Reparenting Your Inner Child: What Does It Mean? How Do We Do It?
My grandson is almost two. I’ve watched him grow in wonder and curiosity over the past two years and it’s been wonderful.
I watch him look at the world. As I watch, I wonder what he’s downloading into his subconscious.
I wonder what assumptions he’s making. What belief patterns he’s beginning to create. What lovely things he’s beginning to see about himself. What false beliefs he may be believing. What unhealed wounds his parents are unconsciously passing down to him.
And, what emotions he may be feeling. What negative emotions he may not know how to process, so he tucks them away into the shadow part of his ego. It’s a defense mechanism that protects him (and all of us)…part of our survival instincts.
If only I had known all this when I was raising toddlers…
This month’s discussion focuses on inner child healing work.
It would be wonderful if my grandson’s parents were completely healed, whole, and enlightened. But parents don’t usually go into parenthood with such a clean psyche or emotional slate.
I know I didn’t, and thus, passed down some of my unhealed wounds onto my kids.
Sorry, my lovely children. I just didn’t know.
You see, we come here as purely innocent babies. Birthed as a spirit in a body suit. Consciousness all signed up for an earthly journey.
Full of wonder, awe, love, curiosity, and purity.
But life has a way of affecting all that innocence and holiness (whole-iness).
Being born to unconscious or semi-conscious parents puts us in a situation where we are the recipients of some of their inner wounds.
In other words, our primary caregivers inevitably pass on down their inner pain that they haven’t healed.
As children, we just don’t get all our emotional needs met. We just can’t.
And, we experience all sorts of things that can be considered traumatic.
- Crying that goes on for a while and no one is around to soothe.
- Daddy or Mommy yelling at us for something we didn’t do.
- Mom and Dad screaming at each other in an argument.
- Wanting to be held and loved on, but everyone is busy.
- Experiencing the loss of a loved one.
- Any type of abuse (emotional, mental, physical, sexual)
- An illness or injury
- An accident
- Even coming out of the birth canal. I just don’t think that’s very pleasant for a baby.
- And many other sad, traumatic events.
I’ve gone into more details in other articles about how children begin fragmenting or splitting off from their true selves when faced with neglect, trauma, abuse, etc.
Today, I’d like to focus more on that darling inner child we all have and “reparenting” it as a more conscious, mature adult.
What Is Reparenting?
Reparenting is a term used in psychology that essentially means taking the time as an adult to “reparent” the wounded inner child that didn’t get its needs met or experienced trauma. It allows you to recognize what parts of you were wounded (fragmented, split off) and allows for you to heal and integrate those parts.
As a result, you struggle less with negative emotions (sadness, anger, anxiety, etc.) and can consciously choose more mature behavior as an adult. (Less temper tantrums, negative coping skills, shutting down, slamming doors, screaming, etc.)
Reparenting is hearing, seeing, and unconditionally loving your inner child today in a way you wanted way back then, but didn’t get. (At least to the degree you wanted or needed)
How Was Your Childhood?
In my 20’s and 30’s, I used to think I had a wonderful childhood. However, when I started doing some inner healing work, and really thought back to childhood, my eyes were opened to some startling truths.
My dad struggled with alcoholism. My mom struggled with clinical depression and anxiety. They were there, but they weren’t really there, you know? They were swimming in emotional pain. Dad self-medicated that pain with alcohol and Mom didn’t know how to contend with hers in a healthy way.
How could they fully be present to meet my emotional needs when they weren’t able to meet their own?
I don’t have any blame or resentment toward them. I absolutely loved and appreciated them. They really were doing the best they could at their level of consciousness and pain levels. And, I still think they did pretty good for the amount of pain they were in.
Still, I grew up picking up some unhealthy coping skills. I didn’t learn how to communicate or connect in an authentic, deep way with others. Our relationships were “surfacy”. We swept “issues” under the carpet. I walked on eggshells. I spent a lot of time alone, self-sufficient. I also chose to be the “good girl” as to not make anymore ripples in the household.
I adopted some coping skills (defense mechanisms) that served me then, but as an adult?
They weren’t serving me well.
- I was ultra-independent (um, controlling to a large degree. Being in control helped me feel safe).
- I hated conflict and would rather stuff my feelings rather than be authentic and speak out.
