Are you feeling more and more distant from your parents?
Do you find them to be cold and aloof? Do your parents feel difficult to be around?
Do they make you feel that you are never good enough?
Feeling like your parents don’t care about you or love you is a deeply painful experience.
Turns out, if you constantly feel this way, there are some clear signs to look out for, and what you can do about it. Let’s jump right in!
1) They don’t ask about the details of your daily life
If your parents don’t ask you what is going on in your life, then they might seem like they don’t care about your world.
Sometimes we think that knowing the details about someone’s daily life means that we genuinely care about them.
Without asking about your life, they may seem like they are not interested in what you are up to, or have to say. You might think that they are too busy with their own lives to care about yours.
Simply put, it’s important to remember that there is a big difference between being busy and being disinterested. They may not ask you many questions, but they can still be interested in your life.
2) They are not there for you when you need them
If your parents are not there for you when you need them, then it can feel like they don’t care about what happens to you.
As an adult, do you expect them to support you with their time, affection, effort, and finances as you did growing up?
What does that mean for you?
Are these expectations that you hold something that they are capable of providing?
Keep in mind that your parents are aging and they may not have the same amount of vigor and energy to provide you with affection that you would assume.
What you expect from your parents could be different from what they can offer. There are many different approaches to parenting, and this will change throughout our life stage.
3) They don’t give you any advice about your career
If your parents don’t give you advice about your career, then it can feel like they don’t care about what happens to you in life.
Turns out, this might not be the case.
Perhaps they just aren’t good at giving career advice.
Maybe they have never had a job that was related to the field that you are interested in and so they are not familiar with the process of getting a job in that field or with the skills required for success in that field.
Maybe they want to give you advice but realize that there is no way for them to know what is best for you, so instead of giving advice, they ask questions that help them understand your situation better so that they can offer specific suggestions based on your needs and preferences.
4) They don’t ask how you are
If your parents don’t ask how you are doing on an emotional level, then you might feel that they don’t care. But they might not think to ask you these questions.
They might assume that you are just fine or they may not know how to check in and ask you about your emotional well-being.
They might also be busy with their own lives and not feel comfortable discussing and expressing emotions.
If conversations with your parents feel too procedural or inquisitive without a feeling of love and emotional investment, then it can feel like your parents don’t care about you. But remember that this isn’t always the case. You also can take some steps to work on your interpersonal communication skills.
5) They don’t ask about your friends
If your parents don’t ask about your friends or relationships, then it can feel like they don’t care about a major aspect of your life. But maybe there are other reasons for this.
Maybe they want to respect the privacy of your relationships and keep their nose out of it.
Or maybe there is some tension between them and one of your friends that makes them uncomfortable asking about them. They might find it hard to relate to some of your friends because of cultural differences, age differences, or conflicts in beliefs.
Or maybe it’s just not important to them what is going on in your relationships.
It’s important to remember that there are many reasons why your parents might not ask about your friends, and it’s important to try to understand their perspectives.
6) They don’t ask about your plans
If your parents don’t ask you about your plans, then it can feel like they don’t care what you want out of life.
But maybe they are just respecting the fact that you are an adult and want to make your own choices.
They might assume that you are set on a path and want to watch how you go about living your life.
Perhaps they had very controlling parents themselves and they want to give you a sense of freedom that they never had. Or the opposite could be true, maybe they had very little parenting themselves growing up and don’t know how to model a parent that gives life advice and guidance.
7) They don’t ask about your past
If your parents don’t ask you about your past, then it can feel like they don’t care about what you’ve been through.
But maybe there are other reasons why they don’t ask you about your past.
They may assume that you will tell them when you want to or maybe they just aren’t interested in hearing about it.
Maybe they are afraid of bringing up a painful memory.
Maybe they don’t want to remind you of a past that you want to forget.
Maybe they’re just not interested in talking about it.
Maybe they want to avoid the conversation altogether.
