Reparenting Ourselves as Survivors of CSA
By: Amy Tai, Community and Justice Services (diploma), Program Assistant
In the simplest terms, reparenting can be described as giving yourself what you didn’t receive as a child. It involves acquiring the skills necessary to treat your wounded inner child with the respect, love, and dignity that they were due when you were a child (Davis, 2020). For survivors of childhood sexual abuse, this can be an extremely difficult task to navigate. Maybe you have tried the process of reparenting with no success or just don’t know where to start. It’s important to remember that while it may be a difficult process, it is not impossible and you hold the capacity within you to inspire lasting healing and change. By practicing self-compassion, validation, and acknowledgment of your experiences and the pain each part of your inner child has held, you will find yourself on the road to healing.
When tasked with writing this article, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the wonderful volunteer facilitators here at The Gatehouse. As I am not a survivor of CSA myself, I really value the time she took to walk me through her experience with reparenting and want to acknowledge her and every other survivor for their bravery and resilience.
Here are some of the main ideas from the conversation I had with her.
What does reparenting mean to you, personally?
Rather than using the word “reparenting”, it can be helpful to look at the process as the assessment of developmental gaps as the result of trauma. It’s about being proactive in deciding that you want to be a fully functioning healthy adult, recognizing that, while in survival mode, your brain naturally took short cuts. Now, you are tasked with creating a whole new neural pathway, which is hopeful, permanent, and empowering. Picture yourself building a Lego wall and finally getting to fill in the empty pieces as you figure out what you missed during those shortcuts and develop those skills.
What is something you have found challenging about the process?
Accepting the reality that it has to happen. It is both humbling and painful to accept that how your brain is wired differs from one who was raised in a healthy experience. It can be painful to acknowledge that you could have lived an ‘easier’ life, but it is a necessary part of healing. It’s challenging to be willing to make the change and say “alright, this sucks, but what changes need to happen”, but it’s worth it, because that change is what will allow for a fuller life.
What is something you have learned about yourself?
The brain is a powerful tool. Through it, you can control acceptance and learn new behaviours. Even compassion stems from the brain. It’s beautiful to know that we are intelligent, capable people despite what we’ve been through. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to look at all people who struggle in various forms and understand there’s often a reason behind it. To be able to reduce judgment and cultivate a greater capacity for empathy and compassion.
What is something you would like to tell a survivor who is in the learning process of reparenting?
Be curious, kind, patient, and compassionate to yourself. The journey of healing takes time. It’s an investment in yourself and the ability to enjoy life and thrive. It’s also an investment in the people around you whose lives you affect. It could be the difference between continuing or breaking the cycle of generational trauma. You hold the capacity to inspire real change.
Davis, S. (2020, July 27). Reparenting to Heal the Wounded Inner Child | CPTSDfoundation.org. CPTSD Foundation. https://cptsdfoundation.org/2020/07/27/reparenting-to-heal-the-wounded-inner-child/