“Your parents are human. Nobody has perfect parents. Nobody can be the perfect parent. To some extent, we all may need a little reparenting.”
Human children are born without any means to defend themselves or face the world. Children are totally dependent upon their parents for love, acceptance, and shelter. Sometimes parents fail to provide the emotional, psychological, and physical shelter required for healthy children. This results in adults who are stuck in trauma-time who remain forever ruled by an inside force, the wounded inner child.
Release blame and shame.
When we are children, our minds are incredibly ego-centric. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s just how humans are neurologically wired. When we are children, we believe things happen not to us, but because of us.
Even if you were raised in a stable, loving, and caring household, you can still experience this phenomenon where you believe that you are responsible for your parents. Responsible for their emotions. Responsible for their life. Responsible for their experience.
It looks a lot like this:
- Feeling like it’s up to you to keep the show running and the trains on track when it comes to family events, issues, and/or crises.
- If a crisis happens, you are the calm in the storm in your family. The family relies on you to calm everyone down.
- Your parents often opened up to you about their marriage problems and grievances with each other.
- Your parents relied on you to take care of your siblings and/or manage your siblings behavior, struggles, etc.
- You felt/feel the need to perform in order to get your parent’s approval. For example, make a certain income level, achieve certain grades in school, maintain a specific physical aesthetic, etc.
- Your parents often emotionally dumped on you or dragged you into their personal problems. For example, they’d vent to you about their personal issues, ask you for advice, and/or expect you to help calm them down/problem-solve a crisis.
The Wounded Inner Child
The inner child lives in each human and is the core of who they are as people. The inner child is molded by the directions we receive in childhood that teach us how to parent ourselves. Painful, traumatic experiences, along with a lack of nurturing by dysfunctional parents, leave deep wounds in the inner child, and this, in turn, contaminates adult behaviorsKneisl 1991
These inside parts of ourselves have a significant impact on how we see ourselves and how we behave as adults. Some signs you have a wounded child might include that you:
- Have a deep feeling that there is something wrong with you
- Are a people-pleaser
- Are a rebel and feel alive when in conflict with someone else
- You are a hoarder
- Are not able to let go of possessions and people
- Experience anxiety with something new
- Feel guilty for setting boundaries
- Are driven to be a super-achiever
- Are ridged and a perfectionist
- Have problems starting and finishing tasks
- Exhibit constant self-criticism
- Feel ashamed at expressing emotions
- Feel ashamed of your body
- Have a deep distrust of anyone else
- Avoid conflict, no matter what the cost
- Have a deep-seated fear of abandonmen
If you recognize yourself in many (not necessarily all) of the above-listed items, then there is a high chance that you have a wounded inner child.
The Life Skill That Was Never Taught: Children are supposed to learn many life skills from their parents, including how to take care of their own emotional and physical needs. These life skills include:
- Love and Respect
- Self-Belief and Self-Confidence
- Emotional Management
- Good Communication Skills
Love and Respect. Parents are supposed to teach their children to speak to themselves in a kind and compassionate manner. Children need to learn to respect their values and believes but to be brave enough to challenge whether they are correct or not. Kids need to be taught to respect their bodies and to set appropriate boundaries. They also need to know when to let go of people who do not respect them.
Children also need to learn to value, love, and respect others, accepting other beliefs and backgrounds. They need to learn not to force their beliefs onto others and to express opinions in a manner that respects other’s feelings.
If any of these skills is missing, the child grows into an adult who not only does not love and respect themselves but also lacks respect for others.
Self-Belief and Self-Confidence. These two qualities can only be learned through experience, and it is up to parents to instill in their children to have self-belief. This belief system allows children to have the courage to take the necessary risks to further themselves in the world.
Teaching children that there is no such thing as a failure only opportunities to learn sets them up to try new things and to accept their faults. These kids will be more confident and competent in everything they do.
When parents do not teach their kids self-belief and self-confidence, they allow their children to internalize any mistakes they might make and to wallow in their failures. Children whose parents did not teach them self-belief and self-confidence grow into adults who are afraid to try new things and would rather be a follower rather than a leader.
Emotional Management. Learning to manage one’s emotions is one of the most important things a parent can teach their child. Children learn emotional management from watching their parent’s example, and if the parent does not regulate their own emotions, the child will not either.
