Childhood Emotional Neglect Part 3: Healing Emotional Neglect to be a Better Parent, Partner, and Person

June 20, 2024

**This blog is a continuation of my previous post “Childhood Emotional Neglect Part 2: 5 Ways in Which Childhood Emotional Neglect Still Hurts Us“. If you haven’t read part two, double back and read it here before moving forward with this entry. 

If my last two blogs resonated with you, you are not alone and it’s going to be okay. It’s common to feel betrayal, surprise, anger, or sadness once you realize that you missed out on important emotional connections early in life. Many people also express concern that they are doomed to repeat the patterns they have internalized from their parents. Luckily, this isn’t the case. With a little insight and some therapy, you can begin to reflect on your childhood with gentle curiosity and leave behind what no longer serves you. Pop-psychology calls this working on your inner child, or reparenting yourself.

Unfortunately, we cannot go back in time to offer our younger self the emotional connection, tenderness and understanding we weren’t able to receive from our parents. Children are unable to emotionally regulate themselves and need to be able to connect to a safe adult to express those emotions without fear of being shut down, ignored or punished. Children (and adults!) need the reassurance that their emotions are valid, and that they are still loved when they have “difficult” emotions.

For Parents 

If you were emotionally neglected as a child, you likely experienced adults dismissing or minimizing your feelings. If you have children now, it can be extremely difficult to offer them unconditional and curious acceptance of their feelings because it can be upsetting for you to witness those big emotions. Common sayings you probably heard as a child may have sounded like: “I’ll give you something to cry about”. This kind of messaging reinforces the idea that those feelings were bad, and you were taught to stop them. So, when your child exhibits those same feelings, your protective instinct is to stop those feelings, because you learned that those emotions were bad and having bad emotions made you unlovable. 

Reparenting yourself is a beautiful way to connect with your inner child and give your younger self safety now. You can be the adult you needed as a child. And you can learn to parent your children in the way that you wish you had been parented, which can be deeply healing. Instead of dismissing and minimizing your childrens’ feelings (even if you perceive them to be irrational), empathize with them and offer to console them or sit with them in those feelings. 

For Partners

In our adult relationships, emotion coaching looks different because we are relating to someone who is about as emotionally developed as we are, as opposed to working with kids and teens who simply do not have the neurological development needed to fully navigate their emotions. If you are easily influenced by your partner’s emotions (they’re grumpy so you’re grumpy), or you react defensively to their emotions when they aren’t directed at you, or you constantly try to fix their negative emotions, you may benefit from some inner child work. 

As someone who experienced emotional neglect as a child, you learned to carefully navigate the emotions of people around you. You were highly attuned to your parents and were able to decipher their mood by the weight of their steps on the stairs, or the way they slammed the car door when they got home. You were ready to console your parent or stay the hell out of their way.

This is a protective mechanism that your very clever brain adapted to in order to keep you safe. If you are in an adult relationship that doesn’t feel safe, you have the ability to leave in a way that was impossible as a child. This means that you should be safe even if your partner is angry, disappointed, sad etc. You do not have to match or fix their emotions; you are an independent person from them. You can sit with them in their emotions and offer your love and support and help them regulate their emotions if that’s what they need but you do not have to change their emotions. If this sounds really difficult to you, you may look into some individual work with your inner child or some relationship counseling to help you learn to navigate other people’s feelings in a healthier way.

For You

So here is what most of this comes down to: children who experienced emotional neglect learned to dismiss and minimize their feelings. Now that you are an adult, you may have a hard time speaking kindly to yourself. If your internal monologue is mean, ask yourself whose words those are. Ask yourself if you would speak to a child the way you speak to yourself…if the answer is “absolutely not!” it might be a time to consider going to therapy to help heal that inner child and offer yourself the compassion and understanding you have always longed for.

You can learn to believe that you are not too much, that your feelings aren’t too big or a hindrance. You can learn to offer yourself the compassion and tenderness you’ve always needed. Additionally, with internalized self-compassion, your connections with people become more authentic and you can engage in emotional intimacy with people you love and trust. You can safely experience vulnerability, and foster deeply fulfilling emotional relationships with friends, family and intimate partners. In summary, we can turn inwards and offer that emotional connection to our inner child. Through reparenting ourselves and even making an effort to be deeply, emotionally attuned to our own children and partners, we can slowly learn what it’s like to safely express emotions. I highly recommend this kind of work to people who are/want to be parents or people who are/want to be in an intimate partnership— so yes that’s just about everyone.

Be Well,


Written By:
Gianna Colera, LPC-Associate, LMFT-Associate, Supervised by Nicole Richardson, LPC-S, LMFT-S


Past Posts

Contact Us

We’re here to help you transform you life!