Re-parenting your Inner Child

We have seen clearly in my previous set of posts how an inner critic is formed from the defence mechanisms used by the wounded, criticised child and how these can be taken forward into adulthood. Part of the process of dealing with the inner critic and the chaos it causes is to re-parent our inner child, showing it that it no-longer needs those mechanisms and the protection offered by its family of critics.

Try this: Before leaving home one morning, you took an extra effort in getting your living room cleaned, but when you return in the evening, you find it in a mess. What will your response be?

Sigh and clean up again

Shrug your shoulder and leave it as it is  or get upset and cry

Shut out the person responsible

Get frustrated but keep quiet

Get angry and yell at the person

Take it in your stride, let it go and maybe clean up later.

Your response to the above situation is a reflection of your inner, self-set pattern of behaviour. This behavioural pattern has been formed and reformed over the years, starting from your birth, through reinforcement and suppression, mostly by parents or other significant people, and has now become a part of your personality and self-beliefs. Sometimes, the personality type and self-beliefs of a person may hinder healthy development and lifestyle of the person. How a child is treated affects what he/she thinks and does as an adult. Faulty upbringing need not necessarily be a result of abuse, intentional neglect or wrongdoing of parents. It may be unknowingly done and might not seem of much importance. Yet, certain instances, maybe in the form of discipline, control or conduct of significant adults (especially parents), in a child’s life, greatly influence his/her personality, his/her view of the world and relationships with self and others, as an adult. However, this becomes a very prominent issue when a person has been a victim of child abuse in any form, or has been a part of a dysfunctional family. In most cases though, the way parents treat a child is largely dependent on how they were treated as children. Even in cases where the parenting techniques are wrong, the same parental pattern goes on for generations until someone realises their mistake. But just knowing the problem is never enough. A solution and remedy has to be found and used. One way of doing this is by reparenting.

What is Reparenting?

Reparenting deals with three aspects of an individual. They are: Adult,Inner Child and Parent.The Adult is the individual, the Inner Child is the childhood stage at which the individual was wronged and the Parent is a therapist (or the individual) who gives the right response the child should have received. Thus, reparenting is nothing but going back to the stage in which the adult was wronged and satisfying or making peace with the inner child hidden inside by giving the response and fulfilling the needs that were required at that time by self counselling or therapy.

Reparenting the Inner Child

The feelings and beliefs that the inner child carries have two different causes. One is the inner critic attacks in the adult’s present life and the second is the things that happened in childhood, usually criticism from parents and care-givers. The pain that the critic causes in the present is bad enough but it also aggravates the inner child and makes that pain worse, ultimately strengthening the inner critic. To start the reparenting process, it is important to access and work with the inner child and treat it with empathy and compassion, feel its pain and witness the situations that caused it pain. Your inner child has been hidden for a long time, so you have to bear in mind that your inner child may not know how to express certain feelings. They may believe that they’re not  allowed to express their feelings, or that their feelings are unimportant. They believe that they are unimportant and also believe the lies that they were told.  All these things you have to keep in mind, and slowly encourage them to express the way they feel/think.

According to John Bradshaw, author of “Home  Coming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child,” the process of healing  your wounded inner child is one of grief. And it involves these seven steps (in  Bradshaw’s words):


For your wounded inner child to come out of hiding, he must be able to trust  that you will be there for him. Your inner child also needs a supportive,  non-shaming ally to validate his abandonment, neglect, abuse, and enmeshment.  Those are the first essential elements in original pain work.


If you’re still inclined to minimise and/or rationalise the ways in which you  were shamed, ignored, or used to nurture your parents, you need now to accept  the fact that these things truly wounded your soul. Your parents weren’t bad,  they were just wounded kids themselves.


If this is all shocking to you, that’s great, because shock is the beginning  of grief. After shock comes depression and then denial.


It’s okay to be angry, even if what was done to you was unintentional. In  fact, you HAVE to be angry if you want to heal your wounded inner child. I don’t  mean you need to scream and holler (although you might). It’s just okay to be  mad about a dirty deal. I  know [my parents] did the best that two wounded adult children could do. But I’m  also aware that I was deeply wounded spiritually and that it has had  life-damaging consequences for me. What that means is that I hold us all  responsible to stop what we’re doing to ourselves and to others. I will not  tolerate the outright dysfunction and abuse that dominated my family  system.


After anger comes hurt and sadness. If we were victimised, we must grieve  that betrayal. We must also grieve what might have been–our dreams and  aspirations. We must grieve our unfulfilled developmental needs.


When we grieve for someone who has died, remorse is sometimes more relevant;  for instance, perhaps we wish we had spent more time with the deceased person.  But in grieving childhood abandonment, you must help your wounded inner child  see that there was nothing he could have done differently. His pain  is about what happened to  him; it is not about him.


The deepest core feelings of grief are toxic shame and loneliness. We were  shamed by [our parents’] abandoning us. We feel we are bad, as if we’re  contaminated. And that shame leads to loneliness. Since our inner child feels  flawed and defective, he has to cover up his true self with his adapted false  self. He then comes to identify himself by his false self. His true self remains  alone and isolated. Staying with this last layer of painful feelings is the  hardest part of the grief process. “The only way out is through,” we say in  therapy. It’s hard to stay at that level of shame and loneliness; but as we  embrace these feelings, we come out the other side. We encounter the self that’s  been in hiding. You see, because we hid it from others, we hid it from  ourselves. In embracing our shame and loneliness, we begin to touch our truest  self.

