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Question
Posted by: Toni | 2010/09/15

Is it normal for parents to tell their kids they love them?

My parents have never in 35 years said they loved me. My mother never is affectionate. I don''t even have it in me to say that to them. I can''t even hug them. It is so difficult.

I have a child and tell her several times in a day that I love her. It comes so naturally. I find it so difficult to understand why my parents could never say it. I went for major surgery this year, and even then, they never said anything to me.

I feel as if I have missed out on so much in life. I feel empty. I have been in anout of hospital several times this year and my father never phoned me once to ask how I am.

Am I expecting too much from them. Or is this how parents generally behave? Am I being too affectionate with my child.

My memory stems back to when I was around 5 and a half. I never remember ever getting a hug or a kiss from them. No affection.

This has been such a trying year for me. How I long to have a mother or father.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Whether we're talking paent-child, or interpersonal love, we all have our own ways of expressing it. Some people talk a lot about how much they love you, even though in some cases their actions dotn't suggest any actual love at all. Other people are genuinely loving, and show it in their actions, and don't usually express it min words.
Some people are physically expressive, and full of hugs and embraces, some find it very hard to do that and feel most uncomfortable hugging or being hugged.
There's even a recognized condition called Alexithymia, in which people have an inability to put their emotions into words.
I understand how disappointed you feel in your parents - were they loving towards you in other caring ways ? Or consistently cold in every way ? Were they warm towards anyone else, or inexpressive towards everyone ?
The important thing is not to drive forwards while staring in the rear-view mirror - concentrate on what you can have now and in the future, rather than thinking so much about what may have been absent earlier on.
As Purple and hestia point out, parents who have dificulty in expressing their love, usually grew up in families where they experienced little love or emotional expression themselves.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Toni | 2010/09/17

I didn''t have the most pleasant childhood. I always got to stay home when my parents took overseas holidays, but they took my 3 brothers. When I was at varsity my dad would tell me what a failure I was and wouldn''t amount to anything in life. And I eventually believed that I was worth nothing. One day I didn''t have transport to get home from university. Our lift club that came at 5:30pm didn''t pitch up and the bus stop was a few kilometres walk from campus. It was dark and most others got a lift. Unfortunately no one lived where I did. I called home for a few hours and no one answered. By 10pm i was desperate and contacted an uncle. I stayed with him that night. He called my parents the following morning and asked to speak to me. They told him I had already left for campus. He asked what time I had got home the previous night. They didn''t know but I had apparently came home and went straight to my room. And my parent''s room was next to mine.

My husband got so upset with them recently that he called my mum and told her to act like a mother. She doesn''t call me, but when my brother stayed with us a few months ago, she called him every night. She said they are always so busy. And as for my dad, I have asked why he ahsn''t phoned, and he says he doesn''t have time.

Reply to Toni
Posted by: Happiness | 2010/09/16

Our parents are old school so they show their feelings instead of talking about them. I''ve never doubted my parents'' love for me even though they''ve never not once said it out loud. I''ve always known my father would die for me in a heart bit if he had to.

But with my kids its different. I don''t know how many times a day do I tell them I love them. Even after punishing them I remind them how I feel about them. Hugs and kisses are standard in our house!

Reply to Happiness
Posted by: Unique | 2010/09/16

To be honest I believe this differs across cultures. In some cultures - especially movies- say it all the time while other cultures just don''t and it doesn''t mean they love you any less. Where I grew my parents never said they loved me, I never heard anybody''s parents say they love them and when he had this topic amongst friends the situation was pretty much across. Having said that, actions said much louder for most of us. The concerning thing about your situation is they don''t seem to show love in actions - even when ill. this is not on. For example my mother never said it but she travel more than 5hrs on short notice if we are ill. My father on the other hand was pretty much like yours so I wrote him off emotionally - had no expectations from him.