Or maybe, deep down, they don’t want you to know that their relationship with a loved one is different from yours and theirs, maybe something that’s been difficult for them all along.
8) They don’t make time to see you
If your parents don’t make time to see you, then it can feel like they don’t care about you.
Keep in mind they have a lot of responsibilities and other things going on in their lives that are more important than seeing you.
Maybe they are working hard to provide for the family or maybe they are just really busy with their own lives and they are waiting for you to reach out.
Perhaps they like to have you reach out and plan something in the future that they can look forward to.
I learned this the hard way. I used to get upset when my parents never called to check-in to see how I was. After a few years of what seemed like a one-sided channel of communication, when I asked my mother about it, she let me know that she always knew that I would call her when I needed it and that I could come by whenever I wanted. She assumed that I would make the first move to reach out every time and that she would always be there when I would.
9) They don’t give you any life advice
If your parents don’t give you advice, then it can feel like they don’t care about what happens to you in life. But this isn’t always the case.
Sometimes parents just aren’t good at giving advice and might not know what to say when asked for it.
Or maybe they want to give advice but realize that there is no way for them to know what is best for you, so instead of giving advice, they ask questions that help them understand your situation better so that they can offer specific suggestions based on your needs and preferences.
Parents do not necessarily have the innate wisdom to share. Some people can be rather reserved.
10) They criticize your choices
If your parents openly criticize your choices, then it can feel like they don’t care about you.
But maybe they are just trying to help you make better decisions and bring up difficult moments into the open so that you can discuss them with each other.
Maybe they are trying to offer constructive criticism so that you can learn from your mistakes and become a better person.
Maybe they want to protect you from making bad decisions and getting hurt in the long run.
11) They don’t financially support you
If your parents don’t give you money, then it can feel like they don’t care about what happens to you in life. On the other hand, they may not want to disclose their finances to you and may not be able to support you in a way that you seem fit.
It could be that they just aren’t able to afford to give money away right now or maybe they are saving their money for something else important like their retirement or paying off debt.
They might also be waiting for an opportunity where it will be more meaningful if they give it away because of a special occasion or milestone that is coming up in the future.
Your parents might be private about their resources. It’s important not to assume that they have disposable income. Perhaps this is not the case.
12) They don’t celebrate your success
If your parents don’t celebrate your success with you, then it can feel like they don’t care about what happens to you in life.
But maybe they are just waiting for the right time to celebrate your success. or perhaps they aren’t aware of what achievements you’ve attained that are meaningful to you.
They might value different milestones than you do.
Or been quietly proud of you. It’s difficult to understand what’s going on in the mindset of our parents. It’s hardly the case that they don’t care for you.
13) They don’t tell you that they love you
If your parents don’t tell you that they love you, then it can feel like they don’t care about you.
Keep in mind that not all of us are comfortable expressing our feelings of love verbally.
There are many ways to show affection. Understanding the five languages of love is one way to see if they express their affection in a way that is different than you would expect.
Maybe they are more comfortable showing their love through actions instead of words. Or they might assume that you know that they love you.
14) They don’t tell you that they are proud of you
If your parents don’t tell you that they are proud of you, then it can feel like they don’t care about what you do in life.
There are many reasons why they might not feel comfortable expressing their pride to you.
They might brag about you to their friends and neighbors but not feel comfortable telling you directly because they want you to continue just as you are.
Or, the things that you feel proud of in your life could be different from what they would feel proud of.
Additionally, your parents might have a different value system from yours and not communicate it with you.
Or it could be that they might be afraid that you will feel pressured to live up to their expectations.
15) They reject you
If your parents flat-out reject you, then it can feel like they don’t care about you.
Remember that you are from a different generation. They did not grow up in your world.
They might not agree with your life choices and preferences and retract their attention and affection from you. You might do things that make them uncomfortable.
If your parents actively cut off communication, give you the silent treatment, or avoid interacting with you, it can be a sign that their love is conditional.
