Reparenting Yourself: How to Heal From Inadequate Parenting
Did you suffer from inadequate parenting? It’s not too late to make up for it. Here are five ways to reparent yourself to find healing.
Whatever you may have missed from your parents, you can still obtain.
According to a report published by London-based institute Sutton Trust, researchers from Princeton, Columbia, and other institutions found that 40 percent of children lack healthy attachments to their primary caregiver. If you were a child who didn’t feel supported and loved, the scars are still with you. You can choose to understand why you received certain emotional resources and not others, and then learn to address these deficiencies.
People cannot love if they themselves were never loved. People cannot care for others if they have never been cared for. Instead of blaming your parents for what you didn’t receive, you can ask, “Did they ever have it to give?”
Research shows that a childhood deficit in affection impacts the ability of people to connect emotionally in personal relationships throughout their lives. Moreover, clinical and forensic psychologist Steven Diamond, PhD, holds that most adults have emotional gaps in their upbringing that result from inadequate parenting. Diamond calls these gaps “inner child wounds” and asks us to remember that “we were all once children and still have that child dwelling within us.”
When the inner child has been wounded, that child still longs to be loved, nurtured, and supported. This is true for your parents, if they lacked security or love as children. And it might be true for you.
Contemporary scholarship suggests our bodies store physical and emotional pain. You may have had to bear the pain of hiding your thoughts, feelings, and emotions to receive love. Or maybe you were emotionally neglected—if not completely abandoned. These experiences create the inner child wounds to which Diamond refers.
If you did not feel safe as a child, it is likely you do not feel safe as an adult. You live your life with that inner child longing for the love, safety, and security you may have never received. You may not be aware of your inflamed inner child. This lack of awareness can cause you to neglect yourself time and time again.
To address gaps in parenting, contemporary therapists encourage you to “reparent” yourself. This term was originally introduced by transactional analysis theorists to describe something that a therapist does with a client to model a healthy and safe relationship. In these cases, therapy addresses the insecure attachments that exist among people whose parents failed to provide safe environments.
Reparenting therapy allows you to experience a supportive therapeutic relationship in which you receive the tools needed to create nurturing environments of your own. Most therapists today hold that reparenting does not have to be done by the professionally trained. You can reparent yourself by giving yourself the love, care, and support you never received.
Here are five strategies for reparenting:
1. Experiment with what brings you joy. You may have been raised in an environment where you were unable to engage in activities that made you happy. Rather, you were forced to do what brought your parents and others happiness. Adulthood is your time to take back your happiness and do what brings you joy. And, yes, being “in-joy” is a spiritual practice.
2. Establish a morning routine. Do something that you enjoy each morning, whether it’s meditating, drinking a cup of coffee or a glass of hemp milk, walking, or practicing breathing exercises. Doing something you enjoy to start your day serves as a reminder throughout the day that you can always come back home to yourself.
3. Read inspiring literature and quotes. Just as you are a product of your formative environment, you are also a product of your immediate one. Therefore, inspirational messages and positive literature will remind you that you are unconditionally loved and fully accepted.
4. Slow down. You must remind yourself that everything doesn’t need to get done all at once. Rather, things can get done over a period of time. Throw out the timeline. Be more compassionate. Give yourself permission and time to grow and change. Then celebrate small accomplishments in big ways.
5. Change your thought patterns. Refrain from thinking that you should do a particular personal development activity, and, instead, replace it with the thought that the activity would be a new and exciting thing for you to do. As children, you may have performed out of a sense of obligation. However, as an inner-child-embracing adult, you can act out of curiosity, interest, and the knowledge that the activity would make you a better person.
No matter your life stage you can benefit from these reparenting strategies. Make room for these activities and commit to giving yourself the unconditional love, care, and nurturing you deserve.