Reply to Unique
Posted by: Lola | 2010/09/16

Same problem here. My mom is an alcoholic, so she was only ever interested in herself.
My dad on the other hand, would show love in different ways. Example: He''d involve me in pruning the roses or painting a room. But never ever did he tell me he loves me, or ever hug me.
Finally, at the age of 33, I asked him one day while talking why he never says he loves me, why he never hugs me. He told me that he wasn''t raised to be affectionate, never got hugs or I Love You''s from his parents. They were strict, hard and down to the point. But he did tell me he does love me, of course, I''m his daughter! It''s just that he''s not a touchy feely person.
He told me that he feels really bad since I brought it up, he NEVER KNEW it bothered me.
I always kissed him whenever we would visit and again when we would leave, but since our talk I''ve started something.
Whenever I give him a kiss, I grab him and hug him, whether he likes it or not.
Since then, it''s become an automatic thing, he grabs and hugs me right back! We have such a wonderful relationship since then.

Reply to Lola
Posted by: Leez | 2010/09/16

You most certainly are not alone. I suppose it''s just difficult for some parents to say it, so they''d rather show it. Albeit in strange ways, still, it''s THEIR way. Just accept their personas and be grateful that they''ve brought you up decently and even more grateful that they''re still around.

Reply to Leez
Posted by: P | 2010/09/16

You are not alone Toni. Even worse growing up is when you don''t get the re-assurance to re-build your confidence after a hiding, and mother not talking to you for days after.
I also have a 3yr son now, and I am always anxious about him. The moment he gets disciplined, I am giving him hugs and kisses and telling him how much I love him.
It is even worse when you have so much love and affection to give, yet you don''t know how to express yourself to the people closest to you.
Take care and be strong.
Maybe you should try little things in order to soften them and start getting the love and affection put into action, in small ways. Maybe they need this themselves now, being older. Maybe a little humour, a little special time together, instigated by you, will open those doors.

Reply to P
Posted by: Robbie | 2010/09/16

i know the feeling Toni, i went through exactly the same as you.. and i wonder why.....

Reply to Robbie
Posted by: hestia | 2010/09/16

My parents are the same. I can not remember ever getting hugs or kisses. Even though they did alot for us and I know they love me I would really love to have heard it. I am sure it is the way they grew up.

Reply to hestia
Posted by: Purple | 2010/09/16

Wow, I feel quite sad reading your post.

Yes, it is normal for parents to tell their children often how much they love them and to shower them with affection.

I have a very affectionate mom who tells us all the time. The most my father has ever managed though is " your mother and I love you" , but he grew up in a very formal and emotionally stunted family so it doesn''t come naturally to him, however, he and my mom do so much for my siblings and I that we have never doubted their love for us. They woke up in the early hours of the morning to take us to sport, they fetched friends for play dates because we lived out of town and parents from town always said it was too far. They put effort into choosing our schools and got us involved in the decisions (we all had to go to boarding school as we lived too far from any school to go as day scholars). Not for a second did any of us doubt either of their love for us, even though my father has never once told any of us he loves us.

Not phoning you when you are in hospital is strange, it seems to show a lack of caring.

Have you asked them what the problem is?

The important thing is that you are making sure your child is getting a lot of affection and you constantly tell them how much you love them. You know how it felt not to have that, so make sure your child doesn''t go through the same thing. I''m not a huge Oprah fan, but something she said that did make sense was " when you know better, do better" .

Reply to Purple
Posted by: cybershrink | 2010/09/16

Whether we're talking paent-child, or interpersonal love, we all have our own ways of expressing it. Some people talk a lot about how much they love you, even though in some cases their actions dotn't suggest any actual love at all. Other people are genuinely loving, and show it in their actions, and don't usually express it min words.
Some people are physically expressive, and full of hugs and embraces, some find it very hard to do that and feel most uncomfortable hugging or being hugged.
There's even a recognized condition called Alexithymia, in which people have an inability to put their emotions into words.
I understand how disappointed you feel in your parents - were they loving towards you in other caring ways ? Or consistently cold in every way ? Were they warm towards anyone else, or inexpressive towards everyone ?
The important thing is not to drive forwards while staring in the rear-view mirror - concentrate on what you can have now and in the future, rather than thinking so much about what may have been absent earlier on.
As Purple and hestia point out, parents who have dificulty in expressing their love, usually grew up in families where they experienced little love or emotional expression themselves.

Reply to cybershrink

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