They say we don’t always choose our family, however, there comes a time when we must choose whether or not to engage and also how we engage with our family.
This post is coming from a place of childhood trauma and somewhat of a eureka moment where I say “enough is enough”.
The relationship we have with our parents can feel toxic and triggers lack of support if the right foundation isn’t built. That experience is part of my journey.
I grew up in a culture where family dysfunction was never addressed. We operated as if nothing was every awry.
It was either ‘dealt with’ through the shrug of the shoulder, silence, sweeping it under the proverbial rug or burying it in the backyard like a time capsule. However, anything not dealt with now often rears its head at another time.
As such, we move through life not realising that sidestepping our issues in the past was a mere bandaid. Those same issues (in the form of trauma and grossly uncomfortable childhood experiences) show up as we manifest our insecurities as adults.
Those manifestations then affect our adult relationships and if we’re not careful, will become cyclical when we start families of our own.
After completing my medical training to become a Board-Certified family medicine physician, the difficult and strained relationship with my mother overshadowed my hard work to be successful.
Though I have achieved much success, the lingering trauma of childhood loneliness has caused anxiety and feelings of being emotionally responsible for my mother’s emotional state and behaviours.
It dawned on me that my mother never changed. And, if I continued to engage with her in the way I’ve always done, then my progression and growth would forever be stalled.
I had to decide to free myself and choose to love her from a distance. Otherwise, my accomplishments and relationships would’ve never been enough or even worth celebrating to me.
There’s so much more to say but I prefer to open up the conversation about those unhealthy, strained and toxic familial situations that affect us as children and how we carry them in various forms as adults.
In the meantime, I’ve put some lessons together for dealing with the emotionally immature.
Lessons in dealing with the emotionally immature
1. You are not responsible for your parents’ behaviour.
It is easy to listen to the ever-observant onlooker who says, “well you are successful so it could not have been that bad”.
The lack of emotional maturity of your parent is something they must work on. To others, the experience seems normal as provisions were made for your basic needs: food, shelter and clothing. However, the lack of emotional support is something that you cannot change.
2. Seeing our parents as flawed is often a challenging concept to grasp.
Our parents’ childhood oftentimes is projected in how they interact with their children. It is likely that their upbringing lacked the emotional support they needed. So, their inability to engage at a deeper and meaningful level is beyond your control.
3. Do NOT normalize abusive behaviour.
If you find yourself in a relationship as an adult that pattern behaviours from your childhood, be wary. We sometimes unconsciously seek familiarity.
It is important that you recognize these behavioural patterns and set rules of engagement that are beneficial to your well being.
Don’t make excuses for the dysfunctional. Whether it’s with a family member, friend or partner,
boundaries are essential to having a healthy relationship.
4. Protect your freedom and mental health at all cost.
Parents can be emotionally hurtful and draining. Draw a line in the sand and know that suspending contact may be what is ultimately needed.
5. You do NOT have to participate in an unhealthy relationship that will ultimately destroy your peace.
6. Knowledge is power
For children who grew up in homes where the parents were emotionally disengaged, it can be difficult to put in words how you feel.
Verbalizing your feelings and gaining insight will help to reduce the negative feelings of guilt and shame you may feel about yourself. Learning the art of expression came easily for me through the books I’ve read.
“Adult children of Emotionally immature parents” by Dr Lindsay Gibson,
“Attached” by Dr Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
“It didn’t start with you” by Mark Wolynn.
7. Speak to a therapist
I say that lesson six and lesson seven are not mutually exclusive.
For your understanding, it is important to identify certain patterns of behaviour that have contributed to such dysfunctional relationships. They can provide a safe space to do the work in so that you are emotionally whole and break generational trauma that is passed from parents to children. Though it requires a huge commitment it will be the most self-preserving thing you will do for yourself.
Notes on Contributor:
Dr Stennett is an education and health & wellness, enthusiast.
She’s a Board Certified Family Medicine physician in North Carolina.
She played volleyball at the high school level at Wolmer’s Trust High School for Girls in Jamaica which afforded her educational scholarship opportunities. She’s also played volleyball for her home country.
Dr Stennett gives back to students through her SAT Scholarship Fund.