Parents affect their child’s life in more ways than they initially realize. Some of the things your child goes through during their childhood can cause emotional damage. While you might recognize some of the instances immediately, there are others that you don’t always immediately see.

Even good parents aren’t perfect, so some of your actions can cause emotional damage. Damage occurs when caregivers verbally or emotionally assault a child. These behaviors damage their self-esteem and disrupt their well-being.

Emotional damage doesn’t go away, as studies show it lingers later in life. It can cause mental health problems that affect their life forever.

Emotional damage can be just as bad for a child as physical abuse. Even one instance of emotional abuse can disrupt their life and cause serious harm. Parenting is hard enough, so learn the reasons for emotional trauma to help give your child the best life possible.

What Is Emotional Abuse?

Research shows that approximately one in seven children has experienced abuse in the past year in the United States. Some of these instances included neglect and emotional abuse.

Anytime a child is made to feel unloved, worthless, scared, or alone, it’s emotional abuse. It’s sometimes called psychological or verbal abuse, and it’s more common than any other type. It involves hostility, yelling, criticism, rejection, teasing, bullying, and witnessing violence.

There are often signs that a child has emotional damage. If you recognize any of these signs, you can’t go back and change anything, but you can do better in the future. Use this information to identify issues and find ways to overcome and help your child regain confidence and self-esteem.

emotional damage

Emotional abuse is complex, and there is more than one type. The different types include:

  • Rejection: A child gets told that they are unwanted or worthless
  • Withholding affection: The caregiver ignores the child, showing little interest.
  • Threats and yelling: The child experiences threats, yelling, and cursing.
  • Isolation: A child is allowed to engage with friends and loved ones.
  • Corruption: This type occurs when an adult exposes a child to drugs, alcohol, inappropriate conduct, or criminal behavior.
  • Exploitation: A caregiver exploits a child when they force an activity without their consent or consideration of their well-being.

Signs and Effects of Emotional Damage

Getting a handle on detrimental behaviors that cause damage to your children is essential. There are many negative impacts of emotional abuse. If you think your child or anyone else is experiencing emotional damage, look for these signs:

  • avoiding going home
  • running away
  • low self-esteem or confidence
  • developmental delays
  • declining school work
  • anxiety or depression
  • being afraid or distressed
  • secretive or disruptive behaviors
  • frequent changes in emotional behavior
  • trying too hard to please parents
  • inability to connect
  • being unable to relate to others
  • withdrawn behavior
  • feeling like no one wants them around
  • self-blame and guilt
  • inability to trust adults
  • lying or stealing
  • self-harm
  • suicidal thoughts
  • substance abuse
  • unhealthy coping strategies
  • sucking, biting, or rocking for comfort
  • anti-social behaviors
  • eating disorders
  • difficultly sleeping or sleeping too much
  • aggressive or destructive behavior
  • inability to express themselves

Trauma affects children differently depending on how old they are. Preschool-aged children might also experience separation anxiety, eat poorly, have nightmares, and cry often.

Reasons Children Have Emotional Damage That Parents Don’t Realize

There are many reasons children have emotional damage, and you might not know all of them them. When you know the causes, you can work to avoid them in your life. Plus, you can alleviate ongoing issues that might lead to trauma.

1. Gossiping with Their Parent

You might think gossiping with your child is harmless, but it has lasting effects. Talking about other family members or friends behind their backs creates a toxic environment.

Even if you don’t intend it to be, your child might subconsciously feel they have to choose their loyalty. They feel like if they say the wrong thing, you’ll think they’re disloyal to you. This reason isn’t to say that filling each other in on other family members is detrimental. However, bad-mouthing others can cause emotional damage.

2. They Witness You Repressing Your Emotions

You might repress your emotions as a coping mechanism for issues you experienced during childhood. If you’ve handled it your entire life, you may not realize you even do it.

