9 things you unconsciously do if your parents didn’t spend much time with you

Childhood experiences shape us in ways we often don’t realize.

One key factor is how much time our parents were able to spend with us.

If your parents were frequently absent, you might have developed certain habits and behaviors without even knowing it.

In this article, I’ll uncover some things you are unknowingly doing if your parents didn’t spend much time with you.

Let’s unravel these unconscious habits together, shall we?

1) Seeking constant validation

Growing up without the necessary attention from your parents can often lead to a constant need for validation in adulthood.

It’s a subtle, unconscious behavior that stems from not receiving enough praise or acknowledgement as a child, so you seek it out in your adult relationships and interactions.

You find yourself constantly needing the approval of others to feel good about yourself, not just because you want a pat on the back, but because you need that affirmation to feel secure and valued.

2) Over-independence

The absence of parents during crucial growing years can sometimes trigger an extreme sense of independence.

You learn to rely on yourself because, well, you’ve had to.

I remember, as a kid, making my own meals, doing my own laundry, and basically managing my life because my parents were often not around.

It’s not that they didn’t care; they were just unable to be there due to their work commitments.

This over-independence carried into my adult life. I found it hard to ask for help, even when I clearly needed it.

Accepting help felt like a sign of weakness, a threat to the self-reliance I’d built as a defense mechanism.

It took me a while to understand that it’s okay to need others and that asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a normal part of human existence.

3) Difficulty forming intimate relationships

Having absent parents during your formative years can affect your ability to form close, intimate relationships in adulthood.

It’s an unconscious behavior that’s tied to the fear of abandonment or rejection that originated in childhood.

Research actually shows that children who experienced parental neglect were more likely to have problems with attachment and intimacy as adults.

This doesn’t mean you are doomed to a life of failed relationships, but you need to understand this pattern so you can work through these issues and build healthier connections.

By recognizing your fears, you understand where they stem from, enabling you to take steps to address them.

4) Overcompensating in relationships

Another unconscious behavior that can stem from a lack of parental attention is overcompensating in relationships.

Overcompensation is an exhausting cycle. It can leave you feeling emotionally drained, and it’s not a sustainable way to maintain relationships.

This can manifest in different ways, such as giving too much, constantly seeking to please, or becoming overly attached.

You go out of your way to make others happy, often at the expense of your own needs and happiness, because you’re subconsciously trying to fill the void left by your parents’ absence.

But your worth is not determined by how much you do for others. You need to prioritize your own needs, too.

5) Difficulty trusting others

Growing up without much parental involvement can lead to trust issues in adulthood.

If the people who were supposed to care for you weren’t always there, it can be hard to believe that others will stick around.

Finding it challenging to trust people’s intentions or to find yourself always waiting for the other shoe to drop could result in holding people at arm’s length, out of fear of getting hurt.

These trust issues can make it hard to form close relationships and may lead to feelings of loneliness or isolation.

6) Craving a sense of belonging

One of the most profound effects of not having enough parental time is the deep-seated, often unconscious, craving for a sense of belonging.

When you grow up feeling like you don’t quite fit in your own family, you carry that feeling into adulthood.

It becomes a quest—to find people, places, or communities where you feel seen, heard, and, most importantly, where you feel like you belong.

This longing for belonging can lead to wonderful discoveries. It can push you to seek out new experiences, form deep connections, and build your own chosen family.

7) Hyper-awareness of others’ needs

Having absent parents can often make you more attuned to the needs and feelings of others.

I remember always being the one to notice if a friend was upset or if there was tension in the room. While it made me more empathetic, it also led to a lot of emotional exhaustion.

This hyper-awareness is not necessarily a bad thing. It can make you an excellent friend, partner, or parent.

But remember, it’s not your job to meet everyone else’s needs at the expense of your own. Learning to balance this awareness with self-care and setting boundaries is important for your own emotional wellbeing.

8) Fear of commitment

A common unconscious behavior stemming from a lack of parental time is a fear of commitment. The inconsistency you experienced as a child might make stability seem foreign, even scary.

This can manifest in various areas of life, from relationships to jobs to even making plans. You pull away when things get too serious or jump from one thing to another in search of something that feels “right.”

Understand that consistency and commitment can be positive and reassuring, rather than restrictive. You need to allow yourself to trust in stability and permanence, too.

9) Ability to adapt and evolve

Growing up with absent parents often develops an incredible knack for adaptation.

You learn to adjust to different situations, to be self-reliant, and to make the best out of challenging circumstances.

This ability is a testament to your strength and resilience. It’s a skill that can serve you well in many areas of life, from overcoming obstacles to embracing change.

Final thoughts

Now that we’re here at the end, I hope you’ve come to this important realization:

That this isn’t about laying blame on your parents or dwelling on the past. It’s about understanding the impact of your upbringing on your current behaviors and emotions.

Recognizing these patterns is a powerful step towards introspection and self-awareness. It allows you to make sense of your actions, emotions, and relationships. It’s a gateway to understanding yourself better.

Take this understanding as an opportunity to break free from patterns that no longer serve you. To build healthier relationships with others and, most importantly, with yourself.

You are not defined by your past, but by your resilience and capacity to grow. 

Picture of Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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