Childhood emotional neglect leaves deep wounds that spread throughout our lives. How to heal childhood emotional neglect is a quest a lot of people are on. Unfortunately it is not a quick fix, it takes time and patience. Healing is not a linear process. Our mind and body follow its own journey that we can only facilitate but don’t have any control over. 

We all have our own coping skills that we develop over time. Two siblings raised by the same parents will have different coping skills because their experiences were different even though they were raised in the same household. Therefore, no two people can heal childhood emotional neglect following the same formula. 

Self-help books and talking to people with similar experiences can provide you with the understanding that what you experienced was not how it should have been. It can also be very helpful to know that you were not alone and a lot of people have had these experiences. However, the healing process is very individualistic.

Acknowledging what happened to you was wrong, brings up a lot of things, like confusion, grief, back and forth between acceptance and denial, trying to convince yourself that maybe none of those things happened and you are just making it up in your head. Sometimes people can feel like a victim and other times they might tell themselves that they will not let this control their life. Either way they are not making space for any of their feelings that need attention.

What happens if we don’t heal childhood emotional neglect

Childhood emotional neglect is when someone’s parents are constantly emotionally absent. Their kids’ big feelings make them uncomfortable. They criticize their children for feeling anger and sadness. They punish their children for crying and having a tantrum. In some cultures kids are reprimanded for having an opinion as that’s considered disrespectful. Some parents get triggered by their children because of their own unresolved trauma and can’t be emotionally available. 

In some households one parent is emotionally abusive which means they are manipulative, verbally abusive, they very often shame and humiliate the child affecting their self esteem and the other parent is a passive spectator and does not step in to protect the child from the abuse. A child might lean on to the passive parent to survive in this situating. However, that parent is not capable of being an emotional support to the child. They are not capable of validating their feelings and holding space for it. Thus, not only is the child emotionally abused by one parent but also emotionally neglected by the parent they trusted. 

In order to survive, children disconnect from their feelings. They understand that their needs are not important and if they want to be nurtured and accepted they have to do what their caregiver wants. 

Our body communicates with us in different ways. For example you fall and scrape your elbow, it bleeds and that part of your body experiences pain, that’s how you know that you are hurt. Imagine if you could disconnect from that pain you would have never known that you are hurt and could never do the needful to take care of your elbow for it to heal. 


In the same way emotions are the way our subconscious communicates with us. If we are connected with ourselves and self aware then we can listen to those feelings and self regulate, communicate our needs and boundaries. Hence take care of ourselves and nurture relationships. But if we disconnect from our emotions then we cannot do what’s needed to experience relief.

Here are a few symptoms of childhood emotional neglect

People who have experienced emotional neglect have a difficult time connecting with people and developing deep quality relationships.

If parents don’t heal childhood emotional neglect then they might not know how to be emotionally present for their kids and nurture them.

Adults who don’t heal childhood emotional neglect cannot be emotionally available to their partners. 

They go through life feeling emotionally empty, lonely and hopeless not knowing what is really missing.

They have difficulty trusting people

They notice other people with the type of connection they might want but don’t know why they cannot connect in that way.

They have a hard time standing up for themselves.

They tend to criticize themselves a lot. 

They feel like they are not good enough and they are not loveable. That’s why they don’t have those friendships.

They either end up withdrawing from everyone or try too hard at their own expense to maintain relationships.

If you are interested in learning more about the effect of childhood emotional neglect on adults then check out this article.

How to Heal Childhood Emotional Neglect

Healing from childhood emotional neglect is important to give yourself the opportunity to live your life to the fullest.

Acknowledge your pain-

You don’t need to keep everything locked in. It’s a huge burden to carry. In a lot of communities we are taught to not share our feelings and experiences with others. 

To heal childhood emotional neglect you have to acknowledge your experiences without rationalizing why they happened. We have a part that empathizes with our parents. It’s an important part because it helps us maintain a relationship with our parents in spite of the pain we are carrying inside. 