If your relationship with your parents is toxic, there is a great deal of advice and tips to consider.
Have you made efforts to reach out in ways to break down any opposition?
16) They don’t make you feel special
As a child, did they tell you that you were smart, pretty, or talented?
Did they give you extra attention and praise? Or did they give most of their attention to your siblings?
It’s common to carry this perception over time and into adulthood.
When a child is young, parents will often give them the bulk of their attention.
This can be beneficial because that’s when they are learning and growing most rapidly.
However, this pattern may also cause children to develop an unrealistic sense of self-esteem or entitlement as adults.
17) They are not affectionate with you
If your parents are not affectionate with you, then it can feel like they don’t love you.
When you were a child, did they give you hugs and kisses? Or did they only show affection when you behaved well?
This type of patterning can continue into our adult lives.
If you felt distant as a child, then you might have pulled away emotionally. They might have labeled you independent, and in turn, felt little need to express their affection with you.
Over time, each behavior feeds the other, creating more and more distance.
What can you do about it?
“To grow up is to stop putting blame on parents.” (Maya Angelou)
Our relationship with our parents can be one of the most challenging interactions to navigate. It’s hard to talk to them about their behavior and it’s hard for them to hear what you think about your relationship.
According to Psychology Today, there are four main types of parenting styles: Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive, and Uninvolved. If your parents have one that conflicts with your expectations, you might start to feel unloved.
Parents are people. And it’s important to understand who they are as individuals, and not just assume that they are supposed to behave in a certain way.
As an adult, have you tried to get to know your parents on a more personal level?
How much do you know about their own lives, family, background, and how they were raised?
Ask them about their relationship with their parents. And what it was like for them to start a family of their own. You might come to know insights into their values and approaches to your relationship that you weren’t previously aware of.
For example, growing up, I realized that my mother seemed more distant than my friends’ mothers. But when I came to understand that my mother was raised by her aunty, because her mother died when she was one year old, I started to understand that she must have a very different perception of a mother than what my friends were raised with. Empathy allowed me to understand her situation and role more deeply.
The more you come to know them as people, and not idealized characters, the more understanding you will have into how to relate with them.
Furthermore, if specific situations arise where you feel unloved, try to communicate with them.
The good news is that there are some concrete steps that you can take to improve your communication and relationship with your parents.
Here are some tips you can immediately:
1) Identify a specific behavior that bothers you.
2) Express your feelings and thoughts about this behavior clearly and respectfully (see below for an example of how to do this).
3) Listen to what they have to say about their behavior and try not to get defensive or upset.
4) Ask them what they think might help them change their behavior.
Here’s an example of what this conversation might look like:
“Mom and Dad, I’m feeling really upset with the way you talk about my friends behind their backs. It makes me feel like you don’t trust me. I want us to be able to trust each other.”
“When I hear you talking about my friends, it makes me feel hurt and sad. I know that you love me and that you’re just trying to protect me, but it’s not working and it’s making things worse. I would like us to be able to talk about these things without hurting each other.”
“I think that if we talked more about what we’re feeling instead of using harsh words, we would understand each other better and be able to work things out.”
“I love you both very much. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”
When you have a conversation like this, your parents may respond by apologizing. Or they may get defensive or angry.
If they get defensive, try not to take it personally. Remember that the reason they are getting defensive is that it’s hard for them to hear what you have to say and it’s hard for them to change their behavior.
If they get angry, try not to take it personally. Remember that the reason they are getting angry is that it can be hard for them to hear what you have to say and it’s also hard for them to change their behavior.
You can help yourself if you just keep saying “I love you” and “I care about you.”
“I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.” (Maya Angelou)
It will be very helpful if your friends support you in this process. You can also talk with an adult who is close to your parents about how best to support your relationship with them during these changes.
This all takes time, but if you try to open an honest and loving conversation with your parents, you might be able to improve your relationship.