Physically absent parents are not the only ones who create emotional voids in their children. There is another type of parent that is rarely talked about and that is parents who are physically present in the home but mentally or emotionally absent from the lives of their children.
When you’re raising children with an emotionally absent parent, it can be a little harder to identify and talk about. One of the most obvious signs is that it feels like you are parenting alone even when your partner is around. That said, feelings can be fleeting and it’s easy to second guess yourself when you are making a judgement based solely on feelings. So here are more tangible signs that your partner has completely checked out of parenting.
They believe finances are the only thing they need to contribute
A primary sign of an emotionally absent parent is one who believes that they are only required to financially invest in their children. They think that financial contributions absolve them of the responsibility of physically caring for their kids and seek to avoid emotional care as well.
They don’t engage in conversation
Emotionally absent parents will sometimes avoid engaging their children in conversation. They may appear agitated or uncomfortable when talking to their kids. They may also seek to end conversations quickly.
They shrink into themselves during family time
An emotionally absent parent may be physically present during family activities but mentally, they are checked out. Some examples include coming to dinner wearing headphones or being on their phones for the duration of an activity.
They choose solo activities over family time
Everyone needs downtime, it’s how we recharge; however, an emotionally absent parent will, more often than not, choose solo activities over spending time with their family. This can look like choosing to stay home and watch television while the rest of the family heads to the zoo or going out alone during family movie night.
They ignore or fail to recognize when the kids try to engage them
One of the more heartbreaking indicators that you’re parenting with someone who is emotionally absent is when the intentionally ignore and fail to realize when the children are trying to engage them in play or conversation. In older children, this can look like a child trying to talk to their parent who is engrossed in their smartphone. A younger child may attempt to engage by presenting their parent with their favorite toy in hopes that the parent will play with them, but instead the parent simply sits the toy down or hands it back to them with no meaningful interaction.
They consider looking after their own kids “babysitting”
Emotionally absent parents often see active parenting as a chore that is someone else’s responsibility. For example, they lament about the inconvenience of “babysitting” when in actuality, they’re just looking after and taking care of their kids.
They think they’re doing you a favor by helping with the kids
Emotionally absent parents typically expect some sort of parade or pat on the back for any small thing they do for their kids. Instead of viewing their actions as fulfilling their parental duties, they believe they’re doing the other parent a favor.
They choose discipline over understanding
Parents who lack an emotional connection with their kids are often quick to discipline them for misbehavior but invest little in understanding the issues that may have caused their kids to act out in the first place.
They never talk to the kids about what interests them
Parents who are oblivious to the interests of their children and who don’t seek to encourage those interests in their kids are often emotionally detached in some way. In fact, they likely encourage their kids to do things that interest them rather than taking time to learn what interests their kids.
They rarely show interest in the kids’ extracurricular activities
Emotionally absent parents will sometimes show little to no interest in the academics or extracurricular activities of their children. You usually won’t catch them at open school night, dance recitals or basketball games and when they do attend, they do so begrudgingly.