course, as an adult, looking back, your like, I understand, I was being a shit.

But children CANNOT understand things that an adult can. They do not have that perspective. They lack that emotional intelligence and emotional regulation.

So, when mom is yelling, children often feel like "I'm the punching bag." This lack of emotional intimacy is sometimes perceived as wrong and can often leave you feeling very empty, lonely, and unsafe.

Emotional immaturity in parents can show up in many different ways and different kinds of mechanisms. But the most common ones I see are parents playing the victim card. They cannot see the needs of the child. They can't regulate their emotions and, therefore, release those emotions onto their child. And because they can't regulate their own emotions, parents cannot regulate their children's emotions. This often leads to shaming, belittling, and coddling them in a harmful way. So, as a child who is having a tantrum, the parent is not trying to understand them but instead shaming them. Telling them to "suck it up," "shut up," "you're being too loud," and "stop crying." But, in so doing, these parents are not creating a safe place for the child to feel seen.

I want to remind ALL parents this: you could be the most perfect parent and try to do everything right... you WILL f*ck your kid up. So, please, take that pressure off your plate. You have to remember that the child has all the control of perception over something and can perceive a situation much differently than we perceive it.

What you just want to feel really strong in and kind of grounded in as a parent is that you're doing everything that you can, is that you're drawing healthy boundaries. You are regulating your kids as best you can. You are also honoring your own needs and not letting your kids manipulate you into thinking that you're just going to be some kind of pushover parent. You're also raising really respectful, honorable children. You are raising children who feel safe and loved and supported and seen.

As adults, we can really feel like we're trapped, like we are children trying to please our parents, even though you may be 30 and our parents are 60. And to be completely honest, a lot of parents aren't going to change. Whether they are 60, 70, or 80 years old, so let's take some of the pressure and expectations off them. They have done the absolute best they can. Hell, we all are doing the best we can in every moment of our lives.

Let's lower our expectations. Stop thinking, "I should have been better," and shift that to, "I did the best I could." By changing this mindset, you can actually have the opportunity to do some healing work to transform your relationship with your parents.

Healing this relationship with our parents and ourselves allows us to BREAK THE CYCLE. It means that we stop these habitual behaviors of conditional love, which are emotionally unregulated to be passed on to others around us, friends, partners, or children.

Breaking the cycle means healing those wounds, the micro and macro trauma, to change your nervous system and how your body functions on a subconscious level.

So, moving forward after today, I am challenging you guys with this:

The next time you feel the need to have an emotional outburst or become reactive, pause, take a breath, think... and regulate, regulate, regulate