None of our parents were perfect. Parenting is difficult, and your parents had their own issues that they brought to the table. Maybe they didn’t give you the love and affection that you needed. Maybe they were critical toward you. Maybe they were controlling and didn’t let you have as much freedom as you needed.
If you think about your core struggles and issues today, there’s probably a link between your current struggles and something that happened to you growing up. Our growing up years and relationship with our parents set up patterns in our lives that set the stage for our lives moving forward.
5 Steps to Re-Parent Yourself
One intervention that has been helpful for me and people that I work with is the idea of reparenting yourself. Here’s how it works:
- Think about a core issue or struggle you are dealing with in your life. For example, one thing I continue to struggle with is perfectionism. This shows up in my own life (e.g., feeling anxiety when I mess up or don’t meet the standards I set for myself) and in my relationships (e.g., giving my wife a hard time for flaws that I notice in her life).
- Try to draw a connection between your current issue or struggle, and your growing up years. One key question to ask is this: “When do you first remember this issue or struggle showing up in your life?” or “When was an early time that this issue or struggle showed up in your life?” For me, one memory that stands out is being in third grade and getting one question wrong on a spelling test. I was so upset that I started crying. Then I got so embarrassed about my tears that I ran out of the classroom.
- Imagine you are the “ideal parent” and re-enter the scene from your growing up years. What did that little boy or girl need from you? Was it words? Was it touch? What did you want to happen in this scene? For me, I imagined myself as the ideal parent giving the little boy a hug and saying something like, “It’s okay buddy. You did your best. It’s okay not to be perfect all the time. This is part of the learning and growing process. This is a normal thing, and you’re going to be okay. I’m right here with you.”
- Notice any changes that you feel in your body. Notice how you are feeling. For me, I felt more relaxed, like I could finally breathe again. I also felt tender and connected to the little boy who struggled so much back then.
- Think about how the message of the “ideal parent” could apply to your current situation. In my own life, I need to tell myself this message every day. I need to keep reminding myself that it’s okay not to be perfect all the time. That making mistakes is part of the learning and growing process, and it’s normal and okay. I also want to communicate that grace-filled message to others as well.