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Reparenting Your Inner Child

As children, we are dependent on our caregivers to provide, love, accept and nurture us as we grow up; however, not everyone has the ideal “Leave It To Beaver” type of family. Sometimes parents are not capable of meeting our emotional and physical needs through the developmental years, resulting in trauma. As adults, although you may have progressed forward, your inner child still holds the memories and emotions. When your inner child is in the driver seat, it can lead to impulsive reactions, heavy emotional responses, or exhausting behaviors to keep up. Reparenting is a method for adults to learn to identify when their inner child is hurting and how to meet their emotional needs.







Our Inner Child

The inner child is a part that lives in all of us and has been shaped by our attachment with our caregivers and the feedback we received from them, as well as society. Traumatic experiences, unmet needs, and parents who did not show up can lead to a hurting inner child. This causes our inner child to be afraid of abandonment and rejection, as it’s a reminder of the sorrow of the past. In order to prevent those big emotions of rejection and abandonment from happening, our inner child searches for ways to prove they are loved, accepted, worthy, valued and validated. This can include the following behavioral examples:



People Pleasing Behavior

Perfectionistic Behavior

Codependency

Workaholic

Constantly busy

Avoiding Conflict

Emotionally Avoidant

Difficulty Setting Boundaries/Passive Behavior



These behavioral attempts help to achieve and meet those underlying emotional needs as you get validation in the form of praise, promotions, pay raises, likes on social media etc. but the high of it all is fleeting and then you are right back to the hustle of proving you are enough. Now that you’ve identified your inner child, what do you do.


Click here for more information on attachment.


Reparenting

This is the concept of showing up for you in a way that your parents or society didn’t. This involves your adult self learning to provide love, respect, grace, compassion, nurture and even boundaries. You don’t have to be perfect or know all the answers, it’s just learning to show up for you. After all, when we have a hard day, we don’t necessarily want someone to problem solve a solution, we just want someone to sit with us in the uncomfortableness of it all. To illustrate the steps, I am going to use the example of getting negative feedback from a boss at work.


1. Identify when your inner child is hurting


Signs your inner child is hurting can come from emotional responses, behavioral engagement, or feeling you have in your body (ex: tension). I suggest pausing and reflecting inward. Notice that your inner child is hurting as this potential circumstance may remind you of a difficult interaction with a parent, teacher, or your peers growing up. Observe what is being stirred up for your little one.


2. What are they feeling and thinking?


Take a second to connect with the emotions being felt in your body, such as shame or feeling discouraged. Maybe this felt rejection from a boss reminds you of negative interactions with parents where you felt similarly. Notice beliefs such as, “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not capable”. What is this experience like for your inner child?


3. Validation

Before going into problem solving mode, I want you to validate little you. Let them know it's okay to feel big emotions and given the situation, it likely makes sense. This allows them to feel seen, heard, and connected to you, making the next couple of steps easier. Examples of validation include:


"I totally understand why you are feeling this way"


"It makes complete sense given _______ that you are feeling ________"


"I've felt that emotion before to, it's a really sucky sensation to feel"


"I think I would feel ______ too if I was in that situation"


"While I don't know how to solve that emotion for you, I will sit here with you and listen"


4. Ask yourself, “What do I need in this moment?”


Once you have validated and connected to little you, explore what you need. Do you or little you need .....


Nurturing, such as kind words, a hug, or someone to sit next to them


Wise Words, such as feedback or advice


Coping skill, such as reading, saying a mantra, coloring, journaling, or listening to music


Nourishment, like water or a snack


Movement, such as exercise, yoga, or walking


5. Offer this to yourself


Once you’ve identified what you need, you allow yourself to follow through. This may be speaking to your inner child to provide comfort- “I know that was scary and a difficult moment but know I love you and believe you are enough. Love is not conditional and worthiness is not based upon a performance. You don’t have to earn my love and I will never leave you”. It could be imagining giving yourself a hug. It could also be going for a walk or doing a breathing exercise to help both of you reset and return to your window of tolerance. (What is window of tolerance? Click here)



6. Check back in- How do you feel now?


While this is awkward and new, the more you practice these steps, the easier it gets. As you check back in with little you, you should start to notice a calmer self, feeling more in control, and feeling reassured as these steps help to fulfill those underlying needs (love, acceptance, nurture), but in a lasting, healthy way.



Take a second to let this information sink in, as this can be a very new or different concept. Again, as you practice this and start to connect with your little you, it may feel awkward, so there is no expectation to have this all mastered. This is an ongoing practice of checking in and meeting those needs. You are also welcome to reach out if you would like more assistance in exploring the emotional residue leftover from those difficult moments and how to heal it.


An animated resource that also depicts our inner selves and is a great visual is, “Twenty Something” on Disney Plus or “Inside Out”.


Written by Chelsea McDonald




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