Emotionally Immature Parents

When we have been raised by emotionally immature parents the tendency is to be either emotionally immature ourselves as adults, or to become parentified children and later over responsible adults.

Let’s start with the emotionally immature parents. Your parents were emotionally immature because THEIR parents were emotionally immature. Emotional maturity is passed through family lines. If we are raised by people who know how to have healthy boundaries, self-regulate, have functional, healthy relationships, self-reflect and share space and love most of the time, we have a head start. It is likely that we will learn how to do these things too. We learn them in a visceral, bodily way. We hear conflict being resolved in a healthy way and we watch how an interdependent relationship feels and what it looks like. 

When we DON’T have this example, there is an opportunity to learn it from teachers, future partners, friends and family friends. But it is harder. More learning is involved, because you have not been up close and personal with it. If you grew up with a mother who slammed doors and was passive aggressive during conflict, as a grown woman, you are likely to also slam doors and be passive aggressive (unable to communicate effectively when angry) as an adult.

The other response to emotionally immature parents is PARENTIFICATION. This is where the child acts as the parent figure for younger children in the family or the adult. It is common when a parent is physically or mentally unwell or has unprocessed trauma. 

As adults these children often show signs of ‘people pleasing’ and can have higher occurrences of depression and anxiety, and eating disorders (Jones and Wells, 1996). 

Moving into emotional maturity takes time and focus, but CAN be done.

  • I am learning to implement clear boundaries
  • I am learning to validate myself 
  • I am learning to self-regulate
  • I am learning to re-parent
  • I am learning to be okay with conflict
  • I am learning to be okay with my emotions
  • I am learning to be kind to myself as I grow

Do you resonate with this?