Book Review: Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents
I began reading this book after hearing therapists rave about it, but besides the title, I admit that I didn’t know much about the contents. The raving was warranted. I found Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents to not only be informative, but enlightening and enjoyable. I highly recommend the read even if at first glance, you don’t resonate with the subject. The exercises that Dr. Gibson outlines and suggests can benefit nearly anyone. Additionally, she presents information in an easily digestible way that allows the reader to really take in and apply the contents. At just over 200 pages, the book is long enough to be thorough, while succinct enough to avoid unnecessary jargon and become overwhelming.
What is this book about?
In the months since I finished reading ACEIP, I have recommended it to clients, friends, and even casual acquaintances. If you have a complicated relationship with your parents, you can benefit. If you have a great relationship with your parents but just want guidance on how to transition that relationship into adulthood, you can benefit. If you are a parent who wants to facilitate a healthy relationship with your children while they are young or when they have grown up, you can benefit.
The book is structured in a logical linear way that guides the reader through what “emotionally immature” looks like, how a parent may act if this is true of them, what signs and coping mechanisms children raised in this environment might display, and how to facilitate the best relationship possible with an emotionally immature parent. Throughout, the author presents vignettes, questions, and examples to help you process and apply the concepts as she describes. There are also additional resources available online through the book’s publisher.
What’s so good about it?
One of the best aspects of the book’s contents as well as the tone of the writing is the way Dr. Gibson is able to balance empathy for emotionally immature parents with the desire to hold them accountable for the consequences of their actions. Generally, parents do the best they can with the knowledge and resources they have available to them. Parents are also people with finite resources and knowledge. It is often hard for an adult child with an emotionally immature parent to remember that while it is not the child’s responsibility to excuse inappropriate and poor parenting, most parents do not have malicious intent to create a harmful relationship.
However, even if the intent was good, the impact of actions can still be painful. When adults with immature parents recognize the unhealthy dynamics within their relationship with their parents and even how it has impacted them throughout their life, it can feel helpless. Dr. Gibson provides a guide for these adults to begin their own healing process and hopefully begin healing their relationships with their parents. While it’s not always possible to have a healthy adult relationship with an emotionally immature parent, it is possible to heal from the childhood trauma that one may prompt
Is this book for me?
Dr. Gibson describes the four types of emotionally immature parents she discusses in ACEIP: emotional, driven, passive, and rejecting. The emotional parent creates an environment characterized by anxiety and chaos. A driven parent will strive for perfection at the expense of healthy relationships. Contrastingly, passive parents avoid conflict and things that are upsetting to them. The rejecting parent withdraws from the family and is often dismissive of their children.
In response to any of these parenting types, children of emotionally immature parents will either internalize or externalize. Internalizing children will likely retreat into themselves as the name suggests. They may become anxious, blame themselves, worry, or try to figure out why their parent acts the way they do. Internalizers are more often those who take on caretaking roles in the family, prioritizing others’ needs over their own, even at the expense of their own wellness. On the other hand, externalizers are more likely to act out in response to emotionally immature parents. They may be reckless, impulsive, blame others, and become angry. These children more often expect others to fix the problems in the family or even grow to think that if others would change, their relationship problems would be resolved.
Ok, this sounds cool, now what?
There is a reason this book was recommended so often and why it’s amassed such positive reviews on Amazon, GoodReads, and more. If any of these parenting types resonate with you or your family or if you recognize externalizing/internalizing traits in yourself, this book may be worth a read. With or without reading Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents, your counselor is a great resource to explore these themes if they sound true to your experience. If you are not already seeing a therapist, we would love to connect you with one at Optimum Joy! Whether your goal is to work on your relationship with emotionally immature parents or something else entirely, we are honored to partner with you on your mental wellness journey.
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Written by therapist Megan Hanafee-Major