Feeling like something was missing from your relationship with your parents is unfortunately something many people experience. You may not be able to point to any specific instance of being abused, but being distant or detached is a form of emotional neglect. That lack of emotional support may have left you isolated, or be the root cause of seemingly unrelated symptoms you deal with daily. We will go over what it means to have an emotionally detached parent, and what you as the child can do now.


What is Emotional Detachment?

Emotional detachment is when someone holds back from emotional closeness, either intentionally or unintentionally. They might lack the ability to provide appropriate emotional support to a person in need of connection. Emotionally detached people might struggle with connecting with their parents, siblings, spouses, and children.


Depending on how emotionally immature they are, they might engage in several behaviors that result in further emotional detachment. These behaviors include emotional instability – such as outbursts, periods of coldness, or self-centeredness. Take a look at the following signs to see if you were raised by an emotionally detached parent.

Signs Your Parent was Emotionally Detached

  1. Don’t express much empathy or emotional awareness
  2. Discomfort with emotional closeness
  3. Overreacting to minor inconveniences
  4. Inconsistent – sometimes unreasonable, sometimes easy to get along with
  5. Responds to your negative emotions with anger or sarcasm
  6. Defensive, even to small disagreements
  7. Facts and logic don’t matter, only their opinions
  8. They use you as a confidant but weren’t a confidant for you
  9. Conversations usually center around their interests
  10. They don’t care about your success because they don’t seem to care

What Are the Consequences of Emotionally Unavailable Parents?

You and your siblings might have had very different reactions to your emotionally detached parent, simply because your personalities are different. In general, you might have either externalized or internalized your detached parent’s behavior. Externalizers blame others when something goes wrong, while internalizers blame themselves. Likely, you do a little of both in different situations.


While externalizes are louder about their pain, internalizers can go through life undetected. You might feel deeply that you may never “be enough”. You might be a people pleaser – even to your detriment. Relationships might be difficult because you are unable to say “no” or keep others at arm’s length in order to “not rock the boat”.

How to Heal from Emotionally Unavailable Parents

Healing your inner child will take time. The first step is identifying the problem, but the second is recognizing the harmful behaviors you engage in because of this. What are you trying to accomplish by… letting people walk all over you, never saying “no”, pretending nothing is wrong all the time? Are you trying to gain some emotional validation from other people to replace what you lacked from your parent?


Set Personal Boundaries

Boundaries are going to be essential to your healing process. You must learn to recognize what does not serve you and be ok with saying “no” to it. You will need to learn how to set boundaries with your parents, friends, and anyone else who you have a lopsided relationship with.


Engage in Self-Care

Part of feeling like you’re “never enough” often means your self-care is neglected. When was the last time you set aside a day to just do nothing? Time to yourself to decompress is essential to your mental health. You don’t need to do a whole spa day ritual, but it might be nice to go to a movie on your own or spend some time with a book you’ve been meaning to read. Once you have some time to refresh, it is easier to see what areas of your life are stressing you out.


Get Therapy If You Can

Some wounds are difficult to heal on your own. With the help of a therapist, you can work on a specific goal to speed up your healing process. An Internal Family Systems Therapist can help you work towards restoring your mental harmony. If you are a minor, you can seek out mental health counseling for teens and adolescents. This kind of therapy can be done online, and you do not need parental consent if you are over 12 years old.


If you feel like something was missing from your relationship with your parents, you might have an emotionally detached parent. Emotionally unavailable parents can also be a form of abuse, as children need attention and validation to thrive. Healing from emotionally unable parents can involve setting boundaries and practicing self-care. If you want help with your healing journey, consider reaching out to an internal family therapist who can help you determine what and how to heal.


Family Strategies Counseling and Mediation is a therapy office based out of Homewood, IL. We take a holistic approach to healing that involves all aspects of your life. We offer child & family counselingcouples counseling, and mental health services. Call (708) 798-5433 or email us at info@Family-Strategy.com for questions or booking information.