a woman wonders if she has rejected child syndrome
Zave Smith/Image Source/Getty Images
7 Thoughts That Indicate That You Have Rejected Child Syndrome

And if you do, know that help is out there.

Originally Published: 

The experiences we have as a child — good and bad — can affect us long into adulthood. Many times, however, we don't even realize the little and big ways these experiences have left their mark, summing things up with thoughts like that's just how I am, or that's just how my family is. However, our own thought patterns can tell us a lot — and if you have these thoughts about your mom, you may suffer from what some therapists called rejected child syndrome.

While ‘Rejected Child Syndrome’ isn't an official diagnosis, it's nonetheless something experienced by many children. Kids who have experienced ‘rejected child syndrome’ felt, well, rejected as a child. And we’re not just talking about favoritisim — we’re talking about pretty intense feelings of rejection brought about by the actions of supposed care givers. Because these children are being rejected in various ways by the person (or people) who are supposed to be their ultimate protector, it can be particularly traumatizing.

In some instances, rejected child syndrome occurs or is exacerbated because of an underlying issue in your parent. “This is especially acute if you have a parent with borderline personality disorder or another mental health issue, which regularly dismisses a child's needs (for example, mental, emotional, social or physical),” Maureen Healy, author of The Emotionally Healthy Child and creator of the website Growing Happy Kids, explains to Romper. In other cases, rejected child syndrome can stem from an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, gender favoritism, or simply feeling overwhelmed. While there are many different ways rejected child syndrome can manifest in adulthood, having the following thoughts about your mother can certainly be a symptom.


“I don't trust my mom.”

valentinrussanov/E+/Getty Images

If you were rejected as a child, you've never been able to trust your mother. From early on, she's shown you that she isn't a safe or reliable figure in your life, and that distrust is ingrained by adulthood. Whether it's a personal secret or an important task, you don't trust your mom with it.


“My mom doesn't love me and I don't know why.”

As a child and teenager, and my own mom often told me, “I will always love you, but I don't always like you.” Even at our low points, I have never doubted that she loves me (and I could always tell you what I did that caused any temporary dislike back then). If you're experiencing rejected child syndrome, that belief is shattered. You don't believe that your mother loves you and you've never been able to pinpoint why.

Often, children who have experienced parental rejection will seek love and validation elsewhere. "Children who are rejected from their primary caregivers (typically parents) tend to display a level of insecurity and low self-esteem, which translates often into making poor choices," Healy explains to Romper. "They seek love, approval and acceptance from others, which may or may not be good influences on them."


“If my own mother doesn't love me, no one will.”

Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision/Getty Images

If one person in the world is supposed to love you, it's your mother. She gave you life, and is supposed to be your ultimate source of unconditional acceptance. When you don't receive that love and acceptance from her, it's not uncommon to believe you're never going to find it.

While it's not easy, Healy encourages adults experiencing rejected child syndrome to actively pursue healing. “Adults need to heal their incorrect perceptions (for example, I'm not good enough) and learn to see themselves as valuable, worthy and capable,” Healy tells Romper. “This can be done through attending classes, reading books, getting coached or receiving therapy, as examples. Ultimately, the change is within the person but can be also facilitated by healthy teachers and mentors on the path to wholeness.”


“I won't bother my mom with this.”

In a healthy parent-child relationship, talking to your mother about your life and your feelings is anything but “bothering them.” However, if you suffer from rejected child syndrome, you've been shown or even told, repeatedly, that you are a nuisance. As an adult, and likely long before adulthood, you simply learned to keep things to yourself. “Underlying a child feeling rejected is a feeling of unworthiness, not feeling valued, and generally feeling that there's something wrong with them,” Healy tells Romper. While this feeling of unworthiness certainly makes you feel like your mom doesn't care about what you have to say, it may make you feel like no one does.


“Nothing I do is good enough for my mom.”

Fiordaliso/Moment/Getty Images

Repeated rejection as a child can often lead to feelings of inadequacy. It doesn't matter if you graduate at the top of your class, get the biggest promotion, raise brilliant children, or find the cure for cancer — nothing you achieve is enough to impress your mother (or that's what you assume).

“Children who feel rejected have trouble standing up tall, presenting confidence, and oftentimes feel or think 'I'm not good enough' at fill in the blank," Healy tells Romper. "This may be a result of parents being too demanding and not accepting that a child is in the process of learning — or parents that are absent not providing a level of reassurance or approval or outright sending messages of rejection to children.” If you've never been told that your mother is proud of you, why would you believe she is now?


“My mom will judge me for that.”

Sure, your mom will often have opinions about the things you do. However, even when I've inevitably made bad decisions, I know my mom loves and views me the same. She may make judgments about things I do or say, but she doesn't make judgments about my character. If you've been rejected by your mother, however, you can't say the same.

Many rejected children become perfectionists, feeling like minor mistake are the cause for this parental rejection. You may hide your flaws or any areas of your life that are less-than-perfect, constantly fearing criticism and judgment from your own mother.


“I don't want my mom to know I'm upset.”

franckreporter/E+/Getty Images

If you have a healthy relationship with your mother, you probably often turn to her when you've had a bad day or are going through something painful. If you're dealing with Rejected Child Syndrome, you likely hide unpleasant emotions from your mother or even from the world in general.

If you’re pain and trauma from childhood is still plaguing you in adulthood, you’re not alone. However, many resources are available to help you move through it and move beyond it. You are worthy of love, and many people and resources exist to help you get to a place where you truly feel and believe that. Therapy can be a good place to begin, or you can even simply start your search for resources and support by mentioning your struggles to your health care provider.


Maureen Healy, author of The Emotionally Healthy Child

This article was originally published on