- I became co-dependent upon my children. My happiness rested on theirs and their “need” for me. My sense of worth came from their level of happiness. (That’s why sh&t hit the fan when they turned to teens and didn’t need me so much. I ended up having an emotional meltdown (which prompted a spiritual journey).
- I shutdown emotionally. Did not know how to feel my feelings and certainly didn’t want to feel the painful ones. (This also caused me to not be able to feel the happy feelings to a degree)
- I had commitment issues.
Yeah, an inner hot mess. That was me!
Anyway, let’s get back to reparenting.
There are four “pillars” of reparenting:
1. Discipline2. Joy3. Emotional Regulation4. Self-Care
I’ll get more into detail on each pillar in a subsequent article.
For me, I struggled with all of these about equally.
- I didn’t know how to experience true joy (chronic depression)
- I had little discipline
- I stuffed most of my emotions (Oh, I’m fine. I’m great! I’m perfect! Um, mask, mask, mask).
- And self-care took a back seat for many years
But low and behold, when I started doing my inner child healing work, these things began to change. Over time, I learned how to be a disciplined person. I began practicing self-care. I started doing things that I was passionate about and having some fun. And, I started learning how to identify, feel, and express my emotions. (This is still a work in progress!)
Do you see in yourself how your inner child may be carrying unhealed wounds?
Are you struggling with negative emotions? Overreacting? Repetitive cycles? PTSD? Chronic anxiety or depression? Rage?
If so, I want to encourage you that you can begin “unlearning” the things that don’t serve you anymore. And, learning things that do.
In other words, healing at deeper levels.
Now, onto how you can begin “reparenting” yourself:
1. Seek Out A Therapist
To get the most out of the reparenting process and healing the inner child, it’s best to seek out a therapist that is familiar with this type of work. You can do this work as a self-directed journey, but it’s valuable to have an expert guide you through the process. I spent years doing it on my own, but that only took me to a certain degree of healing. Turns out some parts of my inner child really liked to hide waaaaaay deep, and I needed help to find them and reconnect!
For me, the money invested in therapy has been quite helpful. It took me a couple of tries to find the right therapist for me. Keep trying till you find one that resonates with you.
2. Acknowledge Your Inner Child
Affirm that you have an inner child. It may be wounded in some areas, so acknowledge this and commit to doing your inner child healing work. It’s a process!
3. Be Gentle
I neglected my inner child for many years, mainly because I just couldn’t remember her. I forgot so much. I disconnected from her, from reality. As a result, she felt abandoned. A lost little girl all on her own.
But when I began remembering and reconnecting, when I found her, I had to be gentle and go slowly. She didn’t trust easily and who could blame her?
So be gentle as you remember and reconnect with your inner child. Healing is a process and a journey, and many lessons will be learned along the way.
4. Find Out What You Didn’t Learn As A Child
I grew up not knowing how to intimately connect with others. It was all surfacy, as I wore my little masks all day, every day. Authentic communication is something I didn’t learn, so reparenting for me means I learn and practice that skill. Years into my healing process, it’s still challenging for me at times to speak my truth. I’m still a work in progress.
What didn’t you learn back then that you can learn today that will make your life better? Your relationships better?
Conflict resolution? Responsibility? How to have a healthy conversation? How to manage your emotions? How to feel your emotions? How to practice empathy?
What might you have to unlearn?
Negative belief patterns? Criticism? Self-doubt? Self-loathing? Aggression? Manipulation? Hate? Fear? Scarcity? Thoughts that you’re no good? Not enough? Not worthy? A failure? Worthless?
All things stuffed off into little fragments that are wanting you to feel, deal, heal, and integrate.
5. Fill In The Gaps
Since you didn’t get all your wants and needs met as a child, fill in those gaps today. Consciously go forward validating your emotions, being playful, curious, disciplined, and attune to your inner boundaries.
6. Connect With Your Inner Child
Here is one way that you can re-connect with your inner child. Close your eyes and bring your attention within. Scan your emotional body for pain. Do you feel depression? Anxiety? Grief?
Where do you feel it? In your gut? Chest area?
Ask it, “What is it that you want to say? What’s the message you’re trying to get to me?”
You may envision Little You if you want. See that little boy or girl in pain and wanting to connect with you. Ask them what they need from you.
