When you’ve been through some form of abuse or neglect in your childhood, a part of you is still trapped in the past as that child. Therefore, it’s important that you learn how to reparent yourself to be able to heal.
However, you don’t need to have experienced trauma to benefit from reparenting. If there are issues that stem from your childhood that are impacting your present life, reparenting could help.
In this post, I will discuss what reparenting is, why it’s important, and the step-by-step process on how to reparent yourself. And remember, like a parent should be, try to be compassionate and patient with yourself as you go through this process.
What is Reparenting?
In a psychological sense, reparenting often refers to a type of psychotherapy that is a bit controversial. But this is not the form of reparenting we are talking about.
Reparenting in this post refers to meeting the needs of your childhood self that you never got. It simply means giving yourself what you didn’t receive from your parents back when you were a child. Learning to become your own parent allows you to heal the bad parenting you might’ve received in the past.
Wherever and whoever you are, it’s not too late to reparent yourself. It might take work, but every little improvement helps.
Why Should You Reparent Yourself?
Many psychological issues stem from a child growing up without having their needs met. When a child grows up without feeling secure or loved, they end up becoming an adult with trouble managing their thoughts and actions, and trouble navigating their relationships and life.
Every child deserves to be seen, heard, and loved. Unfortunately, not every child received that growing up.
Being able to reparent yourself allows you to give yourself that love and attention you might have missed out on in your childhood. It allows you to be the parent to yourself that you never had. In a way, it’s like you’re giving your childhood self a different ending.
How to Reparent Yourself
Step 1: Learn about what you missed out on as a child and how it affected you
What needs did you miss out on as a child? Were they physical, emotional, social, or psychological?
Your childhood experiences end up determining your self-image and perception. It affects your self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth. It shapes how you perceive yourself, your relationships, and the world.
How you manage and cope with difficult emotions and situations is likely a result of how you were parented. When difficult emotions or situations pop up, how do you react? Do you tend to blame others, blame yourself, suppress it, or act out?
These coping methods are how you learned to soothe yourself growing up. However, you need to realize that just because it’s how you cope doesn’t mean it’s healthy. And just because you use it to soothe yourself doesn’t mean it actually works.
To heal, you need to learn how to healthily and effectively soothe yourself when difficult emotions and situations arise. This will be discussed further in Step 4.
Step 2: Connect with your inner child
We live in a world that basically forces us to repress our inner child and “grow up”. But really, most adults aren’t emotionally or psychologically “grown-up”.
Abuse causes trauma. And with trauma, it’s like you’re frozen in time. And since you experienced that when you were a child, a part of you is still stuck in your childhood.
To truly heal means healing your inner child.
Acknowledge your childhood self and let them know that you’re there. Reparent yourself by treating yourself with the love, kindness, and respect you deserve. Find your inner child and learn how to care for it in a way your parents couldn’t.
Learn more: Ways to Connect with Your Inner Child
Step 3: Let go of the burden, shame, and guilt you might feel
You might feel weird for giving yourself attention or you might feel like you’re being immature. But there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself the love you missed out on.
With a harsh inner critic, I know how difficult it can be to be kind to yourself. But think about it this way – view yourself as the child you once were. Would you harshly criticize them? Would you say all these things in your head to that child? I’d hope not.
As you continue on this process to reparent yourself, try to approach yourself as if you’re approaching your child self. Try to let go of the guilt, shame, and burden you feel.
Every child deserves to be treated with love and affection. If you missed out on that growing up, then you deserve to make it up for yourself. You have every right to give yourself the love and attention you missed out on.
Step 4: Learn what your parents couldn’t teach you
Sometimes, your parents couldn’t give you what you need emotionally. They also might not have prepared you with the necessary skills to survive in the outside world. This might have caused you to lack important social and emotional skills that you need to live a healthy, fulfilling life.
I will discuss further what some of these skills are and how you can learn them.
Establishing Healthy Boundaries
When you have abusive parents, you might not have had any boundaries, or your boundaries might’ve been repeatedly violated. Because of this, you might not know what healthy boundaries are or how to set them.
Being able to set healthy boundaries means setting limits and drawing the line between what you are and aren’t okay with. It also means determining the consequences for when the boundaries are violated.
