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Cold mother syndrome: You have an emotionally absent mother

Updated: Jan 17

cold mother

Cold mother syndrome

Our emotional and psychological growth begins with our interactions with our parents, which have a lasting impact on our mental health. However, in certain circumstances, a mother-child relationship could be marked by emotional distance and a lack of warmth, which may result in what is known as "Cold Mother Syndrome." We will examine the idea of cold mother syndrome, as well as its possible causes, consequences on children, and potential solutions to its challenges.

What is cold mother syndrome?

A mother who exhibits emotional distance, lack of affection, and a restricted capacity to respond to her child's emotional needs is said to have “Cold Mother Syndrome". The child's future psychological development, sense of self, and capacity for healthy relationships may all be negatively impacted by this emotional separation. Whilst children develop their sense of their world, the main influencing factor upon how they respond to others is their attachment type with their primary caregiver, in most cases the mother. Ainsworth identified 3 main attachment types: Secure (Type B), insecure-avoidant (Type A) and insecure-resistant (Type C), all of which affect the child’s future relationships as it acts as a exemplar model. In many cases a mother suffers the ‘cold syndrome’ due to childhood traumas which resulted in their attachment type with their own mother to be unhealthy; Type A or Type C, therefore they are incapable of having a healthy relationship with their child due to lack of affection during their own childhood.

What makes an emotionally absent mother?

Many factors contribute to the development of the ‘Cold Mother Syndrome’ however the majority circulate around the topic of traumatic childhood and the emotional unavailability or absence of their own primary caregiver. Firstly, it is important to identify the common traits observed in individuals with ‘Cold Mothers Syndrome’:

Lack of Empathy: A mother who is emotionally distant may find it difficult to comprehend or feel sympathy for her child's emotions, rejecting or discounting their emotional experiences. She can be physically there but emotionally absent, which would make the youngster feel unimportant and ignored.

Disengagement: This mother may come out as distant and uninterested in her kids' lives, expressing little regard for their worries or activities.

Difficulty Expressing Affection: A mother who is emotionally unavailable may find it difficult to show her love and affection, which prevents her from emotionally bonding with her child. This syndrome may arise from a variety of causes, including the following:

Unresolved Past Trauma: If a mother experiences abuse or neglect as a child, it may affect her capacity to give her children emotional warmth and support. She may be less able to provide emotional support for her child if she has unresolved concerns from her past.

Mental Health Problems: It may be difficult for mothers to develop deep emotional bonds with their children if they are dealing with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues that may be caused by emotional vulnerability or any physical challenges perhaps. In addition to this, the mother may not have planned for a child or have not been prepared for motherhood which can significantly affect mental health, in turn reflecting on the relationship she has with her child. It is estimated around 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression!

Parenting Style and Role Models: Some mums may choose a more aloof or authoritarian approach to parenting, emphasizing discipline above emotional ties with their children. On the other hand, if a mother lacked emotional support and nurturing in her own upbringing, she may struggle to provide it to her child due to a lack of role models.

These are the main causes of women's emotional separation from their children. Not all women must experience all of these factors, any one factor can result in this syndrome, the cause, however, may vary from woman to woman and is generally difficult to identify.

Whatever the reason for a mother's emotional withdrawal, it has a detrimental impact on every child.

The negative effects of an emotionally absent mother on a child

Regardless of the reason, a child's emotional and psychological well-being may be significantly impacted by separation from their mother. Not only can the impact be damaging but also long lasting. Below we have stated a few consequences that a mother's emotional absence can have on the child:

Insecure Attachment: Children with insecure attachments may struggle to build trustworthy connections in adulthood due to no model relationships being presented to them during their peak period of developmental stages.

Emotional Dysregulation: Lack of emotional support may make it difficult for a youngster to understand and effectively control their own emotions, resulting in possible anger issues and explosive tantrums.

Low Self-Esteem: A youngster who does not receive emotional affirmation may experience feelings of poor self-worth and self-doubt.

Behavioural Challenges: Emotional separation can cause behavioural problems since the youngster will look for attention and approval elsewhere, in some instances being in delinquent crowds in order to receive gratification by performing rebellious actions.

Ways to deal with an emotionally absent mother

The mother's and the child's wellbeing depend on identifying and treating maternal emotional separation due to its potential detrimental consequences on the child’s current wellbeing and future prospects.

Seeking Professional Assistance: The first step for a mother who is suffering emotional detachment is to get counselling from a mental health expert. Through counselling or therapy sessions, a therapist or counsellor can offer helpful support and direction, assisting in the exploration of emotions and the development of healthier coping mechanisms.

Creating a supportive atmosphere: Mothers require a secure setting in which to express their feelings and discuss their struggles. Partners, family, and friends must intervene and create a setting that is encouraging and forgiving. Helping the mother open up and establish a connection with her child can be achieved by listening without passing judgement and providing emotional support.

Parent-Child Bonding Activities: The emotional relationship between a mother and her child can be strengthened by engaging in bonding activities and spending quality time together. Playing games, reading books together, or taking up a hobby are examples of activities that can help two people feel closer and more emotionally intimate, creating a secure relationship.

Lowering stress: Although motherhood can be a stressful time, developing coping mechanisms is essential for fostering a mother-child bond. Encourage enjoyable hobbies, meditation, and other stress-relieving activities. Helping the mother cope with her stress can have a favourable effect on her capacity to develop a strong emotional bond with her kid.

It's critical to realise that it can take some time and patience to bridge the emotional gap between an emotionally distant mother and her child. For the relationship to get better, both parties must be receptive to development and change. Remember that coping with an emotionally distant mother is a difficult road, but significant improvements are possible with expert assistance and the support of loved ones. A mother-child relationship that is more emotionally attached can improve both parties' health and lay the groundwork for a happier and healthier family life.

About the author:

Dr Liliya Korallo is a leading UK Psychologist. She had great success in helping clients overcome the emotional neglect they suffered in their childhood.

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