As humans, we crave emotional fulfillment, connection, and closeness. Emotional support is vital for our mental health and emotional development. When we experience emotional neglect or abuse, it can lead to a range of emotional and mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. In fact: emotional neglect can be just as damaging as other forms of child abuse and neglect.
Emotional neglect can be defined as a failure to provide a child with the necessary emotional support and attention they require for healthy emotional development. Emotional neglect can take many forms, including
Ignoring a child's feelings
Withholding or not showing affection, even when requested
Disregard for a child’s mental well-being
Lack of intervention on the child’s behalf (e.g., allowing behavioral problems to go unaddressed)
Pushing a child past their mental and physical abilities
Dismissing their emotions, or
Failing to provide them with the affection and emotional support they need.
Emotional neglect is often a result of parents who are themselves struggling with emotional issues, such as depression or anxiety.
Now: I'm NOT saying that YOU are being neglectful parents, BUT:
It's essential to understand that emotional neglect can have long-lasting effects on a person's emotional and mental health. Emotional neglect can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can result in difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships. It can also lead to difficulty expressing emotions, which can result in bottling up emotions and increased stress levels.
Parents who neglect their child's emotional needs may do so unknowingly or because they themselves were neglected or abused as children... or they're simply too busy to sometimes recognize when their kids need a little more emotional, mental - even academic - support than usual. However, acknowledging when a parent has experienced adverse childhood experiences and not yet done the work to heal from those experiences does not minimize the harm caused to their child as a result. It's important for parents to recognize the importance of emotional support and take active steps to provide it.
How do we do this as parents?!
Providing emotional support involves creating a safe and supportive environment where a child feels seen, heard, and valued. This can be achieved by
Actively listening to a child's feelings
Validating their emotions
Creating opportunities for emotional connection, such as spending quality time together
Providing positive feedback.
But here's the plot twist: Emotional neglect is not limited to childhood experiences.
Adults can also experience emotional neglect, which can lead to difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships. If you feel that you are experiencing emotional neglect in your adult life, it's important to seek help and support.
Of course: healing from emotional neglect or childhood abuse can be a long and challenging journey. It requires acknowledging the past and working to overcome its effects. However, it's essential for a person's health and well-being, and it's never too late to start the healing process.
- The first step in healing from emotional neglect is acknowledging the pain and hurt caused by the past experiences. Now this is the key part: it iss essential to give yourself permission to feel the emotions and process any and all feelings associated with your past. This may involve seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor, but the bottom line is this: you can't fight an enemy you can't see - in other words: you can't heal from a past that you refuse to acknowledge. I wrote another blog about this a few weeks ago - check it out here
- The next step in healing from emotional neglect is learning to re-parent yourself. This involves providing yourself with the emotional support and validation you may not have received as a child. It can involve creating a self-care routine, setting healthy boundaries, and actively practicing self-love and self-compassion. One of the beginning exercises I often take adults I work with through is the opportunity to visualize yourself at the age of your first remembered trauma, and writing yourself a love letter. What would you say to your 4year-, 10year-, 15year, 23year-, or even 45year-old self?
- The next essential step is to practice forgiveness in your healing process. It's important to note that forgiveness is not about excusing the harm that was caused, but rather about releasing the emotional burden associated with the past. Forgiveness can be a challenging process, but it's essential for letting go of the pain and hurt associated with past experiences. After all: holding on to trauma does us far more damage than it does to the person who may have inflicted that trauma into our lives.
- Healing from emotional neglect or childhood abuse requires a commitment to self-care and self-love. It's essential to prioritize your mental and emotional health by seeking help when needed, practicing self-care, and surrounding yourself with positive and supportive relationships. I practice this through everything from yoga, meditation and walks in nature to lifting weights, running, and Krav Maga to reading books, sipping on tea and - of course - listening to, and writing music.
But here's the best part
Often: when explaining what I do as a youth empowerment through songwriting coach to parents, therapists and teachers alike, I'm often met with the same response:
"I wish I'd had someone like you when I was a teenager"
If you're reading this right now, you were probably drawn to music when YOU were a teenager. You had that one band that just seemed to write the soundtrack to your life. You sang in your school choir. You had a rock band. You took vocal lessons. You may have also taken vocal lessons.
But, as well-known American author: Ursula K. Le Guin famously said: "the creative adult is the child who survived". So... what if I told you:
As adults, we have the power to turn our struggles into songs. We can use our experiences to motivate and inspire us to seek emotional fulfillment and connection. We can choose to respond positively to our past and work towards healing and growth.
We can become better parents, teachers, coaches and mentors simply by making sure that we, too, are taking the time to work through our emotional neglect from childhood. Ensuring that we not only give ourselves permission to overcome our own history with emotional abuse, emotionally neglectful parents or caregivers, physical abuse, or struggles with absent parents or parents who struggled with substance abuse: means that we can become healthier, more effective parents ourselves.
And doing that work absolutely leads us to feeling more emotionally fulfilled, supported, connected, and secure with our own mental health.
The other day, I was asked on a podcast how I personally ensure that I'm feeling on track, inspired and motivated to be the best person that I can be - for my clients, for my peers, for my fiancé, for my audience and for the world.
My answer was simple:
To make sure I not only honor that young person who's endured multiple traumas [and you can learn more about that at my TEDx Talk here], I do one of three things:
I go through the plethora of songs I've written over my lifetime: allowing myself the time and permission to both reflect on what was happening at the time that I wrote that song, and digest my journey since then about how I've healed, grown and evolved since the song was written.
I write music. Yep. Even still - as a grown, fully functioning adult: songwriting is still pivotal my own emotional, and mental health - giving me the creative space to explore if there's still more healing that I need to dive into, and/or what current life events are showing up that I could take some time to work through.
Trauma looks different on everyone.
For some of us: it manifested as emotional neglect from childhood.
For others, it's sexual abuse, living with mental illness - or in the same house as someone with mental health disorders.
For still more, trauma can be triggered by a divorce, battles with weight issues, social media, medical complications, systemic racism... no two people are the same, therefore: no two people are going to process trauma the same way.
Which is one of the reasons why I'm so passionate about the concept of not letting the world write your song for you. No two people have the same song - our journeys, and music are unique to us - as children, teenagers or as adults.
What I am passionate about is coaching people - like you! - to identify those specific traumas, simplify each trigger point, lean into the feelings associated with that pain or struggle, and transmute those emotions into something powerful that serves you.
After all: emotions are simply energy in motion.
If you want to learn more about turning your struggles - or the stress, overwhelm, and anxiety of your teenager - into song: CLICK HERE to book a call with me.
I've been doing this work, and studying and implementing these tools for over 20 years, and I know first hand in my clients that it works.
We don't need to let what happens to us dictate our lives. After all: life is 10% what happens to us - and 90% about how we respond.
What song are you responding with?