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Unresponsive, Unsupportive Parents

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From the U.S.: I’m writing to ask for your help in understanding what I’m dealing with in terms of my parents (especially my mom). I hope you can help, as things are snowballing. I’m dealing with life issues (largely, career), as people do, and the response I get from my parents is (what I consider) unsupportive, negligent and wholly unresponsive.

I’ve always thought that family would really, genuinely help each other, if help is sought. (It’s what I do, anyway). In my particular instance, I do seek help of my parents. I am crystal clear in expressing my feelings, my thoughts, my problems and my request for help, many times over.

Their response, proven again and again, is to offer sympathy in the moment, but by the next day my problems are forgotten and never spoken of again — until I bring them up, and ask for help again. What really hurts is that I seem to be their last priority, as they focus on other concerns instead.

My parents never inquire as to how I am, or how I’m managing. General conversations are usually about impersonal, practical matters. And when we argue, there is no response or follow-up (unless from me).

Ultimately, my parents give me little to no help. And that I keep expressing myself, and that their effort, support and response is repeatedly minimal is causing greater problems.

This is in contrast to their help of my longtime-delinquent brother, for whom they would jump when he said “jump.”

What am I encountering? How do I deal with this?

(ps. My mom is a quiet, shy person–but not as much with her family as with strangers. My dad, however, is not. They both tend towards introversion.)

Unresponsive, Unsupportive Parents

Answered by on -

A.

Not everyone gets the parents they would like to have. At 25, you know who your folks are and how they are likely to respond to you. They are not likely to change, no matter how much you wish it, argue about it, or criticize them for it.

My guess is that, to them, you look like you are doing fine in contrast to your brother. Their emotional energy has been tied up in trying to get him on the right track. They don’t have enough left over to offer you more than their confidence that you will figure things out for yourself. That is a kind of support.

Although this may be difficult and painful for you, it is not unusual. Often the siblings of kids who are chronically physically or mentally ill or who are constantly in trouble feel neglected or like their needs take second place. The child in trouble gets most of the support because that is where most of the support is needed.

I suggest you find a way to be more compassionate toward your folks, especially since they both tend to be introverts. They are dealing with things as best they can. They didn’t ask for a delinquent kid and it’s all they can do to deal with the feelings and practical problems that go with having one.

Instead, love them for who they are and find other adults to turn to for advice and more direct support. There may be someone in the extended family who can both help you understand your parents and offer you the help you seek. If not, start making friends with teachers and the parents of your friends. There are many good-hearted and wise older folks who would be happy to listen to you and to offer you the encouragement and support you want as you move forward in life.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Unresponsive, Unsupportive Parents

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Unresponsive, Unsupportive Parents. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2017/02/27/unresponsive-unsupportive-parents/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.