Reparenting is a form of psychotherapy in which we take responsibility in adulthood to address those needs that were not met when we were children.
As children we were incredibly dependent on our caregivers to care for our needs and how they did this (or not) has long-lasting effects on us that follow us through into adulthood. Left unattended, we may even perpetuate these deficits with our children.
Conditions like codependency, perfectionism, anxiety, insecure attachment can all be traced to us not having certain needs met as children.
Reparenting is a process and a practice that takes compassion and patience. Remember you are about to become the parent to yourself you always wanted, so be kind and be gentle with yourself.
Here are the 4 pillars of reparenting.
Pillar 1 - Discipline
For many of us discipline has a negative connotation and our inner child could well rebel against the whole idea of it. But in truth, teaching ourselves discipline in adulthood is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.
We do this by implementing simple but meaningful healthy habits and rituals that will have positive effects in our lives. In this context we seek to create the guidance and containment that may have been lacking when we were little. We try to write the Life Rulebook we feel we never learnt. For some of us this is practical, for others it is deeply emotional.
What positive habits do you wish had been instilled in you – what your most positive self would love to have now? Then consider what steps you could take to invite those into your daily life. I suggest going very slowly, noticing painful or more uncomfortable moments in your day and asking yourself: “How do I want to care for myself now?” or “If I was a child, how might I parent myself in this moment and show myself love and guidance?”. This in itself is discipline - beginning a lifelong practice of caring for ourselves.
Pillar 2 - Self-Care
In many ways I believe reparenting and self-care are the same thing. Self-care speaks of us truly looking after ourselves as we go about life. Some people consider self-care to be slices of cake or a hot bubble bath. While those are both lovely, in fact the most important tenets of self-care are Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise and Compassion.
Sometimes in these modern lives we lead we tend to forget that our bodies need care to run effectively. If we are not taking care of our bodies then we can forget about taking care of our minds.
It's useful to have a ‘Back To Basics’ attitude because meeting these needs of ours with commitment and consistency, will absolutely emotionally regulate us and stabilise our moods so we are really able to face life in a confident and composed manner.
To me *that* is what self-care is all about. Examples of self-care: doing a weekly shop of healthy food, having boundaries with difficult or draining people, going slower to reduce stress, asking for help/doing therapy/learning about ourselves, managing our workload and time, prioritising sleep, and moving our body.
Once these basics are being met regularly then we can add the beautiful mindful feel-good practices that can feed our souls. Try combining Pillar 1 and 2 and see how they both start working together for you.
Pillar 3 - Joy
One of the greatest parts of reparenting is allowing ourselves to get in touch with that young part of us. We all know the joy that children bring. The playfulness, the spontaneity, the giggling and the fun. We all need that, it is fundamental to who we are.
Nurturing and creating space for that now in our adult lives, letting that young joyful part of us out, is so important. Many times, in these chaotic lives we are living, we have either forgotten how to experience joy, we don’t prioritise it because it does not pay the bills, or we have completely reclassified what it means.
Joy is play for the sake of playing, it is having pursuits and interests and passions independent of life's responsibilities.
We will likely have to fight parts of us that tell us we are selfish or self-indulgent when considering doing things just for the joy of it. But chasing joy is supremely good for us and our mental health. It staves off depression, it increases happiness and it reminds us life is a gift and not a chore.
So arrange something fun, eat your favourite meal from when you were little, call a friend and laugh wildly, listen to your fail-safe feel-good album. Plan that thing you’ve always wanted to do. Like a great, enthusiastic and supportive parent would. That’s you now. Let’s do this! Every day.
When looking at the 3 Pillars we have covered so far, we can see how they work together like a beautiful waltz (1,2,3 – 1,2,3). Practice them together every day and your life will feel like it is filled with music.
Pillar 4 - Emotional Regulation
A big part of parenting is co-regulating with our children. We soothe and support and this allows our children to internalise the process and in time be able to do it for themselves. So when they are hurt or distressed they know how to regulate themselves. In adulthood, when we emotionally regulate we create a homeostatic baseline that allows us to respond responsibly to ourselves when we're triggered and to safely navigate the highs and lows that will inevitably come along in our work, life and relationships.
Many of us need to learn or develop our ability to emotionally regulate ourselves. In difficult moments we need to know of ways we can look after ourselves by staying calm. Of course, these will be specific to you and what works for you. If triggered and in distress we need immediate regulation through breathing, containment and boundaries. But other emotional regulation is about daily practices that help us to have de-activated nervous systems that are not so quick to get triggered, and if they are, can return to normal quite quickly.
Try to incorporate some of these into your daily life and you will see a powerful positive change:
- Meditation / Mindfulness
- Regular exercise
- Eat healthily and mindfully
- Get enough sleep
- Stick to a routine
- Try not to rush / slow down
- Take up hobbies and stick to them
- Be creative
- Offer to help someone else
- Assess if your workload is too much
- Avoid draining or difficult people
- Prioritise yourself and your self-care