3 Steps for Reparenting Yourself (Breaking Generational Cycles)
Reparenting has become a very trendy word and I rarely jump on the trend wagon. However, reparenting is far more than a trend. Sadly, it is something that so many of us so desperately need, myself included. Keep reading and I’ll give you the 3 Steps for Reparenting Yourself that will get you started on healing your unmet needs from childhood.
So, what is reparenting? Essentially, it is going back and meeting the emotional, and sometimes physical, needs you had as a child that were never met. It’s breaking generational cycles for future generations to be more emotionally healthy.
Reparenting Yourself and the Needs of the Child
You must clearly understand the needs of the child within you in order to begin reparenting yourself. Now, this is difficult and requires some serious vulnerability, but it is necessary in order to heal and begin breaking generational cycles. However, it is incredibly healing and worth the hard work as is all of the work I write about.
How do you discover the needs of the child within you? Well, begin by identifying your needs as an adult. I recommend you read my post, Struggling to Get Your Needs Met. That post will give you some insight into how we ended up with a society full of adults with unmet needs.
Identifying your needs as an adult may seem like a simple process. It is anything but that and I know that all too well. For many years, I thought I knew what I needed. Those supposed needs actually turned out to be the opposite of the needs of the child inside me who was hurting so badly.
I thought that I needed to be independent and prove to the world that I didn’t need anybody. I was determined to show myself and others that I could handle everything on my own and be successful without any help from others.
That was my ego screaming loud and clear. Not only that, but it was also reinforcing what my parents taught me that resulted in my belief that I shouldn’t need anybody. Oh, how wrong that was!
My parents were swimming in their own misery, which meant they weren’t available in the ways I needed to grow up emotionally healthy. If you relate to that, read my post Emotionally Unavailable Parents: 5 Steps to Heal.
Since my parents weren’t emotionally, and often not physically, available my little mind decided that I wasn’t supposed to need them. When something came up that caused me to need my parents to be there for me, I also decided there was something wrong with me for feeling like I needed them. If a need isn’t met as a child and we keep begging for it to be met with no success, the damage of that is long-term and multi-faceted.
Breaking Generational Cycles
Recently, I have seen the effects of that with my nieces. Their parents are even more emotionally unavailable than mine were and it is heart-breaking to see. My youngest niece just turned seventeen. Her parents should’ve celebrated her because she deserves that and because she is such an amazing young lady. However, they didn’t. She lives over an hour away from me and her birthday fell on a weekday.
I wasn’t able to physically be with her for her birthday. The day after her birthday, she Face Timed me to tell me that her birthday, in her words, “wasn’t really that great.” I could tell she was holding back tears when I told her I was so sorry. Her response was a big shoulder shrug and “it’s fine. I don’t really care.”
Every time she gives me that shoulder shrug and “It’s fine,” “It’s ok,” “I don’t care,” my response is always the same. “No, it’s not okay. You deserve better. I love you and I wish I could make things better for you.”
Unfortunately, I am limited in what I can do to help my niece and her sister. I have gotten them both in therapy and I provide a “safe place” for them. That’s more than what I had as a child.
For my niece’s birthday, I did what I could. She and her boyfriend came to my house for her birthday weekend.
I tried to make a big deal about her birthday. We took her out to eat and my three-year-old sang Happy Birthday to her at the restaurant. We watched her open her birthday presents while my heart broke a little more as I heard that her parents didn’t get her anything.
How Reparenting Works
Are you wondering what this has to do with reparenting yourself? If so, it has everything to do with reparenting yourself. As a child, there was rarely a big deal made about me unless I was sick. Thinking back, I can see that my mind created a lot of physical illness because that was the only way I would really get positive attention.
Now, as I was trying to make a big deal out of my niece’s birthday, I was reparenting myself. I was allowing myself to meet the needs of the child within me by giving my niece the love she deserved. Doing that allowed me to remember the little girl inside of me who needed to be seen and celebrated because I, too, deserved that.
As I am reparenting myself, I am also hopeful that I’m breaking generational cycles in my family. Another huge way that I practice reparenting myself is through parenting my amazing and precious three-year-old. He has helped me see the needs of the child within me.
Like many people I know, I feel incredibly uncomfortable with physical affection from others. The reason for that is that I didn’t get it as a child. I called my family a “911 I love you” family. The few times I remember being hugged or told, “I love you,” were when there was an emergency of some sort.
Physical Needs for a Child
Remember how I mentioned that I falsely learned that I shouldn’t need the things I didn’t get? Well, physical affection was one of the biggest of those needs that weren’t met. Physical needs for a child are incredibly important.
My three-year-old has shown me in a grand way that my physical affection needs weren’t met as a child. The way that has showed up is my giving him that physical affection every single opportunity that I get! What we want to give others is a sign of what we need for ourselves.
Every time my baby takes a nap, he asks for “sugars,”, a hug, and a “squishy squeeze.” I ask him if he needs those, and he always says yes. “Squishy squeezes” are my favorite as I’m able to pick him up, put his heart on mine, and squeeze his sweet, little soul.
Doing that is reparenting yourself. Giving a child what you needed as a child is one of the most healing things you can do for yourself. Also, it’s a huge win in terms of breaking generational cycles.
