How to Reparent Yourself

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Were your parents able to teach you every life lesson perfectly when you were a kid? Claire gives you some tips on how to make up for what you didn’t get when you were young by reparenting yourself now. Plus, she answers a question from a listener who is concerned her issues with mental health will negatively affect her children.

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Claire Bidwell-Smith

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:00

Were your parents perfect? They weren’t? Well, it’s not too late to learn how to parent yourself.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:06

I’m Claire Bidwell Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on NEW DAY. Reparenting. It’s a term that I’ve been seeing pop up more and more. But what does it mean? The basic idea behind reparenting is that your actual parents may not have done the best job. Maybe they just did a so, so, job, and there’s some stuff you missed out on. Or maybe you’re really lacking in the parenting department due to loss or mental illness, neglect, or abuse. Whatever the case, we could all use a little extra parenting. And taking a look at what those needs are, can be really helpful to our evolving growth as humans. Reparenting yourself means reflecting on the areas of your life where you have failed as a result of being poorly parented as a child. And then you strategize ways to address those shortcomings in the here. And now. Maybe your parents didn’t role model healthy emotions, or how to trust friends and partners. Maybe they fucked up some lessons around money or intimacy. Maybe they just weren’t around at all. And as a child, you were really lacking in nurturing and guidance. Parents are humans too, which means they’re not perfect at everything. I know, as a parent myself, I’m juggling so much that things definitely fall through the cracks. I also know that I’m bringing down my own issues that I’m sometimes inadvertently teaching to my kids, things they’ll have to reckon with and sort through when they’re adults. But I’ll tell you that going through some real parenting exercises for me, it’s been really helpful. In my own life when my mom died, I thought the answer to not having a mom anymore was not needing a mom. But a point came in my 30s. When I realized that I’d made a huge mistake. The answer wasn’t not needing a mom. The answer was that I really needed to learn how to mother myself. When you begin the task of re parenting yourself, it doesn’t mean spoiling yourself. It means learning how to take care of yourself properly, how to self soothe, how to give yourself the knowledge and skills and opportunities to heal from old traumas. It means figuring out how to become the person you could have been, if you’ve been raised by parents who are more knowledgeable. It helps to externalize this version of yourself that’s going to do the reparenting. Maybe you think of your ideal parent, an upcoming guest confided that she always fantasizes about Michelle Obama as her mom.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:39

And then you use that person as the model for how to treat yourself. Like, what would Michelle Obama do if she was your mom? would she tell you to get out of that toxic relationship, get more sleep, take some time to invest in healthy practices, I’m guessing she would. I went back once and did an exercise in which I charted out all the dumb decisions I made in my life. Times when I got into relationships, I shouldn’t have or didn’t stand up for myself. And I imagined what would have happened if my mom had been in the picture, I’m fairly certain she would have stopped me from making a lot of those poor choices. And so now, whenever I’m unsure if I’m making the right decision, the kind of decision that would fly with someone who loved me as much as she did, I channel my inner mom and make my choice with more compassion and self-awareness than I used to. This might be a helpful exercise for you to do some reflecting on all the things you lacked from your parent, as a child, and examine ways those deficiencies are playing out in your life as an adult, you might need to take some time to grieve those things you never got. And that’s okay. You might need to process some anger and resentment to but once you’ve let yourself move through those emotions, keep going. Start filling in the gaps for all that stuff you never received. Maybe this means changing some things in your life, weeding out relationships that aren’t working, asking for support, seeing a therapist, or just making a better effort to take care of yourself. The aim here is to learn better communication skills, learn how to nurture yourself, learn how to regulate your emotions, and work on accountability, boundaries, and self-discipline. I know those are big things. But even as adults, so many of us struggle with them. And a lot of those struggles are directly related to the ways in which we were parented. There’s a slew of great books on this stuff to check out adult children of emotionally immature parents, and also mothers who can’t love as well as mother hunger and healing your lost inner child. Look, it’s okay if your parents fucked you up minded too. But it’s not too late to heal.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  04:23

