You have a baby. Now you are realizing that you aren't quite grown up yourself, and asking, how do I reparent myself?
Not to panic, most of us do realize just how much we still need to grow up when we have kids. This can be equally true with second-time moms too. We are constantly learning and growing as people, and as we transition into this new and exciting phase of our lives, we are learning different skills.
Caring for another person takes a whole new skillset that we haven't had to use before. Not only are we entering into a relationship with a brand-new person, our other relationships are changing too. In some cases, we are able to rely on our own parents or other relatives and friends to help us with our little ones.
Unfortunately, this isn't the case for everyone. If we have grown up in a family that is less than ideal, or if our family lives far away, we may be thrust into new parenthood on our own.
Adulting is hard.
Sometimes, when we have kids, we start realizing that we lack basic adulting skills.
This can be simple things like not being able to fold a fitted sheet or boil an egg, or put on a diaper. Or, it can be more difficult things like adjusting to staying home with a baby, instead of going out with our friends.
Becoming more responsible overnight can be overwhelming at times and lead to a lot of stress in our lives. That is to be expected.
If you need to learn some basic adulting skills like how to make a budget or how to meal plan, there is a lot of wisdom that you can find on the internet, or through support groups with other new parents.
However, if you have gone through childhood trauma yourself, there can be additional issues when you have a child. Experiences with your children can sometimes be triggering.
If you grew up with neglectful parenting, it may mean that you never had good adult role models to show you all the basic adulting skills, how to manage your emotions, or how to raise a child. In this case, you will want to become your own adult role model and do things differently than your parents did. This was the case for me when I had kids, so I completely understand.
When you are coping with your own childhood trauma and trying to raise kids, you may want to consider going to therapy for yourself, or enrolling in a parenting class to help your kids grow up happy and healthy.
Some strategies that are often used in therapy are called Reparenting and Inner child work. Although they are very similar, there are some slight differences as well.
According to Talkspace, "Reparenting is based on the belief that many psychological issues stem from a child growing up without his or her needs being met. The child is not made to feel secure and unconditionally loved, so they grow up to be an adult who can’t navigate relationships and life as well as they should."
Reparenting is often done with a therapist, where they will assume the role of the parent during therapy, and attempt to provide a compassionate parental figure.
In contrast, engaging in inner child work has to do with showing love to your younger self, as though that young part of yourself were your own child. Using visualization techniques, you can tell this younger you that you love them and are there for them. You can take care of your younger self and keep them safe.
According to Psyche and Soma, "One of the main components of Inner Child Work is the idea that we all have younger parts within us with different ages, difference experiences, and different needs. As we grow up into bigger bodies and more logical, conscious brains, our younger selves don’t just disappear over time. When we get triggered and can’t understand why, it’s likely a younger part of us is online and very present, screaming for our attention. Oftentimes, as adults, we ignore these cries, we deny or dismiss, we freeze, we search for a solution to “fix it”. All of these can be trauma responses being replayed in adult life. We respond to our wounds in ways we learned as a kid and what helped keep us safe then."
This type of work is often engaged in with the help of a therapist or coach. When I was recovering from my childhood trauma, I worked with my therapist to do EMDR and inner child work. This really helped in my healing process.
Healing Ourselves Makes us Better Parents.
When we heal ourselves, it helps us to become better parents too, since we are able to be more calm and caring.
Even by recognizing that we have unhealed inner child wounds, we are taking the first step towards healing. This is because we have brought our unconscious patterns to a conscious level, which allows us to work on changing them. This means that we can consciously choose to act differently than our parents.
We can choose a different parenting style than our parents had. For example, if your parents were very strict with you, then you can take a more balanced approach to parenting. Or, if your parents ignored you, then you can choose to be more involved with your children.
Also, it can be helpful to learn about different parenting styles through books or classes, so that we can use the most effective parenting strategies with your kids. For example, I have chosen an Attachment Parenting approach with my children, since my parents often left my sister and I alone.
Just the act of consciously choosing to be present with your children, and to make their needs a priority will make a big difference in their lives.
When we choose to heal our own inner child wounds, we are breaking an unhealthy cycle of generational trauma. As we go through the healing process and become more whole, we are able to be more peaceful and patient with ourselves and our children as well.
When we have children of our own, the love we feel for them may make us realize that our own childhoods were lacking, or even damaging on some level.
By seeking out a supportive therapist or coach, we will be able to work through the pain of the past using techniques such as Reparenting or Inner Child Work. This will allow us to heal our own wounds, and parent our own children from a place of peace and compassion.
Let me know what you think in the comments, and if there are additional topics that you would like me to cover in the future.