Childhood emotional neglect: effects and signs

childhood emotional neglect
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Child Emotional Neglect (CEN) represents the unavailability to support and welcome the child’s subjective and emotional needs. This means that the infant might feel that their feelings are not valid, their vulnerability is not embraced, they can’t make mistakes or they can’t demonstrate emotions (specially those considered “bad” ones, like sadness, fear or shame). 

Why is childhood emotional neglect a concern?

Emotional neglect should worry parents and caregivers because its effects might last a lifetime. Just as creating a positive association around learning can have a lasting impact, the same is true when it comes to less pleasant topics. 

Adults that have gone through emotional neglect are more likely to suffer from low self esteem, trust issues, and it might even repercuss in physical problems, mainly caused by stress.  

5 signs of emotional neglected children 

Identifying symptoms and behaviors that indicate childhood emotional neglect might be decisive. 

Recognizing this scenario is the first step to break it, interrupt the cycle, and allow the neglected child to develop in a loving and nurturing ambiance

Aggressive behavior 

Especially toward the parents or caregivers. This could mean avoidance to physical touch, use of verbal violence, refusing to follow instructions. This could be a consequence of associating negative attitudes with a way to get attention.

Difficult in social connections 

Children suffering from emotional neglect might not create bonds with others as naturally. They might act suspicious or prefer to spend their time alone instead of interacting with other kids. 

Child development delay 

Poor performance in school, struggling with basic motor skills or language delay might be indications that something literally is holding the child back towards their learning path. 

Uncomfortable in specific situations 

They might not be open to demonstrations of affection, or visiting new places. This also revolves around the trust issues and feeling comfortable on demonstrating vulnerability around people.  

Outburst and disruptive conduct 

Does the child demonstrate a seemingly exaggerated reaction when they feel displeased or when things don’t go their way? This unexplained behavior might indicate that they can’t articulate their thoughts and can only strongly react physically to express themselves

This behavior is a matter of concern because this can cause physical problems that take its toll in the future – causing the child to be prone to diseases associated with stress, anxiety and depression. 

How to meet your child’s emotional needs 

Take a look at what are the routes that parents should take if they want to create a nurturing and accepting environment for their children. 

Listen to what your child has to say 

It’s not the same as simply hearing the words. This means acknowledging what they are saying, asking questions, interacting and following  up on the topic. 

If you’re dealing with a baby or child that does not have their speaking abilities on point, you might show that you’re present and attentive by reacting to their emotions, having a good time during playtime and demonstrating physical affection. These are conducts that show emotional vulnerability. 

Showing patience 

Children might sometimes babble about a subject that is hard to follow. Or they might not listen to what you are asking because they got their minds somewhere else. 

This is the time to recognize what you are feeling: take deep breaths if you realize you might be about to be rude or talk using an aggressive tone. 

Being able to say “I’m sorry”

Just as in any other relationship, mistakes will be made in the parent-child one. So if you feel like you’ve lost your patience and addressed your child in a rude manner, or was dismissive with their feelings, tell your child you’re sorry

This builds trust and affection, so it’s crucial to create an emotionally healthy environment. 

It’s important to mention that an adult affected by emotional neglect does not mean they can’t overcome the situation and have a brighter future ahead of them. Psychotherapy and self-knowledge are essential resources to overcome childhood emotional neglect in adults. 

Keep your development path towards becoming the best parent you can: learn about emotional literacy and why it matters.

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