Reparenting the Inner Child
What's your inner child waiting to tell you? Listening to the child within each of us can help us address core wounds and invisible patterns that affect our lives in profound ways, whether we realize it or not.
By Cynthia Gomez
Within each and every one of us is a small child. Because so many of our subconscious beliefs and patterns come from our early experiences, inner child work and reparenting are critical components of self-love and personal growth.
What are Reparenting and Inner Child Work?
Inner child work can be thought of as conscious connection to the child within each of us to understand and heal past wounds. Even those of us who had amazing parents have inner child work to do, because trauma — of all sorts — is a part of human life. Reparenting involves giving ourselves what we needed most as children now. Together, these interrelated practices can create amazing transformation, freeing us from negative thought and behavioral patterns, creating a more child-like, playful outlook towards life, and allowing us to love ourselves in a way that no one else can.
Addressing Our Core Wounds
Everything that hurt us early in life, when we were unable to adequately advocate for or defend ourselves, inflicted damage. We expect parents to shelter their little ones from the world, right? Unfortunately, that’s simply not realistic. And the thing is, most people, including most parents, are carrying around their own wounded inner child and unprocessed emotions. People can only parent from their own level of self-awareness.
In fact, a core component of reparenting is absolving our parents of their parenting mistakes. Parenting is a role that humans adopt, often without any solid idea of what it takes to be a good parent, and often with a history of unhealed wounds that impact how they carry out the role. So rather than seeing our parents as such, it’s helpful to strip away the role and see them as fallible humans doing their best, even if that’s sometimes pretty crappy. Our parents are the gateways that made life possible, and without whom we would not be here to evolve from our experiences and come to this step in our journey of learning to parent ourselves. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our parents and ourselves.
And now that we are aware of the inner child that lives within, reparenting allows us to retroactively take charge of our own well-being by nurturing our inner child in a way only we can from all of the things that have hurt us.
Why Reparenting the Inner Child Matters
We engage in inner child work and reparenting not only to heal old wounds that continue to fester beneath the surface, impacting our current lives in ways both seen and unseen. We also engage in this kind of work to free ourselves from the trappings of our ego. You see, an inflated ego is the result of a wounded psyche. It’s a bit like a bandage that goes over the wound, protecting it but never allowing it to heal.
The ego is the part of us that tends to be out of touch with reality; makes us feel entitled and sets unrealistic expectations; and creates dependence on external validation. Born from defensiveness and fear, it’s the ego that makes us see faults everywhere except within ourselves. It is a mechanism of separation and a source of suffering. When we heal our core wounds, we overcome the ego, awakening and evolving. We are able to see ourselves more clearly, and hold ourselves more dearly while also recognizing our oneness with all that is.
This is the essence of inner child work and reparenting: digging into our wounds and healing them so that we may become more capable of experiencing the world with the joy, wonder, and playfulness of the child within all of us. There’s this neat dichotomy about inner child work. On one hand, we can reconnect with the wonderful qualities we had as children while simultaneously, we get to truly grow up into spiritual and psychological adulthood.
Have you ever looked around you — at your own family, your friends, your coworkers, even our world leaders — and wondered where the adults are? Sometimes it seems like there are no adults in the room, right? This is why. A “grown up” body alone does not a spiritual and psychological adult make.
Doing the Work
So how do we reconnect with the inner child? A good starting point is opening the lines of communication. We enter listening mode by holding space for ourselves, by expressing to our inner child that it is okay to talk to us.
The Hawaiian forgiveness practice of ho’oponopono is an excellent way to create a safe space for your inner child to bring to you the grievances and wounds that have been festering in your subconscious. This practice involves saying the following: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.”
Say it to yourself and mean it. Write it on your bathroom mirror and say it each day when you brush your teeth or do your hair. I might add to that: “You are enough” and “I’m here for you.” This kind of inner child work and reparenting brings us into greater intimacy with ourselves. It helps us love ourselves more, and in healthier ways.
Give your inner child opportunities to tell you where healing is needed. Visualize yourself in communication with your inner child, invite them into your meditations, write to them in your journal.
An Ongoing Journey
Inner child work never ends, because we are always experiencing hurt of one kind or another. As we heal old wounds, new ones may appear. This is what it is to be human. We are like swords sharpening one another in the fire. From heartache to job loss to death, pain finds us all, many times over. And while we may be good at ignoring our pain or compartmentalizing, our inner child always bears our wounds deeply, and always needs us to help it heal.
Thus, being a good parent to yourself isn’t just about reconnecting with your inner child and healing old wounds, but also about being a parent to yourself in the here and now. It’s paying attention to your self-talk, and correcting it when it becomes self-sabotaging. It’s practicing mindfulness in your everyday life. It’s making your physical health and well-being a priority. Getting yourself to sleep each night on a schedule. It’s acting based on your needs and goals, not the empty distractions or behavioral patterns that have landed you in trouble in the past. It’s holding yourself to doing the things you said you were going to do — self-discipline is a form of self-love. And it’s practicing compassion when you mess up.
This is ongoing, constant work. And it can be hard work at first. Over time though, it just becomes who and how we are; second nature. And hurdles of our own making begin to disappear.