4 thoughts on re-parenting yourself
Reparenting…its an interesting word and one that was brought to my attention with a question from a young mom who wanted to know how she could reparent herself.
Reparent yourself? What do you mean?
She explained to me about her own family of origin. She grew up in dysfunction with parents who didn’t model a Christ-centered marriage, intentional parenting, or any form of healthy relationship building. Now that she has her own home and family, she finds herself following into patterns that mirror a culture she would never want to repeat but seems most natural because it is what she knows.
She wants to know how to reprogram or in her words re-parent herself.
I’m undoubtedly not an expert on the art of re-parenting but I’ve encountered more and more young women who are asking a similar question: How do I overcome patterns of behavior I saw modeled by my parents that I know I don’t want to repeat in the family I am now entrusted with?
If you are someone asking a similar question, I’ve got a few thoughts that will hopefully help you start the process of working through how you can strengthen your family despite what was modeled for you in your family of origin.
- Articulate and distinguish healthy versus unhealthy behaviors and mindsets.
Give some real time to think through what was healthy and what wasn’t about your childhood environment. This is an important step. It is doubtful that EVERYTHING was healthy or EVERYTHING was unhealthy. But, because you were a child and you took in information and learned to make judgments based on what you observed, you may not have made a clear distinction about what was healthy and what wasn’t. You may acknowledge things that were definitely not okay, but you may have inadvertently lumped healthy patterns with unhealthy ones.
If you want to break free from unwanted patterns, don’t skip this step. Make a list. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It could be a note you start on your phone, and when you think of something, type it in. However you do it, write it down. There is something so cathartic about putting something down, whether on paper, on your computer, or your phone. You are releasing it from your mind into something more concrete.
- Get to know yourself.
This may seem strange, but knowing and embracing who you are (your likes, dislikes, strengths, talents, skills, passions, even your experiences) is vital if you are going to reparent yourself. Parents are invited to guide children to discover who they are and the unique way God creates them, and if you don’t know yourself, you will find yourself falling into unintentional patterns you saw modeled by your parents that don’t reflect the purposes God created you and your family for.
- Create a value statement.
It’s no secret that I think in a format of goals. I do it with myself but we also do it with our family. In my most recent book Own Your Everyday Influence, I discuss in-depth about owning your values and embracing values for your family. Once again, by processing and working through what you, your spouse, and God wants for your family by forming something in writing, you are making intentional choices to re-parent yourself and create a new normal for the family you have been entrusted with
Here is a guide to Creating a Family Value Statement.
- Get Help.
The reality is that some family of origin experiences require a professional to help you process learning a new normal. Just because you acknowledge something isn’t right doesn’t mean you can snap your fingers or even make a list, and you’ve reparented yourself. Adult children often need to talk through some of what they saw and experienced to learn new disciplines or uncover thought/behavioral patterns we didn’t even know were there.
It saddens me how many families I know who one or both parents have allowed some of the unhealthy attitudes from their family of origin to stall them from taking the very step they need to get help. They remain in the same unhealthy culture and inadvertently pass that culture on to the next generation.
I acknowledge that just because I say “there is no shame in getting professional help,” it won’t change some people’s attitude. But, if I told you could stop the unhealthy generational cycle for your kids, would you put aside your pride and consider it a possibility?
Here’s the truth–reparenting, reprogramming or whatever you decide to call it won’t happen without some hard (probably painful) work. It will require calling out some of what you saw or experienced what it is, and it will be about people you love and who are entrusted by God to love you well. It will likely take a bucket load of forgiveness.
But, here’s the good news. There is hope. Because of the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross, Jesus can redeem our skewed definitions of normal and set us free to raise strong families. God can use and transform our relationships, and we can be parents who honor and disciple and launch our children to know and fulfill the purposes for which God created them