I can promise you that my baby will not grow up with an unmet need for physical affection. I know that he will have other struggles, as there is no perfect parent. However, reparenting myself while raising him will give him a huge advantage emotionally. At the same time, I am meeting the needs of the child within me.
As I sit here and write this, I am realizing the vast amount of healing and knowledge I have on reparenting yourself. Not everybody has that, but everybody needs it. So, I want to share with you some of that knowledge and an opportunity to begin reparenting yourself.
3 Steps for Reparenting Yourself:
- Make a list of the needs you know you have.
- Make a list of the needs you think you don’t have.
- Write down the biggest needs you meet for others.
The reason that you should make a list of the needs you know you have when reparenting yourself is that it will give you some guidance to see it in writing. Look at the list you made. What are you doing to get those needs met?
For me, I had to be really honest with myself in regard to how I was getting my needs met several years ago. I spent many years getting those needs met in very unhealthy ways. When that happens, the needs of the children within us aren’t really met.
Children and Their Emotional Needs
The emotional needs of the child and physical needs for a child need to be met in healthy ways. So, if you are reparenting yourself by getting your needs met in unhealthy ways, you’re going to need to spend some time figuring out how to change that.
My post Emotionally Needy (Emotional Needs of Children Aren’t Met) can help you gain some insight into that. You won’t always reparent yourself perfectly, but if you do it, I promise it will help you heal. If you are raising a child or spending time with a child while reparenting yourself, you are also changing the world by breaking generational cycles!
Why should you make a list of the needs you think you don’t have? The answer is just like I mentioned previously. As a child, you probably falsely learned that you shouldn’t have those needs because they weren’t met. As an adult, you still believe that, but it’s wrong.
You Need What You Think You Don’t Need
The needs I thought I didn’t have were the biggest needs I had when I got really honest with myself on my healing journey. That honesty allowed me to begin finding healthy ways for those needs to be met. I’m still a work in progress as we all are.
My husband can attest to my childhood trauma popping up at times in the ways I try to get attention. There are still times where I will blow things up because I don’t feel seen or valued. One of my biggest needs is to be adored and shown that I am important.
Reparenting myself for that is my biggest reparenting challenge. I do that by talking to my friends about my successes and giving my son the adoration he deserves. Also, I tell him every day he is important and the reasons he is so important. Again, I am breaking generational cycles by doing this with my baby.
It’s time now for me to talk about the most important way you can begin reparenting yourself. I touched on this earlier, but since it’s so important, I want to go a little more in-depth. Write down the biggest needs you meet for others. For me, this was the most beneficial step in reparenting myself on my healing journey.
Discovering Your Needs
My biggest unmet need from childhood didn’t show up until I became a mom. Just like I said earlier, I knew that my family was not physically affectionate. My brother, with whom I am very close, and I are still not comfortable with physical affection with each other.
Every time we see each other, we do an awkward side-hug in which I can feel both of our bodies tense up. I know that we want to hug each other, but it is so uncomfortable for us both. Regardless of that, we still do it because deep down we both know that physical connection is important.
As a mom who continues reparenting myself, I have to be mindful that my son’s needs of physical affection are being met. He doesn’t have that unmet need like I did and still do at times. My little inner child just wants to hold him and love on him all day long.
Before I give him “sugars,” a hug, or a “squishy squeeze,” I always ask if he wants them. Lately, the answer is “no,” except at nap time. Even though my need is to give him all of those, I also have to respect the fact that those aren’t his need in those moments.
Asking About Needs is Important
Lately, I have begun a practice with him that I love. If he falls down, is sad or mad, I ask him what he needs from Mommy. As I type this, my heart is warmed because I know I am reparenting myself in a huge way while also teaching him to identify his needs. I was never asked what I needed as a child.
For now, he responds with, “I need a hug.” There have also been times when he tells me that he needs me to “Go Bye Bye.” Ugh! That can hurt, but I also respect his need for space. I certainly know that is a need I have at times!
Figure out what needs you meet for others because that will you help you identify the needs you have. We want to give others what we need ourselves. That will really help you see where to start with reparenting yourself.
Make sure you understand that reparenting yourself to meet the needs of the child within you is hard work. You will fall flat on your face at times. You will feel lost at times. There might even be times when you think it’s stupid or you fall back to the belief that you don’t have certain needs.
Don’t give up! You deserve the opportunity to reparent yourself. If you try these 3 Steps for Reparenting Yourself, I want to know how it goes for you. As always, if you have a question, ask it in the comments below and I will answer. Your question is probably something that somebody else can benefit from too! Love to you on your reparenting yourself journey!
This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.
I love this. I am definately re-parenting myself.I hold hard to that adage “Be who you needed when you were little.” I wish I had thought about asking my children what they need in the moment, maybe it would have helped them identify a littlebit more what their feelings aree in the moment. Hopefully it’s not too late to start since they are still semi young and at home. Thank you so much for these articles! 🙂
Angela, you are so welcome! Yes, “Be who you needed when you were little!” It is NEVER too late to teach your children to identify what they need. My nieces are 17 and 20. I began teaching this to them just a couple of years ago. They still often respond with “nothing,” but they also come to me when they have identified a need that I can meet.
I am so glad this was helpful! Thank you for being a loyal reader.
Love to you and your children on your healing journeys,