Today’s listener question is from someone trying to avoid fucking her kids up? Do you have a question for me? Send me an email at Or fill out the online form at Brenda sent this question in via email. Hi, Claire, thank you so much for your podcast. It’s a bright spot in my week, three times a week now. My question is this as a mom who struggles with depression and anxiety, how do I not screw up my kids? I have four and four very different life stages. A daughter who’s 13 and in middle school, a daughter who’s 10 with ADHD who I homeschool because it just works better for her needs. I have a son who is two and very active. And a daughter who is three months, since giving birth to my daughter, I have been really struggling. I’m working with my doctor to get my meds all straightened out. But I still have outbursts of emotion that frightened my kids, sometimes. I’ve been very open about my mental health struggles, but I don’t know what else I should be doing to help them. Brenda, oh, my gosh, I am really feeling you on this question. I have similar aged kids. And I’ve also struggled with anxiety a lot in my life. So I really get all of this. First, I think it’s great that you’re asking this question, it means you’re thinking about it, it means you care. And that’s just like a really big important part of it. Do you know how many people out there struggle and don’t worry about how it affects their kids. The bottom line is that mental health does affect our kids. They see it, they feel it, they react to it so much more than we realize, we also inadvertently passed down some of our mental health challenges just through our DNA. And being aware of this is really important. It sounds like you’re definitely aware of your struggles that you’re working with your doctor, which is great. So taking care of yourself, first and foremost is going to help them the most, we can’t help them if we’re not helping ourselves. I think it sounds like you can add in a regular therapist for yourself, if you don’t already have one, especially just to work on the anxiety which kids really pick up on and internalize. One thing you might also want to think about is talking to your OBGYN and doing some blood panels and checking on your hormone levels. I’ll tell you that I know personally that having a bunch of kids does a number on our bodies as women, we can get really depleted in a bunch of areas, our hormones can be thrown off balance. Getting our bodies balanced really impacts our ability to regulate our emotions, handle stress, anxiety, and depression. So I think it’s great that you’re talking to your doctor about what I assume are mental health meds. But I also think it’d be great to check on your physical health and your hormones. So, I also think it’s really good that you’re being open and talking with your kids about your struggles. But I think you can take that a step further and start to share some of the tools you learn for yourself with them. On one hand, there’s only so much we can do to prevent our kids from going through the same kind of challenges that we go through. There’s only so much we can do to stop them from not having them. But one thing that we can do is we can teach them how to cope with them how to thrive despite those issues that might come up. I’ll tell you that my 10 year old struggles with some anxiety and I’m constantly trying to teach her tactics for managing it. Stuff I do with my clients, I teach her meditation and do some cognitive behavioral work with her. It’s never too early to really work with kids on these kind of emotional coping techniques, it will serve them for their whole lives. Also making sure that your kids have really good healthy outlets like sports and creativity playing outside. You could see if you could find a kid’s yoga or meditation class and your community. routines and consistency are also really great for helping kids cope with anxiety and depression. Lastly, Brenda asked for help. Ask your friends, your family, moms in your community, any resources, the schools may provide additional support for you and your kids, for kids is so many kids, you can’t do this on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask for help let people know you’re struggling. And finally, Brenda, have some self-compassion. Anything you can do to go easy on yourself. You’ve got a lot on your plate. And it sounds like you’re really doing your best. Be kind yourself. Be loving to yourself. Make sure you’re really carving out time for self-care and rest. I know it’s hard that there’s so much going on. But those things are going to help you help your kids. I think it sounds like you’re a great mom, and you’re trying really hard to give your kids your best self. Thank you for writing, Brenda.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  08:45

I’m so grateful that you guys send me your questions. I’ll answer another one on Wednesday and I’ll also give you a tip on grappling with health anxiety. Make sure you subscribe to NEW DAY on your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  09:02

NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show was produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. New Day is produced in partnership with the well-being trust the Jed foundation and Education Development Center. Thanks for listening.1

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