September 12, 2019
You’ve probably noticed the term ‘reparenting’ coming up in mental wellness discussions recently, and there’s a good chance you’re as curious as we were when we first learned about it – can I really change the impact of my upbringing? Do I really want to?
In this two blog series, we’re going to break down what reparenting is, how we all could benefit from it, and how to actually do it. BTW, the need to reparent doesn’t mean your parents did a bad job or that you had a bad childhood. It’s simply a chance to improve your thought processes to make for a happier life.
In a nutshell, reparenting is the process of healing from previous emotional wounds by making small, intentional choices to act in a way that helps you to achieve your goals. Essentially, it is learning to love and support yourself in a way that allows you to identify and move past emotional triggers and toxic behaviors such as self-sabotage, people pleasing, substance abuse, and the need for external validation.
Our minds have the incredible ability to help us cope with different situations without us even knowing about it. One way they do this is by creating subpersonalities in your mind that let you look at things from different perspectives, and draw upon different parts of your experiences to make informed decisions.
Reparenting deals with our subpersonalities known as the ‘inner child’ and the ‘inner parent’. (These names are purely descriptive and far less important than their function, so if a name doesn’t feel right to you – rename it – it’s your subpersonality after all!)
Your inner child is a close acquaintance of another subpersonality that most of us are all too familiar with: ‘the inner critic’. When your inner critic shows up and you begin to put yourself down, there’s usually another part of you that feels hurt, embarrassed or disappointed – the subpersonality that feels pain in that situation is your inner child.
The emotional wounds of your youth don’t need to be catastrophic events, or even anything that stands out in particular. It could be something as simple as a parent not acknowledging your reality or your feelings. Were you ever told to “just put on a happy face” when you were upset? Over time, these seemingly uneventful events could teach you not to trust yourself.
Your inner parent is the subpersonality that most resembles your parents, or other authority figures of your youth. Much like your actual parents, your inner parent will both praise and criticize you in an attempt to safely guide you through life. When your inner parent doesn’t take care of your inner child, your inner child holds onto your emotional memories and resentment. When triggered, this pain will manifest itself as irrational, toxic, or self-sabotaging behaviors.
Let’s be real, although our parents had the best intentions, no one can be perfect all the time. The harm caused by parents is often unintentional and can be tough to pinpoint (this is different, however, in cases of abuse). It could be something as subtle as a young girl watching her mother struggle with her own low self-esteem related to her appearance, something with which many of us can relate. The very same low self-esteem could manifest itself as a subconsciously learned behavior in the girl as she gets older.
The cool thing about reparenting is that it gives you an opportunity to bring that subconsciously learned behavior to your conscious, and then choosing to learn a new behavior, improving your quality of life.
In the next installment of this series, we’ll share some simple steps to get started reparenting yourself – some of which take up less than a minute of your day! We’ll also be sharing tips about when to work with your therapist on this topic. Check it out here!
- Self-Therapy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Wholeness and Healing Your Inner Child Using IFS, A New, Cutting-Edge Psychotherapy, by Jay Early, Ph.D.
- Parenting Yourself Again: Love Yourself the Way You’ve Always Wanted to Be Loved, by Yong Kang Chan