You’ll ignore your feelings and pretend everything is okay when it’s not. It teaches your child to behave the same way, making them shut down their feelings instead of feeling them and opening up. Instead, teach them to become emotionally intelligent by allowing them to see you handle things positively.

3. Intense Pressure and Scrutiny

If you pressure your child to excel at everything and never give them room for mistakes, they’ll suffer. Your child will feel like you only love or care about them when they’re doing something well. Sometimes you’ll unintentionally hurt your child’s feelings when they didn’t accomplish something the first time.

If you find that you often do this, make a conscious effort to change because they must know they’re unconditionally loved. Intense pressure and scrutiny negatively affect the child, even with good intentions. They’ll feel your love only occurs when they do what you want.

4. Excessive Teasing

You might think it’s harmless to joke around with your child, and it usually is. However, excessively teasing your child can create emotional damage.

It can decrease your child’s self-esteem if you target their insecurities or cause them to feel left out of a joke. This behavior is a form of manipulation and involves mockery, demoralizing interactions, and humiliation.


5. Witnessing Unhealthy Relationships

When a child sees unhealthy adult relationships, it creates emotional damage. They learn to interact in the same unhealthy ways, setting them up for unhealthy relationships throughout life. If they see or experience passive-aggressive or manipulative behavior, they quickly learn it.

Children who witness unhealthy relationships learn to push good people away because they’re scared to get hurt. It can also cause trust issues and an inability to engage in social settings.

6. Experiencing Financial Stress

It can take a toll if a child’s family experiences financial stress, poverty, or unemployment. Not only do they face the reality of the situation, but they also pick up on their parents’ stress. Living in a low-income neighborhood often indicates a lack of resources. If that’s the case, they might be dealing with negative feelings they’re afraid to open up about.

7. Being Compared to Siblings

Comparing children to their siblings is highly detrimental to their well-being. It causes emotional damage because they’ll never feel good enough. They’ll only focus on their shortcomings rather than honing in on their strengths.

Comparing your children to one another also creates tension between siblings, further creating emotional damage. They’ll always pick at one another, never wanting to admit when the other has done something well. Sibling rivalry is expected, but you don’t want to make it anything more than that.

8. Privacy Violations

It’s your job to look out for and protect your children, but there should be boundaries. If you constantly invade your child’s privacy, they’ll feel like they can’t have limits in their life. It’ll cause them to struggle with telling others no and can lead to a lack of boundaries in other areas of their life.

9. Experiencing Major Life Changes

When a child goes through life changes like moving to a new home or having a sibling, it can cause emotional damage. It won’t always cause issues but can cause turmoil and detrimental changes.

10. Receiving Frequent Guilt Trips

If a child frequently is made to feel guilty, it’ll cause emotional turmoil. They might receive a guilt trip about spending time with others or things outside their control. Whatever it is, it can make them feel obligated to do things they don’t want to do. It can also cause them to miss out on new opportunities or experiences.

Why a Child Doesn’t Always Speak Up

Many people think that if a child experienced emotional trauma, they’d say something. However, this isn’t usually the case.

In many cases, the child feels a sense of loyalty to the person hurting them. They want their caregiver to love and approve of them, so they keep the issues to themselves. Other times, they might be afraid to open up because they don’t know what will happen.

Some children think that everyone gets overly criticized, denied affection, or called names. If they’ve experienced it all their life, they won’t know anything is amiss. When they recognize the difference in their situation, they might be embarrassed to call attention to it.

emotional damage

Final Thoughts on Reasons Children Have Emotional Damage That Parents Don’t Realize

Emotional damage from childhood can affect people throughout adulthood. If you recognized any of the reasons on this list, it’s time to make a change in your family unit. Sometimes you don’t realize it’s harming them, and you can improve it at any time.

If you recognize any signs of emotional damage in another child, make sure to be a positive influence on them. You might not be able to speak up to their parent, but you can try to offer help however possible. Sometimes you might want to report neglect to ensure the child is taken care of.