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Childhood emotional neglect-The invisible Trauma

19-Jul-2021

By Isha Sharma Gauli

Img src: dawnrehab.com

A child depends on the primary caregivers who in the majority of the cases are the parents for physical, financial and emotional support. Parents often do not fail to give their offspring good education, roof over their head, nice clothes to wear but they fail to meet their emotional needs. That leads to children being confused on how to cope up with their emotions which in turn results in feelings of emptiness and disconnection without being able to determine what is actually wrong.

This topic might be one of those never discussed topics and also may be completely new to some people. Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is an often overlooked topic as it is not caused by doing something harmful but by not doing enough to make a child feel and understand that their emotions are valid. Which results in having an unhealed trauma and often leads to destructive behavior as an adult.  

What is Childhood Emotional Neglect ?

Childhood Emotional Neglect is a term coined by psychologist Dr. Jonice Webb which can be understood as the failure of parents or the primary caregivers to respond enough to meet their child’s emotional needs. 

The example of neglecting a child’s emotional need can be taken as a scenario where a child goes up to his/her parent to convey that s/he is not feeling like going to the school because of how rude their friends are and if the parent shoo them away by saying they are too busy  for a child squabble, the child feels his/her feelings are not being validated which leads them to be inexpressive and their bottled up emotions may come out as aggression as a way to deal with it.

Saying  “you’re just too sensitive”, “You have nothing to be depressed about”, “I have given you food to eat, roof over your head and a quality education and you still say i don’t love you enough!, you’re just being ungrateful !” as a response to a child who is expressing his/her sadness is also a perfect example of showing a child how their emotions don't matter.

Also knowingly or unknowingly when the caregivers value the child’s achievements (good grades, Sport titles, scholarships, etc.) over the child’s emotions it subconsciously teaches the child that their performance or their achievements are more important than them.

All in all when a child’s emotional side is dismissed, misunderstood, under-responded or undervalued it can be said that the child is a victim of Childhood Emotional Neglect.

How to know if you have experienced Childhood Emotional Neglect ?

CEN is often not- detectable as it is not always the children of the abusive,addict or mentally ill caregivers suffering. Yet,it is very common to see children of well-to-do parents who try to fulfill every materialistic (clothes, toys, gadgets, etc.) need of the child suffering, as the parents are found to be emotionally unavailable. Child’s whose parents are too busy or the parents who are not an empath can also have high risk from suffering from CEN. Even though CEN can be invisible it can have as significant of an impact as Child Abuse. So, what does the result of Childhood Emotional Neglect look like in grown ups ?

  • Habit of People pleasing
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty in relying on others
  • Anger and aggressive Behaviours
  • Attention seeking (by getting in trouble in school or through substance abuse, etc.)
  • Guilt 
  • Shame
  • Feeling Unimportant & Inadequate
  • Low self esteem and self worth
  • Cannot say ‘NO’ as an answer
  • Values others feeling and Emotions over their own
  • Does not know how to set Boundaries
  • Very confused about their own likes and dislikes & also their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Avoiding or Numbing one’s emotions

How to help yourself heal from the trauma caused by Childhood Emotional Neglect ?

There is a quote that says “Forgive your parents for not being able to love you like the way you needed and forgive yourself for looking for that love at all the wrong places.” The trauma you experience because of Childhood Emotional Neglect needs to be healed if you don’t want to pass it onto your children. There are multiple ways of healing your trauma and without doubt the most effective way is to go to therapy. And if you cannot find a therapist or if it's too intimidating for you to express yourself to another person you can also help yourself by tracking your feelings, setting boundaries, practicing self care, accepting help and support etc. It’s okay to take small steps first but if you’re not able to do it on your own, always remember seeking out for help is actually very brave.


 
 

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