My parents don’t care about me

Neglect doesn’t just happen to little kids. If you feel like your parents don’t care about you, it’s possible you’re being neglected – but help is out there.

Sad girl on stairs

Neglect doesn't just happen to little kids.

I thought neglect only happened to younger children?

Just because you’re old enough to feed and dress yourself, doesn’t make you immune to neglect. If you feel like your parents genuinely don’t care about you, it can affect your life in loads of different ways. More than anything, it can lead to painful feelings of abandonment.

How do I know if I’m being neglected?

It’s probably been going on for years but you’re only realising now you’re older. Common signs of neglectful parents are:

  • You’ve noticed there’s rarely a responsible adult at home,
  • You feel unsafe when they’re around,
  • They don’t provide you with basic things you need to get by, like meals, clothes, or stuff for school,
  • They don’t take you to the doctor when you’re ill,
  • You don’t feel you can talk to them when you’re upset about things,
  • Your friends’ parents act differently to yours when you visit their home,
  • You’re allowed to stay out later than your friends, and your parents are less strict,
  • Your parents don’t support things you do, like coming to your football games or gigs.

Are my parents taking advantage of me?

As you get older, you may notice they have unrealistic expectations of your academic potential or they’re pushing you to find a job and finance yourself. When you’re growing up, parents’ expectations do change, but do you feel they’re pushing you for the right reasons?

YMCA England’s Ali Dean says ideally you should feel you’re in a “supported environment”. “It’s all about how growing up is introduced and how well supported the young person is,” she says.

Some parents will ask you to cook, clean and manage household budgets because they’re encouraging the transition from child to adult. But if your parent just wants to abandon their responsibilities and leave it all up to you, this is a form of neglect.

How does being neglected make you feel?

Neglect often provokes a sense of shame, because you don’t want to admit your family is ‘wrong’. You may feel guilty for having bad thoughts about your parents. This could make you hide what’s going on and become introverted. Equally, it could make you angry and aggressive. You may generally feel low and find it hard to concentrate. Your school work may suffer.

Why does neglect happen?

It’s not necessarily your parents’ fault. Often neglect happens because parents themselves weren’t raised properly and they haven’t developed the right skills. It also occurs when they have other complex problems, such as an addiction, mental health problems, being a single parent, or when there is a threat of violence at home.

What can I do about it?

It’s not easy, but you need to tell someone you trust. Ali says the biggest problem with neglect is how to articulate it. “It’s hard to find your voice,” she says. “Young people don’t know it’s safe to say – that’s me.”

Tell a teacher, extended family member, family friend or a youth worker. Try to describe what’s going on at home and how it makes you feel. Don’t be afraid that you’ll break up your family. Many young people fear social services will get involved and they’ll be put in to a home – you’re older than 18, this is impossible as you’re legally considered an adult. If an external organisation gets involved, their first step is to mediate and try to make amends within the family.

Should I leave home?

It might be tempting to go it alone. But living independently and finding accommodation is tough. After 18, parents have no legal obligation towards their children so they can ask you to leave. If you go against their will it might be harder to return. “Nine times out of ten if a young person has moved away they never come back home,” says Ali. “Often they underestimate the difficulties of living independently, particularly if they’re a young parent. Then they wish they could move back.”

If you have to leave, your local authority might help you find accommodation, such as a YMCA hostel.

Next Steps


abuse| parents

By Gabriella Jozwiak

Updated on 29-Sep-2015