Updated: Nov 29, 2022
By Sarah R. Moore
One of the biggest surprises in parenting is that when you birth or adopt a child, you birth a whole new version of yourself, too. Some parts of this are wonderful. Other parts, however, can be--ahem--challenging.
Just as people say children don't come with instructions, you may wonder why all your family-of-origin "stuff" is coming up. Where's the manual that tells you how to reparent yourself? Where's this coming from, anyway?
Spoiler alert: it's part of the human experience, and you're not alone.
Most parents agree: when you have a child, longstanding emotional baggage resurfaces. And the harder you try to deny your inner child, the more loudly they'll speak until you pay attention.
When you have your own kids, inner child work jumps to the forefront.
Faced with the responsibility of raising another human who, we hope, will go on to have healthy relationships with others as they grow older, we realize we need to model what those healthy relationships look like.
So, that means we need to start whatever healing process needs to happen on the inside before we can expect to have healthy relationships on the outside.
This inner child work is called reparenting ourselves. To begin this reparenting journey, though, your inner child is going to need your support.
We might have the best intentions of being a so-called "good parent," but if we had any semblance of childhood trauma or even any unhealthy relationships, we must attend to our own needs before we can parent our new child optimally.
Your inner child is going to need your support.
You can be alert for these two things as you learn how to reparent yourself.
1.) Your wounded child will show up.
The reality is that some of us were deeply wounded for parts or all of our childhood, perhaps lacking one or more of the "4 Ss" of secure attachment with our primary caregivers: seen, safe, soothed, and secure (source).
When we choose to show up for our own child in ways we might've lacked when we were little, our inner child may feel jealous or resentful. This can be very normal.
The healing happens when we meet our inner child with self-compassion and say, "I get it. You didn't receive this from your own parent, and yet you're pouring out all this unconditional love on your child. You were always worthy of this loving relationship, too." You find ways to nurture yourself while you also nurture your child.
"Self-care" doesn't have to look anything like a bubble bath. It can simply be acknowledging that you never grew out of being worthy of love and receiving gentleness.
If you want to know the most important part of how to reparent yourself, this is it, right here. Just acknowledge that little you always needed this kind of love, too. It's not too late to show up for yourself.
2.) Your triggers will become apparent.
Things may bother you for what seems to be "no good reason," but the reason might be that they were the same things you "got in trouble" for when you were little.
The healing happens when you unpack what your emotional needs were when you were younger and address whatever those unmet needs were. Self-parenting means you give yourself new "scripts" to follow when you're tempted to use whatever suboptimal communication skills you may have learned from your own caregivers.
This is a big part of inner child work: unpacking what habits you want to keep, noticing which ones you want to change, and then doing the work accordingly. How it works is that you practice your chosen new habits in a better way until they feel natural to you.
You don't have to have all the answers.
In fact, it's normal if you don't. You can be a loving parent who is on a healing journey -- full of self-compassion and healthy boundaries. Your quest shouldn't be perfection but rather self-awareness, self-acceptance, and emotional regulation when those messy moments arise.
You have the privilege of contributing to your child's self-esteem and self-confidence. You can model the life skills of positive self-talk and gentleness. Your inner child needs these every bit as much as the child in front of you does.
You were always worthy of those things, and when you look into the eyes of the little human who's counting on you, there's no better motivation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah R. Moore is the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting and author of Peaceful Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science & Better Behavior. She’s a public speaker, armchair neuroscientist, and, most importantly, a Mama. She's a lifelong learner with training in child development, trauma recovery, interpersonal neurobiology, and improv comedy. As a certified Master Trainer in conscious parenting, she helps bring JOY, EASE, and CONNECTION back to families around the globe. Based in Colorado, Sarah and her family spend much of their time world schooling. She speaks French and eats Italian food like a pro! Her heart's desire is to bring greater peace and healing to the world through loving and respectful parenting. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, & Twitter.
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