Learn more: 12 Tips on How to Set Healthy Boundaries
Being able to identify, express, manage, and accept your emotions
McBride, the author of Will I Ever Be Good Enough, said, “You cannot heal what you cannot feel”.
Being able to appropriately identify, express, accept, and manage your emotions allow you to form more meaningful relationships. It also allows you to become more objective about your emotions and the situations you’re in.
You will be able to step back, observe, and process what’s happening. It lets you learn more about yourself and the world around you, which helps heal you.
Learning how to appropriately manage your emotions will lead to many beneficial changes in your life.
Good communication means expressing yourself effectively while also listening and comprehending what the other person is saying. Also, non-verbal communication such as eye contact, body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice significantly determines whether you have good communication or not.
When you have effective communication, you’re able to resolve conflicts easier. It means you know how to be assertive rather than passive and/or aggressive. Communication skills also help you better socialize and able to form more meaningful relationships.
The ideal way to improve communication skills is to practice. Start with people you feel more comfortable with and slowly expand. Try to notice where you can improve.
Effective communication is a give-and-take from all people involved. It’s not just about the ability to speak clearly and coherently. It’s also about being able to listen to what the other person is saying and respond accordingly.
Resilience is the ability to withstand, overcome, adapt, and bounce back from difficulties. It’s what gives people the strength to cope with stress and challenges. Building your resilience will help you be better able to handle adversity and adapt to changes.
Having healthy coping methods and habits helps build resilience. Learn to reframe your thoughts to be able to look at negative situations more objectively. Focus on what you can control rather than what you cannot. Learning how to practice gratitude is also a great way to build resilience.
Frustration tolerance is the ability to accept that things don’t always go as planned and be able to react in an emotionally mature way.
When things don’t go your way, rather than overreact, catastrophize, or feel like your life’s over, perhaps you can remind yourself that surprises and changes are inevitable.
A lot of things are out of our control whether we like it or not. It’s normal to feel frustrated. But try to work through those feelings and remind yourself that the only thing you have control over is your own actions. So take a deep breath, do what you can and if all else fails, know that you tried.
Being able to apologize and maybe make amends when you’ve done something wrong is an emotionally mature skill that many abusers lack. They often blame everyone and everything for their behavior before even thinking to self-reflect and take responsibility for their actions. Due to this, you might not have learned how to be accountable for your own actions.
Being accountable means being aware of, admitting, and taking responsibility when you did something wrong, hurt someone, or made a mistake. When such situations arise, step back and observe.
Try to see your role in what happened and understand from the other person’s perspective. Acknowledge your mistakes, admit them, and apologize.
However, remember that being accountable doesn’t mean you need to harshly criticize or punish yourself for what you did. You don’t have to constantly beat yourself up over it.
It’s okay to ponder over your actions to learn so you won’t make the same mistake again. However, it’s also important to move on once you did what you can to fix it.
If you’ve had abusive parents, then you likely lacked a lot of love in your life, the love you deserved as a child. But since you’re older now, the only one who can unconditionally love you is yourself. As you reparent yourself, being able to care for and be kind to yourself is crucial.
Self-love is being able to do nice things for yourself, make yourself happy, and be encouraging, uplifting, and supportive of yourself.
When you’re so used to self-loathe and the harsh inner critic in your head, self-love might seem like an impossible feat. It might take a while but you can get there. Just take it slowly.
Start by trying to accept yourself. Accept your qualities, traits, flaws, and everything that makes you who you are. To do this, try to quiet that abusive voice in your head.
Once you’re getting the hang of it, try to start focusing on the positive things about yourself.
Try to remain objective and discover what you like about yourself. Try to be proud of those positive things. Learn to see the worth and value of who you are.
Self-love encompasses other concepts you should also familiarize yourself with, such as:
- Self-compassion: Being able to be kind, patient, and compassionate with yourself when you’re struggling with something or did something wrong.
- Self-validation: Being able to affirm your feelings and choices. Being able to reassure yourself that your feelings and experiences matter, that you matter.
- Self-discipline: Being able to set limits for yourself in a healthy manner such as limiting unhealthy or self-sabotaging behaviors. Being able to create and stick to healthy habits and self-care practices.
- Self-discovery: Being able to explore and discover who you are and what brings you purpose and fulfillment in life.
