Have you ever wondered what happens when a child doesn’t feel loved? Of course, you don’t want to let it go on to find out, but sometimes it feels as though you can’t win. And if your child just can’t seem to understand how much you love them, no matter how hard you try, what damage is done?
I’m a mother of a child who has struggled with regular thoughts that he wasn’t loved. Expressing himself when he was upset or frustrated, he’d regularly claim “you don’t love me” or “you hate me.”
Despite all we do and the progress we’ve made, he still, easily, reverts to thoughts about our dislike for him.
I’m also an adult child who struggled with these feelings my whole life. My mother passed away before we could learn to resolve our issues.
I don’t say this for pity. Rather as an inspiration for myself and others, because I’m in a unique position to learn to show my child just how much I love him and have a greater understanding of my upbringing.
So, what happens when a child doesn’t feel loved?
From my experience, feeling unloved or insecure taught me to be cautious about my friendships and relationships.
Well … sort of.
I spent way too many years wasting energy on people who didn’t love and appreciate me, I suppose seeking approval where I could get it.
I would make and lose friends. And generally, it didn’t bother me that people were in and out of my life, regularly.
It took me years to get into a long-term, serious relationship, and even then I was certain he would just be fun for a little while. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong about the timing, as he ended up being the man I am now married to and adore!
But I generally tend to be guarded.
I didn’t trust people. And I still find it hard to trust!
According to Patient UK, children who feel unloved can develop Child Attachment Disorder.
Children who feel unloved generally feel insecure, and unconfident, and develop a fear of abandonment.
When left unresolved, children grow into adults who struggle with relationships and have difficulties understanding what real, healthy love looks like.
Gosh, that explains a lot.
It wasn’t until I met the man I married that I began to “heal”. I’ve found a trustworthy partner who has been by my side through thick and thin. And he’s one of the few people I can truly put my trust into a feel safe.
What are the signs your child feels unloved?
Emotional neglect can cause:
- developmental delays.
- and more.
SO. MUCH. MORE.
Yeah, okay I guess that might explain my aggression.
And we definitely see a lot of this in at least one of the two kids.
But wait! You’re not here because you’re intentionally neglecting your child of love and emotion, right?
Of course not!
I certainly don’t believe my husband and I emotionally neglected our children, yet here we are with issues. So what happened?
Why does your child feel unloved?
We don’t have any reservations about praising our children, giving plenty of hugs (although a few more couldn’t hurt), and doing so much with them.
It can be so confusing when you do everything for your children, yet hear them say “You don’t love me.”
You do your best to give them the life you always wanted. Perhaps they want for nothing. But somehow, it never seems to register just how much you love them.
Why is that?
Your child may feel unloved because:
- there’s a mismatch in your parenting style compared to your child’s needs, and/or
- you’re not speaking your child’s love language
Sometimes, it’s things you say when you’re mad.
If you think about the way you react to your child when they’ve done something that makes you lose it, and I mean really reflect on how things could be misconstrued at the moment, you’d probably be ashamed of yourself.
I’ve been plenty ashamed and guilty!
One of my kiddos has a tendency to forget a jacket, lunchbox, or water bottle at school almost every damned day.
It got so old and annoying that I literally would roll my eyes and ask “Why can’t you remember your stuff?”
And did that ever help this kid remember his stuff?
In fact, he became really down on himself and he continues to forget his stuff!
So, what can we do?
Among other things to do when your child feels unloved, you can:
- Learn to speak your child’s love language.
- Adapt your parenting style.
- Let go of the little stuff (a.k.a. pick your battles)
- Mind your words – direct your dislike over an action rather than at your kiddo.
Instead of dwelling in blame or regret, we can choose to learn and grow, not only for the sake of our children but for our own well-being.
I could have spent the rest of my life blaming my mother for my feelings. And maybe she could have attempted to learn why I felt unloved. But it didn’t happen and I’m learning that it’s not just my son’s responsibility to reflect on the things his dad and I do to prove our love to him.
No, it’s also on us to reflect on our parenting styles, actions, and words that might contribute to our child’s perception of our feelings toward him.
And we’re learning.
While learning to adapt and overcome, to strengthen our bond with both our children, I’m learning to forgive my mother. Because, for all I know, she grew up feeling unloved and never had those feelings resolved.
I’m learning to heal.
I’m learning to heal myself and my children through this scary, emotional phase and you can too.