24 Thoughts

  1. Tools.. thank-you. I’m glad in answer to your test I would take it in stride and clean up later. I love immediate satisfaction of seeing and cleaning. I guess having five children helps cope with this concept too. No matter how prepared I plan to be..things happen.

    I continue to learn through my children’s eyes, experiences from my past events as they too grow through those very ages I experienced them in! What did my parents do, what did they not do, how do I want to correct this pattern to limit a repeated past negative outcome in my own mind…learnt behaviour.

    I will have to come back to view more, also love Mr Peck’s work “The Road Less Traveled” It’s been awhile though since reading. Hope it imprinted 🙂

    Thank-you, Tara

    1. Thanks for dropping by. I guess that is what parenting and indeed life is all about. Learning from our own and others mistakes. Sounds like you are fairly clued in on what needs doing!

      1. Loved coming by! I only have a little clue, so much to learn and understand. I hope that I will listen when I need to change something, communicate (nicely) when I need to talk, and love greatly to my children with hugs and affirmations, and of course, love myself first. I learnt this as a child…lost it…then learnt it again… Silly life.
        Hope you have a great day,
        Tara 🙂

      2. Nothing is perfect but you seem to have the kind of attitude that will give your kids the best chance of growing up functionally. You have a great day too…

  2. Dr. Jenner, I know it has been awhile since we last spoke, so sorry for that, just busy is all. I want to thank you for all you continue to do in helping those who suffer from depression, anxiety and the many other emotional scarring our society is dealing with today. It is my belief dear friend, that a large portion of this pain is inflicted by the trauma endured through years of physical, sexual, and violent abuse in our childhood. Today’s generation of middle aged adults are finally facing this dark pain and having walked the destructive path without access to direct support we understand how lost we become. As you know I am one of those in our millions today doing all I can to educate others about such wounds and the emotional destruction of these crimes. It is with the support of friends, family and a renewed understanding within the mental health field that we can provide healing and growth for those who are suffering. I am thankful to know you and to be aware of the resource and help you are providing. Thank you always, trish

      1. Dr. Jenner, as you know it’s my passion to help do as much as I can to change the pain of my past, but more importantly to be sure society is aware of what still occurs in the silence of our homes still today. My best your way, thanks so much for your kindness. Trish

  3. Realizing that your childhood was dysfunctional (not the happy family you thought you grew up in) is somewhat an uncomfortable realization. Yet it also feels a bit freeing in that you can now understand why life has been such a struggle despite your best efforts. As an adult, I wanted to give my children the best guidance love and support to give them the opportunity to not struggle as I did. When I married I thought my spouse and I could do this for our kids. However not realizing that my husband (despite all outward appearances of perfection in his FOO) also was raised in dysfunction, despite both of us wanting a healthy environment to raise our kids, our pasts has prevented us from doing this. In all honesty it was not a normal, healthy home. Appearances always gave the impression of a happy family, but we were/are so deep in dysfunction. It is with much sadness that I acknowledge that i’ve passed this legacy on to my sons. On the other hand my husband cannot see how he ( and his upbringing) has contributed to the struggle our sons have. To do so would mean that he would have to see the dysfunction in his FOO, and he simply cannot/willnot even consider that as a possibility. He has blinders on and would rather blame it all on me than consider anything else. I have been the source of all our problems (in his eyes), and despite knowing that I did plenty to contribute to the problem, I refuse to accept sole responsibility. I realize that despite being undiagnosed, my husband is a covert narcissist who will most likely never see the light and make any changes in his behavior. And as a couple we have sort of found a way around this,to make it work, but it leaves so much un addressed and healed between us. We could probably make do for the rest of our lives (together 25 years now) I don’t feel either of us wants our marriage to end (although most likely it would be the right thing to do because) of this co-dependency dance we continue to do. But I’m willing to work through whatever is neccessary to possibly rescue my sons from carrying this into the next generation. It hurts me so deeply when I see them struggle in their relationships and life. I believe my husband does not feel this at all, he cannot or refuses to because he would be forced to take the mask off and accept reality. I know this means that to truly have things improve as I desire I would have to go through all of this re-parenting, therapy alone, which most likely would mean the end of my marriage. I would most likely end up alone for the rest of my life, as 20+ years being married to a narc.(very, very covert, a true master manipulator) has done a lot to destroy (internally and externally) who I am. Despite knowing the “right” thing to do, I find myself unable to take that step. I guess the damage from years of subtle abuse has pretty much destroyed the strength I thought I had inside me to stand up and cry foul. (I have tried in the past only to be encouraged to work things out with spouse and keep family intact, and since I grew up in a divorced family, I didn’t want that for my boys). It’s now pretty obvious to me that married or divorced the dysfunction would of continued because I’ve never dealt with my childhood issues. Do you have any words of wisdom to share on my case?

    Also thank-you for now following my blog (although I haven’t posted anything recently, deeper details about my history can be found there). I also thank-you for your efforts to help those such as my self who are trying to fight this dysfunction and unfortunate legacy within families, kept locked behind closed doors everywhere. Emotional abuse is in my opinion far more damaging than physical abuse. Abuse is abuse whether it’s covered with frosting or not. Sorry for the extremely long comment, but sometimes you just need to speak out.

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