Caught Between Parents

Supporting children through the challenges of divorce

Emotional Neglect: A Powerful Bond

Parents who emotionally neglect their children create a powerful bond. Read More

what is the cure?

How does an adult child who grew up in an abusive home let go of this fantasy of parents who care? How do they stop longing for a mom and dad?

What is the cure?

That is a great question to which there is no easy or single answer. In my experience people come to that understanding in their own time when they are ready. That doesn't mean, however, that loving friends and family (and perhaps mental health professionals) cannot gently challenge and question someone's unhealthy and/or illogical beliefs. Ideally, the person doing the challenging will not appear to have a vested interest in the outcome other than the best interest of the person.

Emotional Parental Neglect

There is no cure. You just love your own children and break the cycle.

An extra bit of information can change your entire perspective... that was my cure

As a kid and as a teen I tried hard to be good enough for my mom. It didn't work. One day, when I was 16, I heard a conversation that I wasn't supposed to hear, she said: "I never wanted kids, especially not a girl.". And believe me that sentence came from the heart, like something she'd always wanted to say, but had never allowed herself to say. And since there was no way she knew I was there, I know she didn't just say it to hurt me intentionally. She just really meant it.

For some reason, that sentence freed me. At that moment, a light turned on: "It's not about how good or bad I am, there is nothing I can or cannot do, she doesn't want a girl, no matter who that girl is. No girl can ever be enough".

I didn't heal instantly, but I stopped wearing the burden of being the reason she wanted to kill herself, or scream, or break stuff, or hide in the basements for weeks without talking to anyone. My brother and dad, still thought it was me making her react, but I knew she was reacting to me being a girl, not to me, me.

I left home 1 year later. I visited a bit a first, and then less and less, until 1 day after driving 3 hours only to have her shot the door to my face because apparently I was a bit early, I decided I'd had enough and at 27 I just stopped all communications.

I have been free ever since. It's been over 10 years... It took time to leave completely because, I needed to know that I didn't just give up. I needed to know I had tried everything I could find in any book. Believe me, I tried a lot of different things! The only thing that did work for a time (2 visits and a half), was going to visit with other people. She could not be mean to me in front of 'strangers'. However, on the 3rd visit, she called me on it.

I'd say, even if you don't know what the little piece of missing information is in your case, read about any abusive situation, and you'll notice that it's not about you (the abused), it's about them (the abuser). It's always about them, what they expected, what they wanted or didn't want and how they couldn't/can't find a way to make peace with what was and what is. It's about how they fight it with all their soul. It's their fight, not yours...

I'm pretty sure my mother is still fighting it: "How could I disappear like that, blah blah". It doesn't matter, she'd fight if I were there, she's most likely fighting when I'm not there. At least, I no longer have to fight it with her.

I hope you find a way to make peace with what was and what is. There are great advantages to coming from such a hard environment. Once you have found your ground, your center, your peace, it takes a lot to get you off balance... and when you do get off balance, you know how to give yourself space to heal, because nothing is ever harder than healing from years of being innocent (ignorant), dependant and over powered.

Childhood Neglect

Childhood neglect is a world wide issue, children who feel unloved in many different ways, expect more from their parents. Neglect is experienced when a parent is doing good but sometimes they even forget to fulfill the child's every desire. Neglect on children come in different forms such as physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. Children can suffer from depression, anxiety and feel worthless by the time they are adults from emotional neglect.

emotional neglect

My first experience of emotional neglect was probably when my sister was born, and at an age before I went to school, I became aware that she was loved more than me. However, this was compensated by an extended family, and an awareness that as a boy I was given more freedom. I did not recognise this at the time, but I was allowed to play out later, and have more friends. However, there developed an intense rivalry between us and my jealousies were dealt with by physical blows, sharp telling off, whilst she appeared to me at least to be the one who had triggered my behaviour. She never got told off for inciting a fight, the expected norm for me was to control my feelings, whereas she was encouraged to express herself in any way she chose.

She showed a particular talent for Art, and this talent was encouraged throughout her childhood, through into adult life and even now in her sixties, despite the fact that she is hardly a successful professional life from it. On the other hand I was an ardent reader, ahead of her and my other siblings and remained so. In spite of this it was not my achievements that were recognised in the family home, it was always my sister, and her paintings and drawings that were constantly praised. I expressed a desire to play the violin, on hearing me scratch away, my father broke the violin up and I was discouraged from playing any instrument again. This was not what happened to my sister, she was encouraged to play first an electric organ, bought for the house by my father who wanted to play it; and later given piano lessons. I was told to keep away from the piano, never to sing, and my musical tastes were not allowed in the house.
None of my siblings had to go out to work. But I had nulerous jobs by the time I was 14. I was even expected to spend my school holidays working for my fathers roofing and tiling company. This often meant I would either stand around building sites, bored and lonely, or carryinf rolls of felt, buckets of tar up ladders, dipping buckets into molten asphalt, or carrying sacks of grit up ladders. As a consequence I had limited time for company with my own age group throughout my youth, and was especially damaging in my early teenage years.
At school I was recognised for my writing, and poetry, but at home it was my sisters accomplishments that were nurtured. I had 3 sisters by this time. None of them knew my father at work - where he would yell at me to do something, treat me as one of his adult workers, and ignore me when we were alone by long silences. There is more to this, but I landed up looking for emotional support in the wrong places.

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Amy J.L. Baker, Ph.D., researches parental alienation and children of divorce.


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