“The cry we hear from deep in our hearts comes from the wounded child within. Healing this inner child’s pain is the key to transforming anger, sadness, and fear.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Reparenting is acting as a parent towards yourself. It is the process of fulfilling the needs that were neglected or denied in your childhood, and being there for yourself in the ways that were previously needed from your caregiver(s). It is giving to yourself what you deserved as a child, such as unconditional love, protection, comfort, or accountability.
Reparenting looks different for everyone depending on their personal experiences, and yet, humans share many fundamental needs. Below are five examples of reparenting that may resonate with you:
Talk to yourself with kindness and respect. Many people have an ongoing inner dialogue filled with shaming and judgment. While there are various reasons this may be the case (even reasons including positive intentions), it does not serve you to speak to yourself harshly. Offering yourself tenderness and encouragement may feel phony, especially if you did not experience this enough as a child, but that's okay! With time, taking this stance will feel more natural, and will help you be an ally for yourself rather than getting in your own way.
Allow and listen to your emotions. Certain emotions may feel unsafe, unfamiliar, or unwelcome depending on one's family of origin. As a result, these emotions may be denied, avoided, or numbed, but this tends to only prolong and intensify these feelings. A more helpful approach is to view your emotions as indications of whether or not your needs are being met. For example, joyfulness can indicate we have fulfilled our need for play, sadness can occur as a result of losing connection, and anger can arise when we feel violated or unheard. If we accept our emotions as they come up and offer them curiosity, they can actually process and teach us how to fulfill our needs.
Learn to self-soothe. Discovering healthy and effective ways of comforting ourselves in response to distress is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. Some ways to self-soothe include using positive statements such as "I am safe," or "This feeling is temporary," following breathing exercises or guided meditations, and holding your face or body in comforting ways. You can also engage your senses by drawing a bath, being present while going for a walk, or lighting a candle or incense.
Maintain self-care. Self-care can be easy to put off. For some, self-care was not taught or modeled in childhood, or it was even considered selfish. In reality, as the expression goes, "You can't pour from an empty cup." It's important that we show up for ourselves and take care of ourselves on an ongoing basis, not just when we're burnt out and overwhelmed. This means making it a priority to tend to our physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and professional wellness, even when we're feeling unmotivated or occupied with other things.
Recognize your inherent worth. We are inherently worthy of love as human beings. Part of the reparenting process may include letting go of the beliefs that you internalized as a child about love being conditional, such as needing to be accomplished enough, attractive enough, or "good" enough to be lovable or prevent rejection or abandonment. When feeling unworthy or insecure, this is an opportunity to remind yourself of your inherent worth and extend yourself the love and acceptance you deserve.
If you'd like support with reparenting or any of the other concepts discussed above, please feel free to contact me today.
Katie Virga, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist #113323
Supervised & Employed by Alexis Donato, LMFT #44732