We are in our fourth and final installment of our series on Parenting with Courage. In our first month, we explored values-based parenting, where you spent time clarifying your family’s unique values. In the second month, we delved into the first pillar of the Courageous Parents framework, that “every behavior is the result of an unmet need.” You committed to putting on your detective hat when your child is struggling to get underneath their behavior and find the unmet need.
Last month, we delved into the second pillar of the Courageous Parents framework, that “connection is the foundation for thriving,” where we explored how to build connection capital with our kiddos. As we wrap up this series, we once more remind ourselves of the goal of the Courageous Parents framework, which is to find a values-based approach to parenting where you can access ease, joy, and self-trust by parenting with awareness and choice.
Now, let’s get into our final month’s pillar of Courageous Parents: It starts with us. As you well know, parenting is a journey that can shake you to your core. It is a rollercoaster of emotions, with thrills and drops and twists and turns. If we let it, the experience of being a parent can challenge and stretch us in ways we didn’t know were possible. It can also be a gateway into profound self-discovery and healing.
What this third pillar invites us into, is the truth that the power to transform our parenting experience lies within us. Transformation happens not by changing our children, but by changing ourselves. This, my dear parents, is the work of reparenting.
So, what exactly is reparenting, and how can it change our lives as parents? Reparenting is the process of giving yourself the love, care, and acceptance that you needed as a child but may not have fully received. Now, I want to add a caveat here–this doesn’t necessarily mean your parents didn’t do a good job. Two things can be true–your parents may have been doing the best they could, and there still may have been ways they fell short.
Reparenting involves first identifying the patterns that are not serving you, and then healing the wounds that caused them, so you may free yourself from these patterns that have been passed down, often through generations. Importantly, this isn’t just theoretical.
In one study, for example, adults who engaged in 12 weeks of reparenting practices experienced significant reductions in symptoms of depression and anxiety, which is linked to many positive outcomes, including better relationships with our children.
Why is this important? First, it’s well documented that our unresolved childhood experiences can lead to all sorts of negative behaviors, many of which can impact our children’s emotional development. Let’s take a deep breath here. There’s an important flipside to this truth. I often tell my clients, if there’s ONE thing I hope all parents take away from doing this work, it’s that it is never too late. I’ll say that again… It is NEVER too late. Anything that has been wired, any experience we or our children have had, can all be rewired.
What we know from neuroscience is that the brain has an incredible capacity to create new connections and pathways. What does this look like in action? Imagine a life where you no longer feel triggered by your child’s behavior, where you can respond with calm and compassion instead of frustration. Picture yourself fostering a deep connection with your children, built on understanding and empathy.
What’s also important is that reparenting is not about becoming a perfect parent (as if that existed); it’s about becoming a more aware and conscious one. It’s understanding that we all carry emotional baggage from our past, and that addressing it can lead to positive changes in our parenting style, and therefore, in our bond with our children.
The big picture here is that by nurturing and healing ourselves, we can break the cycle of repeating unhealthy patterns and creating a loving environment for our children to thrive.
I want to share a story about a client of mine, Liza, who came to work with me because she found herself constantly overwhelmed and impatient with her young daughter, Emmy. Through our work together, it became clear that Liza had developed very strong people-pleasing tendencies, as a result of always feeling like she needed to prove her worth as a child. Because of this, she was struggling with feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy, which was showing up in her parenting as a belief that “I can’t handle this.”
Recognizing the impact of her past, Liza began the work of reparenting. Through coaching and self-reflection, she began to offer herself the love and compassion she needed as a child. As she healed her own wounds, she noticed a remarkable transformation in her relationship with Emmy. Liza found herself responding to Emmy’s tantrums with confidence, patience, and a strong feeling of groundedness. This resulted in Emmy feeling seen and safe, which ultimately led to fewer, less intense meltdowns. Liza’s decision to reparent herself not only changed her life, but it also transformed Emmy’s experience of childhood.
Parenting is not just about guiding our children; it’s also about healing ourselves. Reparenting is a powerful tool that supports parents in creating a positive and nurturing environment for ourselves and our children. And most importantly, remember that it’s never too late to start this transformative journey.