Reparenting is a form of psychotherapy in which a therapist takes the role of a parental figure to their client in an attempt to successfully heal and treat harmful psychological patterns and conditioning caused by harmful—and even abusive—parenting.
While this is something that is mostly performed by licensed and trained healthcare professionals, there are a few techniques that are practical enough to be implemented into your own inner child healing journey.
Let’s get started.
What does reparenting yourself look like?
It’s important to note that reparenting doesn’t involve regression. You won’t be infantilizing yourself to the point where you are a baby who is relearning everything from the very beginning. Instead, you meet yourself exactly where you are currently.
Instead, you’re simply reflecting on the parts of yourself and your life that have been negatively impacted by harmful, neglectful, or abusive parenting, and then deciding what you should do about healing those aspects.
So what does it look like? That depends on the type of healing you need to do. Once you start the process of reparenting, you’ll be able to achieve clearer insight into what that will look like for you on a personal level.
For some of you it will be zeroing in on your confidence, and working on the things that make you feel insecure and invalidated. For others, it’ll be all about communication. But for all, it starts with the acceptance that you cannot change your path nor your parents.
How do you start the process?
Starting the process for self-reparenting isn’t going to look the same for everyone. If possible, you should meet with a mental health professional who can safely and effectively walk you through it.
However, it’s also okay to go through this journey alone or with your own community. Before you start, there are a few steps you should take:
- A declaration of acceptance and non-judgement. Before you start your healing journey with reparenting, you must acknowledge that you are going to revisit some triggering and possibly painful events in life.
Because of this, it’s important that you make a promise, or declaration, to yourself that you will accept your story as is and won’t harshly judge yourself in the process.
This is your chance to speak your truth, and if you can’t accept it or even think on it from an empowered place, how will you be able to deliver it to others from a place of power and ownership when the time comes?
- Reflection. You won’t be able to properly pinpoint harmful patterns and conditioning within yourself until you do some serious reflection. The reflection period is only about revisiting moments and events in your life that have shaped you.
As you recount everything, you’ll naturally be able to make the connection between what your mom and/or dad to you or in front of you that caused you to develop certain behaviors or habits that you still have currently.
The only catch of reflection is that it requires complete honesty. So if you’re unclear about certain details, be honest about it—don’t project anything into the empty space.
- Get to the core of it. Like thoughts and feelings, habits and behaviors are just the branches on your tree. For reparenting, you’re being asked to get to the root of it all.
The best way to do this is by asking yourself questions. When you ask, you will get the answers you seek eventually.
So for example, let’s say you figure out that you don’t like showing people what projects you’re working on currently. Here’s what self-dialogue might look like:
Why don’t you like showing people your projects? I’m afraid of receiving negative feedback. Why do you assume the feedback is going to be negative and not positive? Well, I have a lot of experiences with criticism.
Is there a key event where you received criticism and it really hurt your feelings? Yes. I finally learned how to play a song on the piano and my dad thought it was awful.
Why did it hurt your feelings? I worked really hard on it and my dad was so negative about it. But he’s always been so hard to impress.
In just a few questions, the subject learned a lot about themselves, as well as their relationship with their father. Try this exercise for yourself and see what you learn.
What does this mean for my own personal relationship with my actual parent(s)?
Your personal relationship with your parents doesn’t have to change until you’re ready for it to. For some people, it helps to talk with them about why they parented the way they did.
For others who don’t desire to do this or may not have the opportunity to do so, it helps to come into a place of acceptance that isn’t built on assumption.
When we’re healing deep emotional wounds, it’s easy to assume that the truth of the situation starts and stops with our feelings—this isn’t the truth.
The most important thing that will change for everyone who has invested time into reparenting themselves is the relationship they have with the idea of their parents. It may take months or even years, but you will eventually get to a place of healing and wholeness.