Let’s Break Down This Whole “Reparenting” Thing

I’ll be honest with you — when I first heard people talking about “reparenting” I was bamboozled.

It was yet another trendy buzzword bandwagon that I wasn’t keen to jump on — I blame it on being an Enneagram 4.

But one day, it hit me like a freight train, and I thought “Oooooooh…. THIS is what people mean when they talk about reparenting! I get it!”

My big ah-ha! moment is what I’m going to share with you now –  what reparenting is, why you might want to explore it in the first place, and a couple of tangible practices to get you started!

Okay so — what is reparenting, anyway?

The short answer is that reparenting is providing yourself with the emotional support that you lacked as a child from your caregivers.

For the long and juicy answer, we have to start at the source: parenting styles.

A movement that’s growing in recent years is conscious parenting. This parenting style focuses on teaching children how to learn and grow as individuals rather than obeying adults, following rules, and behaving. 

Parenting has shifted to teaching children how to identify, feel, and regulate emotions instead of invalidating them.

Disclaimer: I’m not a parent, but these are my observations of the parenting world.

As a society, we are finally discussing mental health openly. We now recognize that unhealed trauma can cause harmful behavioral patterns, which can unconsciously be passed down from parents to children through multiple generations *generational trauma has entered the chat.*

Unfortunately, emotional intelligence and conscious parenting styles weren’t mainstream in the ’80s and ’90s, so millennials didn’t typically experience this type of parenting from our caregivers *womp womp*

I don’t know about you, but my emotional experience was frequently invalidated — as a sensitive person I was often labeled “too much” or “dramatic.”

I learned that my emotions made people uncomfortable and that they were problems that needed to be solved. As a result, I didn’t learn how to effectively validate or regulate my emotional experiences.

This became a breeding ground for low-self esteem, negative self-talk, and severe nervous system dysregulation. 

The relationships you form with your caregivers and interactions with them deeply influence how you develop. Maybe you had an over-critical parent that harshly ridiculed you when you got a C in math class, made unhelpful observations about your appearance or weight, or was emotionally cold towards you when you were upset and needed comforting.

Humans are observational learners. The behaviors we see others engage in are often the ones we adopt for ourselves.

If your caregivers were critical of you, that likely became how you talk to yourself.

If your caregivers didn’t model how to soothe and support you, you didn’t learn how to soothe and support yourself.

Reparenting is the process of teaching yourself that as an adult. It’s giving yourself everything you needed as a child but didn’t get.

How to reparent yourself

Step 1. Identify what you need  

You might not know your needs if you’re not used to comforting yourself. Meeting your needs is a muscle you build over time, so if it feels confusing right now, that’s okay. Here are some ideas for how to gain insight:

Look to the past 

Think back to a specific moment in childhood when you felt you weren’t adequately supported; what did you need instead?

Maybe your mom forgot about your dance recital and never said sorry, you got accused of lying about breaking a vase when you didn’t, or you fought with your sibling, and your parents took their side instead of yours.

What would you do if you could go back in time and play the role of your caregiver(s) in that specific moment?

How would you talk to yourself? What did you need to hear? How would you have wanted them to respond to make you feel better?  

Look in the present 

You can also think about situations that have happened recently. Maybe you got passed over for a promotion at work, a long-term client in your business decided not to resign, or you fought with your partner about dishes (again).

If you were venting to your best friend, how would you want them to show up for you? What would you wish they would say? 

You can also flip it — If any of those things happened to your best friend and they were venting to you, what would you tell them? 

Thinking about how you would like others to show up for you, or how you would naturally show up for others in a similar position, can bring a lot of ideas of how you can show up for yourself.

Knowing your love language and how you prefer to give and receive love can also show you how to meet your emotional needs.

2. Bring awareness to your self-talk

How do you respond when you have big feelings? What are your thoughts and feelings about the emotional experience you’re having?

Do you allow your emotions, or do you tell yourself that you shouldn’t have them? 

When you make a mistake, do you kick yourself, think about how stupid you were, and overthink what you’d change if you could go back in time?

These are perfect opportunities to practice reparenting. Instead of playing the role of the overly critical parent, decide how YOU want to talk to yourself at that moment.

What would feel good? What would feel like you’re being wrapped up in a warm hug?

For me, a thought I like to practice is “It’s okay that you feel this way,” or even “Of course you feel this way; this is a sucky situation.” Before I go into problem-solving mode or resolution, I make sure my inner child knows she’s safe. She’s not only allowed to have big emotions but they’re welcomed.

Decide intentionally (and in advance) how you want to support yourself through tough or big emotions and what you can do to build trust with yourself.

Reparenting can feel awkward and clunky at first, just like any new skill. Be patient and stick with it! Over time, you will be able to easily calm your own nervous system, speak kindly to yourself, and build self-trust. When you have your own back (no matter what) and can depend on yourself to carry you through the hard stuff, life feels more manageable. 

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