What Does It Mean to ‘’Reparent’’ Yourself?

Author and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Jose Toledo

woman looking at a distance

Reparenting ourselves is a significant act of self-love, particularly for those who have had challenging or traumatic childhoods.

You’ve likely heard about people who have gone through the process of reparenting themselves. Or perhaps you’ve come across the term in articles or magazines.

But does reparenting yourself work, and if so, how?

What does it mean to “reparent” yourself?

Broadly, reparenting your “adult self” is giving yourself all the things you didn’t receive from your parents in childhood.

Perhaps your parents were physically, emotionally or psychologically unavailable to you while growing up, and this experience has affected how you see things as an adult.

Unfulfilled childhood needs

You might be overly self-critical or harsh. Or perhaps you struggle to set healthy boundaries with others. Maybe you have difficulty regulating your emotions, dismiss your feelings, or find it challenging to get your needs met in relationships.

If you resonate with any of the above, then it’s likely that you will benefit from engaging in the process of reparenting yourself.

What are the benefits of reparenting yourself? 

shadow figure by the sunset

Unfortunately, for many people, their childhoods were void of the enchanted magic, parental presence and safety that others may have enjoyed growing up.

For some individuals, their experiences of youth were filled with fear, parental absence, instability, and not knowing what might happen from one day to the next.

This feeling of emotional, physical or psychological unsafety from childhood often transcends into the adult experience. Thus, those with traumatic childhoods often perceive the world differently than those without such histories.

Repairing all the wrongs from childhood

Having to navigate a world that feels unsafe, unpredictable, or requires immense survival skills can be frightening, even to the child -turned – adult whose experiences no longer need them to use unhealthy coping mechanisms to survive.

Essentially, reparenting oneself is a way to go back and correct all the wrongs inflicted during critical developmental phases – an attempt to re-regulate the nervous system so that the person no longer experiences the world as scary, unsafe or something that needs to be fought against to survive.

Social-emotional skills

Children rely on their parents or caregivers for various things. So, naturally, a child depends on their parents for food, warmth, clothing and shelter.

However, children also need their parents to teach them critical life skills like expressing, identifying, and dealing with their emotions, treating themselves with compassion and love, and setting healthy limits with others.

When a child doesn’t receive the safety, unconditional love and discipline from its parents, or if young children are not taught appropriate skills such as managing emotions and behaviors, they will likely struggle with these issues in adulthood.

Learned behaviors

We cannot know what we haven’t been taught.

Children depend on their parents to teach them vital things about the world; much of what children need to know to survive or make sense of the world is not innately ingrained knowledge. Instead, a child has to get taught certain things to know about them.

Our personalities primarily develop through learned behaviors. 

Biological factors are also involved, but what we get taught through our environment plays a critical role in how we develop as adults.

For example, social-emotional skills are learned behaviors. To practice these essential life skills, children need nurturing, compassionate parental figures and safe opportunities to do so, especially during critical developmental phases.

The importance of reparenting yourself

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Unfortunately, some parents are not in a position to teach their children critical life skills or provide them with what they need.

Parents may be unable to provide safety, warmth or shelter to their children or be incapable of emotionally giving them what they need; both have severe implications for children as they develop into adulthood.

Children who are not taught fundamental social-emotional skills such as healthy boundary-setting, self-compassion and respect will likely lack the skills needed to be well-adjusted, happy and cooperative adults.

It’s never too late to learn.

The great news is that it’s never too late to learn these fundamental skills; this is where reparenting comes into the equation for most people.

Giving yourself all the things that your parents couldn’t give you is a profoundly valuable commodity – the ability to fill in the gaps between what your parents gave you and what you needed.

How to reparent yourself

To begin the process of reparenting yourself, you may consider a few things first, such as identifying what you need most.

You could start by asking yourself what emotional or physical needs were unmet in childhood. Or, what things do I want to learn that my parents did not teach me?

Understanding some of the everyday social and emotional needs and skills that often get neglected or dismissed in childhood might be helpful. They include:

  • Self-care – Some children are not taught self-care basics. Thus, reparenting yourself involves recognizing and meeting your needs. Understanding that you are worthy and deserving of having your needs met is a vital aspect of the reparenting process.
  • Acceptance of your feelings – Another critical component to reparenting yourself is the ability to be aware of and accept your feelings. Your feelings are valuable, and it is okay to experience a range of emotions without judgment or ridicule.
  • Communication skills – Another skill that often gets neglected in childhood is learning how to communicate effectively. Reparenting yourself involves learning how to resolve conflicts constructively and expressing yourself clearly and calmly.
  • Healthy boundary-setting – Many people do not know how to set healthy boundaries with others or often feel guilty when they do. Reparenting is about learning to set boundaries with people respectfully, express your needs and expectations, and engage in relationships based on mutual respect and trust. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable with safe people and identifying toxic relationships and ending them are also ways to reparent yourself.
  • Learning how to regulate your emotions – Reparenting yourself also involves learning how to self-soothe and control your emotions, especially during challenging times. Additionally, self-regulation involves comforting yourself during painful moments, learning to cope with and tolerate difficult emotions, and using constructive coping mechanisms.
  • Self-affirmation – Knowing that your feelings matter and affirming your decisions and choices are integral to reparenting yourself. 
  • Self – love – Self – compassion and self-love involve being gentle with yourself, particularly during tough times. Using kind, supportive affirmations when speaking to yourself and knowing that you did your best in any given situation are fantastic ways to reparent yourself. Reflecting on past achievements and successes and liking who you are is integral to practicing self-compassion and may help fill in the gaps of a challenging childhood.
  • Practicing resilience – Learning to accept disappointments and setbacks and knowing that we do not always get what we want is essential to developing maturity and achieving self-actualization. 

