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A 20-Something-Year-Old Adult Child of Emotionally Immature Parents

You are a twenty-something-year old. You are no longer living in the confines of a parent’s home. You recognize that you are an adult now, separate from that of your parent. You do not require their presence in order to get your basic needs met. You are an individual, autonomous being.


You feel entirely overwhelmed by this recognition of newborn freedom.  


You feel a deviation from who you are at your authentic core. You feel disconnected, uncertain, and numb. You feel wildly detached from what it is that you are wanting, needing, aspiring.


You grew up in a home with emotionally immature parent(s). You learned that in order to get your needs met, you mustn’t have needs at all. Your needs were always being put in a dark, closed, closet, so that you could give all that you had to your caregiver.


Perhaps your caregiver had a rocky, volatile mood that felt unpredictable. You perpetually had that “walking on eggshells feeling” when you were around them. You weren’t sure which mood they would be in when you woke up in the morning, and you weren’t sure what it would be when you returned from school.


This felt anxiety provoking and scary. You couldn’t act or be authentically you until assessing which temperament they were in at that moment in time. Now that you are grown, you have this part of you that might be deemed a “people pleasing part.” This part of you works so hard to protect you – it likes to “sus” out other people’s behavior and aura before acting – in the same way it had to when you were a child.


Perhaps your caregiver relied heavily on you to regulate their own emotionality. You were a parentified child, acting as a sounding board for your parent’s hostility, rage, and upset. You found yourself taking on their pain as your own, feeling unable to separate what they were going through from yourself. You often felt that this was your own fault, your own inner badness, as they would project so much onto Little You.


Now you are twenty-something, and you have the physical space and emotional maturity to begin processing who you are, and how your experiences have impacted you. As you appreciate this newfound space, you simultaneously feel flooded with emotions that feel difficult to verbalize. You are learning to differentiate yourself from your parent(s), and with this, comes an immense amount of grief – grief in recognizing the way you wish your parent could have showed up for you during your childhood.


Being a young adult of an emotionally immature parent can feel like you do not know who you are. It can feel de-stabilizing and ambiguous. You might feel like a perfectionist – working tirelessly to gain the approval of others to finally satisfy your parent. You might feel like a people pleaser – constantly de-prioritizing your own needs to satisfy the needs of others. You might feel like a fraud – unsure of who you are without the context of being so needed and relied upon by your parents. All of these experiences are so real, so valid, and so emotional. You have had so many protective parts of you that have learned how to adapt and survive in a chaotic household with a lack of adult direction.


If this sounds like you, know that you are not in isolation. I specialize in working with young adult children of emotionally immature parents, and I am more than happy to connect you with care! You deserve to feel seen, heard, and empowered.

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