Emotional Immaturity in Parents
If one has an emotionally immature parent, it can be frustrating for the child, especially if that child is already mature enough to identify it. As a result, this can lead to a recurring conflict between the parent and the child. Possibly also, that child may end up doubting themself and trigger regressive behaviors, substance use, anxiety, depression, and other mental health-related concerns.
As a child, we need to understand that parents are not perfect beings. They also have their own issues to deal with, and at the same time, they must be at their best for their children. As children growing up, we learn ways to cope and learn from their mistakes, sort which ones to emulate or not emulate. Hence, identifying the signs of emotional immaturity of our parents can help us manage our emotions, recognize how this impacts us, respond to them with respect, and resolve conflict.
Signs Your Parent Might Be Emotionally Immature and Tips to Cope
- They operate from ego.
Parents think they need to be right all the time. When they are not, they can be defensive, self-absorbed, and argumentative to be right or to show authority. Two categories of parents fall under this characteristic: One is being a Diva, a person who shows entitlement, aggression, narcissism, and disrespect for boundaries. The other is a Doormat, a passive or passive-aggressive who paints themself as a victim and lets their boundaries be compromised repeatedly. A parent who shows either of these two ego-centric categories may have low self-worth and a lack of self-esteem.
Tips for coping:
It is essential to remain calm to cope with parents exhibiting these behaviors. Take deep breaths to let go of angry emotions. Do not also let your ego get the best of you when engaged in conflicts. Instead, when you see your parent is reactive and aggressive, try not to engage at the moment. Remember that they may not mean what they say, and then speak to them once they are calm.
- They don’t take personal responsibility and often blame others.
This is also a Diva and a Doormat response when things go wrong. Parents who are like this often blame others for what went wrong. Parents feel they become less credible when children see they are in the wrong. So they tend to turn things around, sometimes even justify or rationalize their reactions because of what the child did.
Tips for coping:
Always be open to talking about what happened with your parents. When everything is calm, and they are not busy, you can initiate a talk with them. Start by saying sorry that the situation happened and that you feel sorry for how they think that time. Then try having a conversation about it. Then tell them how you thought about how they reacted and share what you learned from it. Then together, sort ways on how you will know what to do next time. Processing the situations together as a family will help shed light on the case, and your parents will learn to be more conscious of their reactions.
Note also that as children, we cannot tell straightforwardly that it is their fault. But by talking things through, you will help them realize this themselves. It may be possible that they will take ownership of what they did after the talk.
However, you will also see that if this did not work, then maybe they are incapable at this point. But on your end, try not to accept the blame if you did not do anything wrong. Tend to your feelings by practicing self-compassion, do not resort to self-blame and self-pity. Find helpful groups such as Al-Anon, Codependency Anonymous, or other support groups that help people cope with their parents with addiction, narcissistic tendencies, and other problems in mental health and behavior. Enabling their behavior is not also advisable.
- They use unsophisticated defense mechanisms such as denial, projection, and projective identification.
We all have defense mechanisms. This is our way of protecting our ego from thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable or unagreeable to us. Examples are intellectualization and rationalization. Immaturity occurs when one resorts to denial, projection, and projective identification.
Denial happens when an individual chooses not to believe or acknowledge the problem.
Projection is an unconscious behavior where the person projects to someone the demeanor instead of admitting it. Projective identification is an intentional projection of a character unto others to validate their behavior or to avoid responsibility.
Having parents acting this way make you feel confused and wrongly judged. It makes you question your perspective and yourself as a whole.
Tips for coping:
Learning to separate your emotions from the situation is the way to go for this situation. You do not want to resent your parents and become too reactive each time. Learn to find a way to calm yourself, find a productive outlet to release your emotions, and talk to someone who can listen and support you with what you are going through. Praying for your parents to gain wisdom and understanding can also help you cast your cares to the One who sees everything. You will find peace and a sense of release from there because God will make a way for you. In the meantime, avoid resorting to vices like alcohol, gambling, gaming, drugs, and excessive eating ad shopping as a diversion.
- They lack empathy.
While these parents project their bad behavior upon others, they may also lack empathy. They do not want to process. Hence, they cannot empathize with how others feel about their behavior. They neglect to validate others’ feelings as well.
Tips for coping:
Attempt to initiate conversations with them when all is calm and peaceful. Give them a chance to listen to you and how you felt about the situation. If they still do not want to get into the conversation or if they still do not understand how you think, or if they still drive the conversation in their favor, then resort to mindful breathing exercises to release the tension you have. You may also journal what has transpired and document how you feel at the moment. Then, practice self-compassion, honor how you think, and resist self-pity feeling.
People whose parents are emotionally immature are driven to become the bigger person in the relationship. They are compelled to find ways to cope, find solutions to resolve conflicts, and in a sense, become more aware and conscious of their actions to avoid triggers and stress. However, it is essential to remember that people who deal with their parents have to be on guard with their well-being, accept the hard truth of the role they have to take, and start establishing or finding a support system from others. On a positive note, this situation can help develop compassion, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, and love towards their parents, which are essential in life. But bear in mind that taking care of one’s well-being needs ample time and attention, so consider investing in these to be solid and ready to cope with conflicts.