how to heal from childhood emotional neglect

How to Heal from Childhood Emotional Neglect


Childhood emotional neglect is a type of maltreatment that involves not meeting a child’s emotional needs enough or at all. While some types of maltreatment such as physical and sexual abuse are more well-known and spoken about, childhood emotional neglect often goes unnoticed due to its subtlety. It affects many people but can be challenging to recognize. Acknowledging and processing childhood emotional neglect are crucial components of healing. Here, we will go over the steps to take to heal from the effects of childhood emotional neglect.

Understanding Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)

Definition of CEN

Childhood emotional neglect entails parents or caregivers failing to respond appropriately to a child’s emotions resulting in the child feeling invalidated, unimportant, or invisible. The child’s emotional needs may be neglected due to parents’ preoccupation with factors such as their careers or financial struggles.

Examples of CEN

– Parents who consistently ignore a child’s expressions of sadness, fear, anxiety, or anger.
– Parents who give minimal responses when their child shows them excitement about an accomplishment or milestone.
– A parent that fails to notice if their child is present or absent in an essential event like a school performance.

Possible causes of CEN

There are many reasons why parents may not effectively meet a child’s emotional needs. Some possible causes include:

– Lack of understanding about how important it is to attend to a child’s emotions
– Dealing with extreme financial difficulty or stressful circumstances
– Previous parental rejection during the caregiver’s own childhood
– Absence of an adequate caregiving model in the caregiver’s life

Effects of CEN on adult life

Consistent experiences of childhood emotional neglect can lead to difficulty regulating emotions, low self-worth, impaired social skills, and children who grow up feeling that their emotional needs are not essential. These issues often result in difficulties with work relationships and personal relationships.

The Healing Process

Stage One: Acknowledgement and Acceptance

Admitting the issue is the first step towards healing. Accepting responsibility for it is important as well towards learning how to heal.
Cultivating self-compassion can make it easier to address this challenging topic. This involves choosing to be kind and gentle with yourself.

Stage Two: Grieving and Processing

Processing the emotions associated with childhood emotional neglect may involve grieving the loss of a childhood that did not have its needs met. There is no single way to grieve or process, but ensuring that this happens in a healthy way requires acknowledging, identifying, understanding, and eventually releasing past emotional pain.

Stage Three: Re-parenting Yourself

Re-parenting requires re-learning how to treat ourselves better—that we are worthy of love and care. When we’re emotionally neglected as children, we lack an adequate internal model(s) for taking care of ourselves in a healthy way. To move forward healthily, we then need to understand what it means to take care of ourselves and replace old habits with new healthy ones.

Stage Four: Building Healthy Relationships

Healing from emotional neglect often involves establishing healthier relationships by setting healthy boundaries or red flags when coming across unhealthy relationships.

Stage Five: Living with Purpose and Fulfillment

Defining one’s life purpose goes beyond any notion of set milestones: creating a healthy sense of legacy ties into self-forgiveness (allowing oneself to see what was happening objectively). Take time, plan specific steps which include valued experiences, build nurturing relationships, and partake in rewarding hobbies.

Tools and Techniques for Recovery


The following types of therapy are a few examples of the common types of therapy that might be useful for those dealing with childhood emotional neglect:

Talk therapy

This type of psychotherapy involves talking to a licensed counselor or psychologist about your feelings, experiences, and past events.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a psychological treatment modality that emphasizes transforming beliefs, attitudes, and behavior patterns.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

A specialized form of CBT designed specifically to treat those struggling with intense emotional dysregulation issues such as those who often struggle with self-harm tendencies.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a form of psychotherapy in which clients are asked to talk about upsetting material while utilizing eye movements or other forms of stimuli.

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy is a therapeutic approach utilized to help those struggling with emotional regulation from the perspective of circumstances where relationships can be severely emotionally sabotaged.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is used to dig deep into one’s unconscious thoughts and emotions to better understand how they influence individual’s current mental states.

Self-Help Strategies

There are many self-help strategies that individuals can utilize:

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation can increase levels of emotional awareness. It’s designed to increase your attention span by practicing focus in the present moment without judgment.