- Self-expression: Being able to express and be who you want to be and live life how you want to.
Where do you start?
This list is just the tip of the iceberg on what you need to learn, which can be a little intimidating. Simply start where you want to improve most and work your way through the list. And if you don’t get through everything, that’s okay.
As you do this, please be patient and kind with yourself. There’s no need to rush. Learning to reparent yourself is a process; it will take time.
Don’t expect perfection. No one is able to perfectly manage their behaviors, thoughts, relationships, and life. Mistakes are bound to happen. Accept setbacks and relapses when it happens.
Healing is a back-and-forth process. It’s never just linear progression. So try not to be demotivated or discouraged when it happens. Just keep going and practice, practice, practice.
Step 5: Create meaningful relationships and establish a support network
When we have unresolved issues from our past relationship with our parents, it likely manifests themselves in future relationships. You may have sought out and recreated harmful or traumatic aspects of your past relationship into your current ones. Until you are aware of this, you won’t be able to heal.
Relationships should be based on mutual respect, trust, and other important elements.
In addition, just because you have to reparent yourself doesn’t mean you have to do it alone.
Social support is crucial for emotional health. It’s extremely helpful to have people around to support you as you heal. They can offer compassion, validate the pain you experience, and remind you that the abuse you faced was not your fault. It also helps you feel less alone.
You can also consider therapy. Connect with a certified therapist and gain access to the most complete online therapy toolbox. A professional can guide you as you go through this reparenting process as well as help you process your experiences and develop tools to heal.
Step 6: Fulfill needs your parents didn’t meet
It’s important that you learn to identify and meet your needs. Don’t minimize or push them away.
You went through a hard time. It’s okay to sympathize with yourself and feel bad. But you should also feel proud. Be proud of yourself for trying to be better.
Be kind to yourself
Keep promises to yourself. Let yourself heal and actively try to do so. Even if there are relapses or setbacks, that’s okay. Like I said before, recovery is a back-and-forth process.
Stop abandoning, bullying, sabotaging, and abusing yourself. You know you probably do it. Once you catch yourself doing hurtful things to yourself, try to stop it. Again, picture little you. Would you treat them this way? Be kind to them. Be kind to you.
Self-care is being able to identify and meet your needs. Practicing self-care can be very hard when you already struggle with accepting and liking yourself. So start small.
Pick one thing from a list of self-care practices, add it to your daily routine, and try to stick to it. Once you get the hang of that, add another.
Being able to practice self-care means you are healing. That’s huge! Even if it’s not something you’re used to, that’s okay. That is still progress.
I know it may feel weird to give yourself positive attention when you’ve been raised otherwise. But you just have to get used to it. And you’ll find that it will be worth it.
Step 7: Be you
Being yourself can be really difficult to do. A lot of who you seem to be now is likely reflective of who your abusive parent wanted you to be.
But try your best to separate yourself from your parents. Try not to let your experiences and past define who you are. Learn to be you.
Adequate parents make sure their children are able to be their own people. So try to foster individuality within yourself as a parent should to their child.
- Separate yourself from the effects of the abuse
- Reflect on your values and beliefs
- Figure out what your interests, passions, and hobbies are
- Think about what you want out of life
- Do what YOU want to do and be who YOU want to be
Related: How to Find Yourself After Abuse
Don’t let someone else tell you who to be, how to feel, or what to want. Accept and embrace your own identity, feelings, and desires.
This might be a lifelong journey, but every little discovery adds more meaning and pleasure to your life.
As you go through this process of reparenting yourself, you can keep a journal to help you out.
Try to pay attention to your thoughts and behaviors. Be encouraging and supportive of yourself regularly. Add more self-care into your everyday life. Celebrate every little stride you make no matter how small they may seem.
And if you slip up or something doesn’t go as planned, give yourself a break, take a breath, be kind, and try again.
Anyone can learn how to reparent themselves. However, it does take time, commitment, and patience. There’s no quick fix.
But remember, reparenting yourself allows you to heal. It allows you to be able to let go of the past, live in the now, and look forward to the future. It gives you the opportunity to live a healthy, fulfilling life despite the downsides.
You deserve love, freedom, and happiness in your life. But it’s up to you to go for it.
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