They may show you an incident that hurt them. They may want you to go to them and hug them. Tell them you are sorry they had to go through that. Hear them. See them. Validate their emotions. Then, assure them that they are alright now. That the past is over, and they can let that pain go. That Adult You has got their back now and will protect them.
You may want to journal about this or go on to do some meditations. I’ll get more in depth concerning inner dialogue in a different article. For now, consider connecting with your inner child more often when you’re feeling emotional. (Rather than automatically reacting via your programming)
Practicing mindfulness has helped me stay in the present moment and go within when I feel emotions. Rather than ruminating in the past or fretting the future, I stay in the now. I drop within to scan and inquire what’s going on there.
7. Get Used To Asking, “How Can I Nurture Myself Today?”
You are the one responsible for meeting your needs as an adult.
Maybe as a child, all your needs didn’t get met. But today, as a responsible adult, you can find ways to meet them. Get in the habit of nurturing yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Tune within to see what it is your inner child wants/ needs. (Think mindfulness, meditation, warm bubble bath, taking a walk in nature, reading, a vacation, solitude, or other things that nurture you)
It’s easy in today’s busy society to live on autopilot. Rushing around from here to there, forgetting about your authentic, spiritual self. Take time regularly to get quiet. Breathe. Go within. Nurture your inner child with lots of love, laughter, validation, and time. It’ll make a difference in your quality of life.
Wrapping It Up
There are many benefits to reparenting yourself or seeing a therapist to assist you with your reparenting journey.
- Discovering the needs that didn’t get met as a child, and meeting them now
- Learning how to tap into your current wants and needs
- Be able to speak your truth without freaking out thinking it’ll cause conflict
- Improve your ability to enjoy a secure attachment
- Trust that you’re not going to be abandoned
- Open up in vulnerability
- Feel like the universe supports you; you’re not alone
- Feel happier, more playful, and more peaceful
- Feel like you ARE good enough
- Connect with your emotions and be able to manage them in a healthy way
- Actually feel your emotions (rather than repress or “shut down”)
Those are some great reasons for reparenting.
I can attest that the reparenting process can help immensely. It is especially helping me heal some old wounds and learn better coping mechanisms. It’s also helping me be more connected to my emotions, rather than stay “cut off” from them or repress them. That type of coping doesn’t serve me anymore.
I’d like to note that about ten years ago I did some inner child healing work. It served me well at the time. However, I’m back to doing some reparenting these days, working on different areas that I didn’t work on back then.
Those hidden parts that are wounded will send you messages, wanting you to discover and do the inner healing work to integrate them. This is a lifelong practice for most people. And, that’s alright.
Keep doing your inner healing work. (smile)
If you want to learn more about Reparenting, check out Schema Therapy, as it’s well known for using reparenting or “limited reparenting”. With the help of a therapist, you’ll learn about various “child modes”, such as the “Vulnerable Child Mode” and “Angry Child Mode” – to learn how to reparent those aspects of yourself in ways that benefit you today.
My hope is that through reparenting, you’ll heal at deep levels. You’ll feel lighter, happier, and experience more peace, curiosity, excitement, and so much joy. Your past does not have to continue to impact your present. Keep doing your inner child healing work. You deserve (and can have) a better life.
So be it!
Namaste and Blessings to you!
Here’s a wonderful talk from Tara Brach on Spiritual Reparenting.
Rediscovering Sacredness offers helpful resources & guides to help you identify and heal your inner wounds. Regardless of where you are on your spiritual journey, there’s hope for emotional healing, growth, and spiritual awakening. We focus on digging deep, doing the inner healing work, shadow work, ancient wisdom techniques & rituals to assist you live the kind of life you were meant to.
Dominica Applegate is an author, writer, and transpersonal spiritual teacher. Her teachings have helped millions of people experience emotional healing, relationship repair, and spiritual awakening. Earning her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling, she worked 12 years in the mental health field before diving full-time into writing.
She runs Rediscovering Sacredness, an online portal that offers inspiration, essays, resources, and tools to help heal inner pain and experience more peace and joy.
Her books include Recycle Your Pain: It Has a Purpose, Into The Wild Shadow Work Journal, and a collection of poetry entitled, The Pain, It Shapes Her World.