The journey of becoming a parent to yourself is an integral part of inner child work. John Bradshaw, author and counselor, introduces the concept of reparenting and shows the potential in the application for individuals wishing to explore their relationship with their inner child.
The significance the inner child holds within us is severely underestimated and often overlooked. Underneath the layers of conditioning, or programming, that we begin forming (unconsciously) during the first seven years of life, result in mostly learned, adapted behavioural responses that once formed continue to play out in daily life during adulthood.
Most of our learned behaviours were coping mechanisms and adaptations in order to get our needs met when we were a child. Everyone has fundamental needs that operate on a survival basis.
Therefore, anything that threatens our survival is met with an adaptation in order to survive, stay safe and get our needs met. This is an aspect of human socialisation within the family network and function.
The inner child holds the key to undoing learned adaptations that were based on survival rather than overall healthy and well-being. The first step, reconnecting with your inner child, begins the life journey of reparenting in holistic therapy settings. Overcoming adaptations from childhood that no longer serve you in adulthood is an integral component to inner child healing.
The practice of reparenting is a technique that is directly applied to daily life that enables a connection with the inner child to be established and is part of a longer term trust relationship.
I’ve reconnected with my Inner Child, how do I begin reparenting?
The journey of reparenting begins following the reconnection with your inner child. Getting to know your inner child takes time and building a trust relationship requires a careful and considerate approach to inner child healing.
You may have completed an Inner Child Workshop, where you have learned valuable tools and techniques to begin integrating the practice. It’s a journey of patience and persistence.
The inner child is extremely well adapted and tuned in to you; they feel everything and our thoughts, mindset and actions reflect on the growing relationship. There can be a tendency to want our inner child to be fully healed as quickly as possible and move on to the next practice, workshop or personal development program.
However, this journey is unique; the inner child leads the way for the healing journey to unfold. Learning and honouring to go at the pace of the inner child paves the way for a nurturing and deepening connection.
The inner child communicates through all aspects of the self; physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. By staying attuned and actively checking in with the inner child opens a space for them to be received and supported.
Whilst the intellect gains understanding and insight through the mental faculty of analysis and knowledge, the complementary aspects such as emotions, feelings and intuitive guidance also require space to be witnessed.
Being available to listen, empathise and respond to your inner child effectively, compassionately and patiently are part of the practice in reparenting. A shift in traditional methods of practice such as with the external world are focused inwards, to listening to what is going on internally.
Being available for the inner child
The inner child’s needs are a primary source of fulfilment in the reparenting journey and identifying what they are and how to fulfil them is taught in holistic therapy practices and modalities. The inner child can communicate directly, verbally, and other times they may not be able to provide a verbal response, especially if the child is at a pre-verbal stage of development.
The wisdom of the body and intuition is a faculty which is encouraged and developed during inner child work. Identifying underlying and present feelings that appear to be out of reach for the analytical mind is part of the experiential aspect of healing.
If the trained, rational, adult mind looks for understanding only by this faculty, or method, then a tendency to get caught in the mind and associate much of the left brain processing with inner child work can occur, omitting a significant piece.
The inner child is also connected to the emotional processing part of us often associated with right brain functions where intuition, creativity and feeling based information comes from. This is a vital source of accessibility as we establish a connection and become available for our inner child, enabling us to respond according to the information coming through.
An engagement of both aspects is required as the adult is available to receive both types of information increases the capacity for one’s healing and balance as a result. The inner child can communicate freely, safely and be witnessed in whatever form is appropriate.
Attunement and responding to the inner child
Raising awareness through mindful observation and witnessing the inner child invites a space of safety to open through which they can express. Bearing in mind that the inner child may express emotions without the adult knowing why, or where the emotion came from.
A trust relationship is based on mutual reciprocity; sometimes questions don’t need asking. Simply being aware, present and holding space is enough and required. As the parenting journey unfolds there will be times when the inner child needs space to cry, yell, or need a reassuring hug and the parent is there to witness and provide safety for them to do so and fulfil what it is they need.
It is very much a journey of acceptance too. Accepting ourselves wholly, for who we truly are; a complex web of multifaceted aspects. This is the essence behind the application of integration; the journey towards wholeness.
Perhaps of the more challenging aspects of reparenting due to the nature of how deep true acceptance of the self runs through not only our lifetime, but the lives of those who came before us. The roots of self acceptance are connected to being in touch with the core of our nature.
Remembering that the healing journey is not linear, it exceeds the regular bounds of time and space perception. Remaining open, receptive and returning to compassion build resilience to continue reparenting daily.
The inner child responds in their own time, at their pace, according to their day to day needs. The magic in reparenting is the opportunity to create a wholesome relationship with yourself that does not rely on others to meet your needs. A path to liberation, a happier, more fulfilled life.
For more information on reparenting you can learn about the parenting model here.
“When you learn how to re-parent yourself, you will stop attempting to complete the past by setting up others to be your parents.”
― John Bradshaw, Homecoming: Reclaiming and Healing Your Inner Child.