Becoming your own parent may seem like a strange concept at first, but it may be of great help when it comes to emotional healing. Although we have gotten older and may therefore consider ourselves as adults, within many of us there is still an inner child with an emotional wound from past trauma.
‘Trauma’ can feel like a big word for some people as it often comes with sensitive and emotionally heavy subjects, however, childhood traumas such as abuse, abandonment or neglect do not need to be severe to leave an emotional wound, as subtler traumas which may easily go unnoticed can still have an impact on us well into adulthood. For instance, a child is so dependent on the caregiver to provide for their needs that even a small negligence can seem like a big threat to the child, and due to a limited perspective of the world, their interpretation of events around them becomes their reality.
Diving Within Yourself
Self-parenting can be seen as diving within yourself rather than into the past, to acknowledge and process the painful experiences we are still carrying with us as well unlock more of the child like joy, creativity and curiosity that can give as a richer and more meaningful life in adulthood as well.
The core concept of self-parenting is that all adults were once children and that inner child remains with us in our subconscious as we get older. It represents our child-like qualities and can come to the surface in both the happy moments that remind us of what brought us joy as children, as well as in difficult times that trigger painful memories or experiences from childhood. Parenting yourself means stepping into the role that your inner child requires and attending to their unmet needs, in turn creating more space for expressing yourself and living in a more carefree and joyous manner.
Acknowledge and Connect
The first step in this process is acknowledging and connecting with your inner child. This can be done in a very practical way by envisioning who you were as a child, what qualities you had, what you enjoyed, where and with who you spent your time. People who were close to you as a child can also help you with this step.
Communicate with your inner child
The second step is communicating with your inner child. This can be done through meditation and journalling for self-discovery as well as through visualisation. This would involve trying to vividly picture yourself as a child in the context that you feel difficult experiences occurred and ask them how are they feeling, what do they need and what can you do to support them. This process does not need to be rushed, especially if it is a very heavy exercise for you, as even one question can make a significant difference.
Provide safety and unconditional love
The third and final step focuses on nurturing your inner child and giving it two of the most basic emotional needs; safety i.e feeling taken care of, and unconditional love. This can be done by continuing the visualisation from the previous step, and also in your day to day life through the way you speak to yourself and act towards yourself. This would involve providing yourself with what you would otherwise provide a child who is in your responsibility; support, acceptance, kindness as well as discipline and boundaries.
Self-parenting can be a challenging journey if our childhood traumas feel too heavy for us to handle on our own, in which case a therapist in this process can help guide you through the steps in a secure and supportive environment.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Lisa Scalpello is a trainee professional offering therapy sessions to clients who are experiencing struggles in different areas of life such as work, studies or relationships, that put a strain on mental health. She is trained in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
Johnson, M. K., & Pottenger, R. (2022). Empowering Clients to Self-Regulate, Connect, and Reparent (Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute).
Lauw, E. L. (2023). Connecting with my inner child through vocal psychotherapy. British Journal of Music Therapy, 37(1), 36-43.