The result is adults who are ruled by their emotions and who will be unable to respond appropriately to emotional stimuli. When faced with feeling depressed or scared, these adults are unable to act, and if nothing changes, nothing changes.
These adults become caught in a cycle.
Good Communication Skills. The success of adults both professionally and personally relies upon the quality of their communication skills. Parents are to teach their children to use and listen to both verbal and non-verbal communications and respond with authenticity, sensitivity, and actively.
When children are not taught to listen to others, they grow up to be adults who are unable to cultivate respectful relationships both at work and at home. Forming deep and lasting relationships becomes extremely difficult when communication skills are compromised by a lack of parenting.
Giving Yourself What You Did Not Receive as a Child
There is no substitute for good parenting. However, if you did not receive what you needed in childhood, it is never too late to begin anew by reparenting yourself.
Reparenting yourself allows you to give yourself all the love, respect, and dignity you did not receive in childhood. As your own parent, you can spend your time enjoying your years on planet earth because you feel stable, happy, and able.
Take time to listen to how you speak to yourself. Do you talk negatively, calling yourself the names you heard when you were a kid? Or do you tell yourself that you are good and worthwhile?
At first, it may seem awkward self-parenting, but with practice, you can not only contact your wounded inner child but heal the scars that exist deep down in your psyche.
Here are a few tips to reparenting yourself:
- Use positive affirmations such as “I am a good person.”
- Talk to your adult self to ask for aid in grown-up decisions
- Give rewards to yourself every day
- Get plenty of sleep
- Write in a reparenting notebook a daily to-do list and celebrate when you have completed the tasks
- Practice mindfulness to remain present
- Tell yourself that you love you even if it feels awkward
- Think about the good memories you had in childhood
- Make new “good” memories and traditions
Create a nurturing self-care routine.
Self-care isn’t healing. Self-care isn’t how you do the work or heal. Self-care is there because you are healing.
Healing doesn’t feel good. That’s why it’s important to maintain a loving, kind self-care routine.
And, when I say, “Healing doesn’t feel good”, what I mean is that healing is painful. Reparenting yourself and healing yourself require a certain amount of grit to look at your old wounds straight on and be bold in how you choose to show up in your life.
Self-care is the breath of relief at the end of the day. It’s meant to comfort you in this journey. Thus, keeping an adequate and predictable self-care routine is going to be vital while you reparent yourself.
Self-care can be anything. Ideally, self-care looks like living your life in such a way that surface-level self-care (bumble baths, skin care routines, yoga, other feel-good things) aren’t a strict requirement to feel good about your life.
Learn how to play again.
Kids love to play. Kids love fun. Don’t you remember that being bored as a kid was the worst thing on earth? I sure do.
You know why children love to play? Because they’re neurological set-up for it. Children learn through playing. They learn through experimenting, exploring, diving in without expectations.
As adults, it can seem like we lose this aspect of us. We get comfortable.
We get comfortable with things that shouldn’t be comfortable: relationships that emotionally drain us, jobs we hate, friendships that are petty, family members with boundary issues, bosses that are rude, coping mechanisms that are toxic.
They’re comfortable because they’re familiar and we love familiar. Familiar isn’t scary. Familiar is predictable. Familiar doesn’t require change.
Playing is the opposite, especially if you haven’t for awhile or were shamed for playing as a child.
Playing is healing as an adult. It allows your inner child to come forward and release built-up emotion. It activates a part of your brain to assist in emotional regulation. It fosters feelings of safety, joy, and compassion for yourself and others.
Here’s some ideas on how to play:
- Host a game night with friends.
- Play with kids. Let the kids decide what to do during play-time (hide-and-seek, art, card games, museums, etc).
- Go to a comedy show.
- Go to the park or beach and play a game of frisbee, soccer, and/or volleyball.
- Fly a kite.
- Play with puppies or kittens at your local animal shelter. (Or at home if you have a pet!)
- Go bowling.
- Play miniature golf.
- Swing on swings at the park.
Honestly, the most fun part about relearning how to play as adult is coming up with your own ideas. There’s no wrong answers or direction here. If it sounds fun, makes you laugh, and/or you genuinely enjoy it, you’re playing!
Try to play regularly and often. Minimally, once a week. The more you play, the more you open up the channels for healing your inner child and reparenting yourself.