4 Signs Your Parents Never Apologized & It's Affecting You Now

Photo: Aleshyn_Andrei / shutterstock 
Young brunette with red lips and sunglasses with an attitude

Parental apologies weren't always common in families. In fact, a parent saying, "I'm sorry, I was wrong" to a child may have been considered bad parenting in previous generations. 

One powerful example of what happens in a non-apology family dynamic comes from the WhatintheShibal podcast, where co-host Ed spoke of the time when his mom wouldn’t speak to him for three months.

For two months in that time, she also refused to make food for him — all this when he was only 8 years old. 

Regardless of what the infraction was, obviously, this type of parental behavior can have lasting complicated effects on a child well into adulthood — especially if similar behavior is perpetuated.



We know that parents raise children through their own lens. Sometimes the lens can be dark, distorted, and unhealthy. Other times, the lens is uplifting, loving, and supportive. Most of us have parents who fall somewhere in between.

Parenting is an evolving process and there’s no way parents can get everything right. Yet, it can be surprising how many parents have never apologized to their children for known and unknown hurts, rejections, abuse, or trauma.

I get it. Apologizing can be difficult, but like anything else, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes.

And, research shows, the more parents appropriately apologize to their children, the healthier the relationship becomes.

Children of parents who don’t apologize tend to develop a variety of ingrained, imbalanced, and often detrimental beliefs and behaviors that frequently carry over well into their adult lives.

If you are a child of a parent who never apologized, below are some of those beliefs and behaviors you could have developed and what you can potentially do about them to aid in reversing any negative effects they may have on you.

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Four signs your parents never apologized — and what to do about it now

1. You are ultra-sensitive to conflict

Any level of conflict automatically reminds you of the hurt and mixed emotions you felt as a child. Not knowing how people might react to your feelings or assertiveness can cause internal mental anguish. You so desperately want to keep the peace and aren’t quite sure you want to deal with the emotional uprising it could bring.

In these cases, you could be afraid to call someone out on their disrespectful behavior, because you fear they may dismiss your feelings, ignore you, reject you, or give you the silent treatment.

You may also be unable to rest until a conflict is taken care of as soon as possible so it doesn’t linger. Or you may just run away from conflict altogether. 

What to do about it: Conflict is inevitable, so we need to learn how to deal with it. There are healthy ways to interact with people when conflict arises. Take a conflict management course or work with a conflict management coach until you feel more confident and settled in your abilities to resolve conflict more consistently.

Also, learn what your triggers are, how you might keep from overreacting, and improve upon your own well-being during the conflict. Having ways to assert your thoughts and feelings is all part of working through conflict more objectively.

RELATED: 5 Simple Phrases Savvy Parents Use To Persuade Their Teens To Open Up

2. You carry deep resentment for your parents

Not being apologized to can bring up feelings of helplessness since you haven’t been heard or acknowledged and instead, feel invalidated. As a child, you usually couldn’t express your anger at this unjustness, and even if you did, the process was probably unproductive and may have resulted in additional consequences.

So, you learned to repress layers and layers of negative emotion over the years. Now, all it takes is one comment from your parent and you may be off on a resentful tirade because the anger runs so deep. 

In adulthood, if you are unable to have a productive conversation with your parent, that resentment remains and could continue to build. Feelings of being unloved, worthless, and unimportant remain in your psyche. The ability to have a deep and loving relationship with your parent may not exist.

What to do about it: Once you realize the underneath-the-hood type of residuals from a parent who refused to apologize, you can address your anger and learn to love yourself despite what your parents think of you or how they act with you.

You can limit your time with your parents; learn about anger and resentment and work to dissolve the negative and untrue programming that you acquired growing up.

RELATED: 3 Practical Ways To Help Kids Feel Protected In Times Of Crisis

3. You may have learned dissociative behavior

Since your parents were incapable for whatever reasons of explaining the details of various conflicts, especially to a young child, you may have learned to detach from them and from life in general.

Depending upon the person and situation, to avoid emotional intensity at the lack of apologizing and the potential accompanying feelings of inadequacy, you may have started to believe that this reality wasn’t real, or you have created your own realm of escapism within reality.

In doing so you detached from your emotions, even yourself, and may have difficulty understanding your own identity. In these cases, a level of trauma has been reached due to the safety mechanism you’ve implemented.

What to do about it: Some behavior, like daydreaming or creating regular respite time for yourself, is healthy. Normally though, if you’re exuding more significant dissociative behaviors, especially those that display traumatic flashbacks, that may present during an intense stress situation, it is recommended to see a doctor.

If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, immediately contact emergency services or one of the varied crisis hotlines available in your area.  

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4. You find it difficult to trust people

Due to your parents’ inability to apologize, you may feel you cannot trust your parent, or anyone for that matter, to take responsibility for their actions. You may feel that everything is your fault, even though you know it isn’t. Having an integral family member cause such hurt can lead you to not trust them, and not trust others too. After all, if you can’t trust a parent who is supposed to take care of you, teach you and support you, who can you trust?

What to do about it: Realize that not everyone is your parent. There are good, well-adjusted people out there eager to make your acquaintance or develop a friendship with you. Even though your self-esteem may have been hindered by your parents’ not apologizing to you, that doesn’t mean you can’t trust others, including yourself.

Make it a point to trust others, with small things initially. Over time, you’ll learn to know who you can trust and who you can’t, based on your own limitations. Partaking in forgiveness practices can help you slowly let go of past transgressions and move on

RELATED: Kids Who Make These 6 Mistakes Become Successful, Happy Adults

The pursuit of perspective with unapologetic parents

After having certain experiences growing up you know how you would behave differently than your parents did.

You learned from bad examples what you do and don’t want in relationships, which helps you make and keep friends, and develop deep, heartful relationships with your significant other and your children.

Take a few moments and see how your parent’s unapologetic behavior made you a better person – even if it was years in the making. There are good and bad behaviors from your parents that shaped you into the beautifully unique and talented person you are today.

Anytime you recall a detrimental childhood experience — whether a harsh word taken to heart, lack of affection, and your parents not being there physically or emotionally – see how those have all impacted your life — how far you’ve come despite your parent's actions and how you turned lemons into lemonade.

No matter what has happened in our childhood, sooner or later we need to make the conscious decision to apply the effort to live our best lives with hope, stability, and grace. Many of our parents were never taught to apologize, simply couldn’t surpass the discomfort of doing so, or simply followed the examples of their parents.

Likewise, many of us have accepted our parents for who they are — flaws and all. Hopefully, our children will be able to do the same. 

RELATED: Why I Didn’t Teach My Kids To Talk About Their Feelings

Pamela Aloia is a certified grief coach, intuitive/medium, and author supporting people through change and enhancing their lives and experiences via energy awareness, meditation, and mindfulness.