The tools needed to reparent yourself

You’ll likely need support and guidance if you want to engage in reparenting yourself. Various resources can help teach people vital life skills that may have been unavailable during childhood.

Researchers have described some of the keys to helping people reparent themselves, such as:

Speaking to a therapist 

Is physical illnesses teaching us something vital

Mental health professionals are trained to help you identify unhelpful thinking and behavioral patterns. 

Therapy can provide a safe space to talk about your experiences and help you understand why you think and behave the way you do. 

Therapists are there to listen and offer compassion and understanding – the therapeutic process is modelled on respect, mutual trust, and knowledge. In addition, therapy gives clients the chance to learn emotional regulation skills and self-acceptance.

Engaging in 12 – step groups

12 -step groups are significantly helpful for those with substance abuse issues. Researchers have found a profound correlation between adverse childhood experiences and addiction.

Additionally, 12 – step groups are beneficial for people wanting to engage in the process of reparenting themselves through self-understanding and growth, allowing them to develop insights into their choices and feelings.

Self-education

Education is a critical aspect of reparenting yourself – there is tons of online content on the subject and in libraries and bookstores – some of which are listed here: https://naturingparents.com/best-books-on-reparenting-yourself#:~:text=Best%20 Books%20On%20Reparenting%20Yourself%20in%202022.%201,Guide%20to%20Your%20Inner%20Conversations.%20%20More%20items

Observing adults and role models

Healing your inner child may not be as easy as it sounds, but becoming the happy, whole and functional adult you were born to be is possible if you engage in the process of reparenting and healing past wounds.

One way of reparenting yourself is by observing other people – you may look at how they assert their boundaries, talk to others, and manage their emotions.

Such cues may give valuable insight into how you could do the same – note how other people behave and conduct themselves; you may even consider asking those you observe for a few pointers.

Additional tips on reparenting yourself

According to the research literature, there are other ways you can learn to reparent yourself, including:

  • Being kinder to yourself – your self -dialogue matters, and how you speak to yourself will reflect how you think, feel and behave, so practice being kinder to yourself.
  • Keeping a journal – tracking your thoughts and writing them down can offer immense value to those with challenging pasts. Writing in a journal can help you make sense of your emotions and allow you to problem-solve calmly and logically.
  • Having a robust social support network – the care and support of family and friends is a critical aspect of understanding and addressing inner conflict and is a step toward becoming a more empowered version of yourself. 

Giving yourself the things you didn’t get in childhood

Finding yourself

By cultivating more self-love, compassion and self-acceptance in your life, it is possible for you to act as a loving parent to yourself, thus providing yourself with the things you didn’t get in your formative years.

Reparenting yourself is a transformative process. 

For many people, the reparenting process can guide them toward a more loving, fulfilling relationship with themselves, helping them to cultivate positive coping mechanisms, strong social and emotional skills and a better quality of life overall.

According to Evelyn Lim, reparenting yourself means giving yourself the love, guidance and support you did not receive as a child in the present (Reparenting Yourself: What Does It Mean and How To Get Started, Evelyn Lim).

Reparenting yourself cultivates recovery and helps to heal your inner child.

Lim explains that to grow into healthy, functional adults, we need to learn essential emotional and social skills and have the opportunities to practice them safely. (Reparenting Yourself: What Does It Mean and How To Get Started, Evelyn Lim).

Unfortunately, some parents do not have the means to provide such skills and nurturing to their children. However, reparenting oneself is often the answer for those with traumatic childhoods. 

Lim beautifully puts it this way: “Reparenting is an essential component of a healthy self-love practice” (Reparenting Yourself: What Does It Mean and How To Get Started, Evelyn Lim).

Contact Tikvah Lake Recovery

If you want more information about this article, the team at Tikvah Lake Recovery is always on hand to offer guidance and support.

We specialize in treating various mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance abuse. 

We understand how challenging it can be to reach out in the first instance; however, our multidisciplinary team is always around to lend a listening ear – contact our friendly team today.

Helpful resources

1. Learn to Reparent Yourself: PsychCentral, Sharon Martin LCSW, November 22nd, 2019
2. Reparenting Yourself: What Does It Mean and How To Get Started: Evelyn Lim

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About David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, Psychologies, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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