Acknowledging the reason behind your pain is important. If you don’t see yourself and make space then who will. Acknowledging it to a trusted person in your life makes it real. It takes a lot of courage to name the pain. Once it’s real you can start your journey of healing. Sharing your emotional experiences with the right person will make you feel seen and acknowledged. Something you never received growing up.


Strengthen self awareness-

In order to strengthen self awareness you have to get curious about your inner world. When you find yourself in situations that trigger any type of feelings for you, notice how that feeling manifests itself in your body.

For example, if you are feeling anxious you might experience shortness of breath, your palm might get sweaty, you might find yourself preoccupied. Anger shows up as feeling flushed and a hot sensation radiating up your neck all the way to your face. Sometimes discomfort about doing something comes up as doubt and conflicting feelings.

Initially it might be difficult to name and recognize these feelings. Start this journey with curiosity about yourself. For example, if your co-worker asked you for a favor and you know you are swamped and cannot pick up another task. Notice how you feel about setting that boundary. 

Name the feeling that shows up.

Don’t try to run away from uncomfortable feelings-

The only way to heal childhood emotional neglect is through it not around it. You cannot heal by running away from these feelings. 

Whenever we experience intense emotions our first response is to ignore them, distract ourselves, deny the feelings. Emotions are the way your subconscious is letting you know that you did not like something. Ignoring it will not make it go away.

Due to childhood emotional neglect you learnt to deny and ignore their feelings from a very early age. Now as adults you might not know how to reconnect with yourself. 

Anxiety, depression or any autoimmune disorder does not happen overnight. It is a result of years of stress that your nervous system has gone through. 

Our nervous system needs our help to regulate. When you are running away from your feelings you are doing the opposite of self regulation.

Practice self compassion 

To heal childhood emotional neglect practicing self compassion is another important tool.  I get a lot of questions about self compassion from my clients. Some ask what it is, some say I don’t know how to show it to myself. Some say I just can’t do it, I will lose control of things and bad things will happen if I become soft.

Self compassion is holding space for your feelings without any judgment, not blaming yourself, not criticizing yourself. Acknowledging the pain that you are feeling. Understanding the feelings, even if they are anger and resentment. 

Just noticing and observing the feeling flowing through your body in the form of physical sensations and flowing through your mind in the form of thoughts. Not trying to change and  fix anything or find a solution. Self compassion is accompanied by warmth and calmness, without any agenda of wanting the feeling to stop. It’s the capacity to feel emotions and allow them to process out of your body by being present with them. 

If you give yourself this kind of attention your nervous system will calm down and you will know what to do in a situation.

Work on healing your wounded parts

Wounded parts are our younger parts or inner child parts that have been hurt and dismissed. They have never received nurture and care. They learnt that they are not valued and that they are a burden or an inconvenience. They learn that they are not good enough. 

These parts need to be worked with and given the nurture and care that they never received. They need to feel seen and heard and unburdened from all the negative self beliefs that they have been caring for so many years.

This journey requires calmness, courage, presence, curiosity, patience to get to know your inner child’s experience and willingness to compassionately be present with your wounded parts.

Seek professional help

Trauma caused by childhood emotional neglect is very complex. I would recommend seeking professional help to heal childhood emotional neglect. 


A place that can be a safe for you and a container where you can not only talk about your experience and gain awareness but also are guided to healing.

There are certain therapeutic approaches that specifically target healing from trauma. For example, Internal Family systems(IFS) is a therapeutic model that works with your inner child parts. It is a very gentle approach to trauma that uses self compassion, calmness, curiosity to be present with your different parts and work through your childhood trauma. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is another approach that helps heal trauma. It helps reduce the intensity of the hold a traumatic memory might have on your nervous system. This helps reduce trigger response.

In my experience these approaches have been successful in healing childhood emotional neglect because they help regulate your nervous system and unburdened the negative self belief that you might have developed growing up and now it’s holding you back. 

To heal childhood emotional neglect is to go on a journey of self compassion and making space for the parts of you that were shunned and neglected and the parts that have been protecting you and helping you survive. It is a journey of getting to know yourself and being the person that you have been waiting for.

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