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Navigating Healing: A Guide to Reparenting in Therapy

As a child, you may not have received the care, support and understanding you needed from your parents. You may have faced challenges that left lasting emotional imprints. 

Reparenting is a way to nurture, support and care for yourself as an adult in ways you may not have experienced as a child. 

“Reparenting is when an adult works to meet their own emotional or physical needs that went unmet in their childhood. These needs may include affection, security, routines and structure, emotional regulation and compassion,” said Jerimya Fox, a licensed professional counselor and a doctor of behavioral health with Banner Health.

Reparenting is inspired by attachment theory and the understanding that early life experiences have a strong impact on your emotional well-being. It takes you to the roots of your emotional pain so you can heal the wounds that may have started in your childhood. Reparenting can have a powerful impact on healing. It emphasizes your need to revisit and reframe your relationship with yourself, fostering self-love and acceptance.

Reparenting is a technique you can learn and practice in therapy, but there’s a strong emphasis on nurturing yourself. It includes centering your activities and thoughts in ways that promote emotional well-being and self-compassion. In the process of reparenting, you learn to identify and respond to your own emotional needs, which can give you a sense of empowerment and resilience. 

Every person’s reparenting journey is unique and personal, shaped by their history and their challenges. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Therapists work closely with people to tailor the process to their needs and goals.

Reparenting can change how you relate to yourself and the world. You may discover new strengths, resilience and a deeper sense of self-compassion that extends throughout your life.

Signs that reparenting might be helpful

“Your parent may not have provided all of your needs. So you may need to learn how to give yourself what you lacked as a kid to improve your overall mental health today,” Dr. Fox said.

If you’re considering reparenting, you’ll want to start by thinking about your personal experiences, especially the ones from childhood. Memories that trigger emotional distress or keep influencing the present might be signs that reparenting could be useful.

You may notice patterns of self-neglect or negative self-talk. If you catch yourself downplaying your achievements, doubting your worth or taking part in behaviors that sabotage your future, you may have unresolved emotional wounds that could be healed with reparenting.

If you struggle to navigate life’s challenges without criticizing yourself, or you can’t give yourself the kindness you give others, reparenting could help you address your need for emotional support. It can give you a framework for a more nurturing relationship with yourself. 

How the reparenting process works

The reparenting process begins with a trusting relationship with a therapist. You need a secure base to share your deepest emotions, thoughts and experiences. You'll want to work with a therapist who creates a safe space where you can open up about your vulnerabilities.

There are forms of reparenting where the therapist assumes the role of the parent and guides a person toward healing, but self-reparenting is the type of reparenting most used today. “This is when the person, instead of the therapist, does the reparenting of themselves,” Dr. Fox said. 

A therapist guides you on this journey with insights and helps you build the skills you need for self-compassion and change. They can give you a supportive space to explore your emotions, confront past wounds and understand the patterns of behavior that began in your early years. While you’ll work with a therapist, the true power of reparenting comes from within you.

“A therapist can help you explore hurtful patterns that you learned growing up. Through self-reparenting, you learn to recognize and change the unhealthy inner dialogue you learned from your parent and replace it with a healthier one,” Dr. Fox said.

You'll work with your therapist to explore past wounds and experiences. Your therapist may suggest guided conversations, therapeutic exercises and reflective work. The point is not dwelling on pain but understanding it to promote healing.

A key part of reparenting is developing techniques to soothe yourself and to cope. Your therapist will work with you to find strategies you can use to nurture yourself. That could include mindfulness practices, grounding exercises or creative outlets.

In reparenting you also learn to treat yourself with the same kindness, understanding and patience you would use with a close friend. Your therapist can help you challenge critical self-thoughts and create a mindset of self-acceptance.

Reparenting also includes focusing on self-care, such as rest, nourishment and activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.

How reparenting can be a part of your daily life

As you make progress in your reparenting journey, you will want to add nurturing practices into your daily life. They could be:

  • Morning rituals such as mindfulness exercises, positive affirmations or taking time for gratitude. These activities can set a positive tone for the day.
  • Self-care breaks during the day for activities like a short walk, deep breathing exercises or a few minutes enjoying a favorite hobby. These breaks give you a chance to reconnect with yourself.
  • Establishing boundaries, which can involve saying no when you need to, putting your well-being first and creating space for things that bring you joy and relaxation.
  • Journaling, where you can think about your emotions, experiences and moments of self-discovery. Writing can help you process your thoughts and build self-awareness.

Building a supportive network of friends and family 

You'll want to share your reparenting journey with family and close friends. Educate the people closest to you about reparenting and how it's helping you. With open communication, your loved ones can provide you with understanding, support and encouragement. Solid connections with others can strengthen your sense of security and belonging.

Overcoming challenges

You may face challenges during reparenting. Here are a few that might crop up:

  • You might not believe that the process will work: You'll want to communicate honestly with your therapist about these concerns. Your therapist can help you understand the benefits of reparenting and set realistic goals.
  • You might not want to relive past experiences that may be emotionally intense: Your therapist can help you create a plan for when emotions become overwhelming. They may also reassure you that emotional release is a natural and essential part of healing.
  • You may be a people-pleaser without much understanding of your own needs: So you may need to learn how to set boundaries.

You'll need to be patient and persistent in the healing journey. It doesn't happen in a straight line. You'll have ups and downs and progress may come in small steps. 

It can be helpful to recognize the effort you've put into the process and to celebrate small victories with treats like a favorite meal, a relaxing bath or a leisure activity you love. 

The bottom line

Reparenting is a process where you learn to give yourself the love, acceptance, support and understanding you may not have received from your parents when you were a child.

“Self-reparenting requires a lot of energy and work,” Dr. Fox said. “But the benefits include processing your emotions, setting up strong boundaries, viewing yourself more positively and creating healthier relationships.”

If you would like more guidance on reparenting and healing childhood wounds, reach out to an expert at Banner Health or call Banner Behavioral Health at 800-254-4357.

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