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For me, growing up with an unavailable parent meant my father wasn’t there. My mom and I left him when I was three months old, and I didn’t see him again. I was fatherless. 

As I got older, I saw different scenarios and the impact of absent parents from other perspectives: motherless, divorce, death, foster care, adoption, etc. Different circumstances led to the same consequences.

Unavailable Parent Defined

As I started coaching and conversing with people, I learned the circumstances had a more extensive range than I initially thought. There are at least six categories of Unavailable Parents:

  1. Emotionally unavailable parents. Those who are unable to connect, converse or engage. Either they don’t know how, can’t, or they don’t want to.
  2. Absent parents. The workaholics, narcissists, alcoholics (or with substance abuse issues). 
  3. Domino parents. Those who had parents who were unavailable to them and who almost unknowingly continue the cycle by acting out what they observed in their parent(s).
  4. Conditionally available parents. Those who only accept their kids when they are “perfect” and reject them when they are not. 
  5. Selfish parents. These are the “What can you do for me?” parents, who only engage when they want or need something. These parents often expect the child to be an adult and take care of them during their adolescence. 
  6. Child last parents. Those who put everyone and everything else before the child. 

These are the different forms of unavailable parents I have encountered so far. I have no doubt this list will grow as I continue my work. Despite the unique circumstances of people’s childhoods, the consequences of an unavailable parent produce the same effects.

Consequences of Unavailable Parents

Children with one or more parents in one of the six categories above are at high risk of:

  • Compromised self-worth
  • Inability to love themselves
  • Failed relationships
  • Inability to find acceptance
  • Depleted resilience
  • Trust disorders
  • Continuous searching for a feeling they can’t find
  • Inability to fully connect with someone
  • People pleasing
  • Feeling empty, broken, or lacking
  • Excessive anger and sadness

These effects often continue well into adulthood as we experience triggers from our past.


It is essential to know that you are not alone (as children growing up with an unavailable parent). A lot of us think that we are the only ones still affected by this as adults. We think something is wrong with us because we are still triggered. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not the only one who feels this way. I have talked and worked with hundreds of people who grew up with unavailable parents. 

It affects us all. We don’t talk about it with anyone. That is the problem.

I am healed and found peace with my past by understanding it, accepting it, and not allowing it to define me. I am a coach who helps people who grew up with an unavailable parent to heal old wounds and move forward to manage triggers from the past. I talk and teach what I know from the scar, not the wound. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you define an unavailable parent. I am also here to help if you are ready. You can schedule a free consultation with me right here on Life Coach List or visit my profile to learn more and connect with me on social media.

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