Journaling allows the ability to identify and write down negative beliefs, memories, or emotions. When done regularly, it becomes easier to identify roots and processes of negative thought patterns.

Creative Therapies

Creative therapies include art therapy, music therapy, and dance/movement therapy, which can help individuals better understand themselves.

Nature Immersion

Nature immersion involves spending time outdoors with nature. Nature immersion promotes compassion for the self and others through the use of ecotherapy or animal-assisted therapy.


It’s important to acknowledge that healing is a process. Acknowledge the impact of CEN and responsibility for one’s healing journey. Grieving and rebuilding trust in oneself requires time investment. Building healthy relationships involving setting boundaries, identifying red flags in relationships, cultivating communication skills, requesting assistance when needed should be prioritized. Therapy may also be helpful in addressing missed opportunities for emotional transactional available from childhood experiences. By accepting one’s limitations and vulnerabilities, internal barriers are faced instead of trying to push them away. Overall, It requires one’s consistent diligence towards practicing effective techniques and acknowledgment of past stressors as well as remaining mindful and compassionate throughout this powerful journey.

7 FAQs About Healing from Childhood Emotional Neglect

1. What is childhood emotional neglect?

Childhood emotional neglect (CEN) refers to the failure of parents or caregivers to adequately respond to a child’s emotional needs. This can involve things like not providing enough affection, not validating their feelings, or failing to protect them from emotional harm.

2. How does CEN affect adults?

Adults who experienced CEN may struggle with a range of issues, including difficulty identifying and expressing emotions, feeling disconnected from others, low self-esteem, and a sense of emptiness that they struggle to fill.

3. Can CEN be healed?

Yes! While it can take time and effort, it is possible to heal from CEN. The process typically involves learning to recognize your emotions and needs, developing healthy coping mechanisms, and exploring past experiences with the help of a therapist or other professional.

4. What type of therapy is best for healing from CEN?

There are many types of therapy that can be helpful for healing from CEN. Some effective approaches include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), emotionally-focused therapy (EFT), and psychodynamic therapy. It’s important to find a therapist who has experience working with individuals who have experienced emotional neglect and who you feel comfortable talking to.

5. How can I start the healing process?

  • Recognize the problem: Acknowledge that you experienced emotional neglect in childhood and that it may be impacting your life in significant ways.
  • Show yourself compassion: Recognize that the effects of CEN aren’t your fault and be kind to yourself as you begin the healing process.
  • Find support: Reach out to a therapist, support group, or trusted friend or family member who can offer emotional support.

6. How long does it take to heal from CEN?

There is no set timeline for healing from CEN and the process looks different for everyone. Some people may make significant progress in a matter of months, while for others it may take years. The important thing is to commit to the process and remain patient with yourself along the way.

7. What can I do on my own to aid in my healing?

  • Journal: Write down your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. This can help you identify patterns of behavior and triggers that are linked to your experiences with CEN.
  • Spend time in nature: Being outside and connecting with nature can be incredibly grounding and calming.
  • Meditate: Practice mindfulness meditation regularly to help reduce stress and increase awareness of your emotions.

If you’re struggling with the effects of childhood emotional neglect, remember that healing is possible. By taking steps to address your past experiences and develop healthy coping mechanisms, you can create a brighter future for yourself.

keys takeaways

Key Takeaways: Healing from Childhood Emotional Neglect

  1. Self-awareness is the first step: Acknowledge the emotional neglect that you experienced growing up, and understand how it has impacted your current relationships and sense of self-worth.
  2. Learn to validate your emotions: Accept that your feelings are valid and important. Practice expressing them in a healthy way and seek out safe spaces to explore and process them.
  3. Develop healthy coping mechanisms: Instead of numbing or avoiding difficult feelings, find positive ways to cope with them. This could include hobbies, meditation, therapy, or support groups.
  4. Focus on building relationships: Connect with others who can offer empathy, understanding, and validation. Be patient with yourself throughout the healing process – it takes time, effort, and professional help to overcome the effects of emotional neglect.

Healing from childhood emotional neglect is not easy, but it is possible. By prioritizing self-awareness, emotional validation, healthy coping strategies, and positive relationships, you can move forward from your past and build a happier and healthier future for yourself.

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