When They Weren’t There (And Maybe Still Aren’t There)

Everyone has parents. Some people had good parents. Others had (or have) not so good parents. Some people had absent parents. Good or not so good, most children experienced times when their parents weren’t there when they needed them. As a result, many adults find that their inner child still has unmet needs. These needs may come out as attachment seeking or attachment avoidance; comforting with food, drugs, or relationships; and more. Sometimes parents can step in to help meet the needs of their adult children. Sometimes those parents still aren’t there. These are times that the adult may need to step in and re-parent themselves.

What is reparenting? Reparenting is not blaming or shaming parents (Kristenson, 2022). It is not acting like a victim. “Instead,” as one author writes, “it is becoming the wise parental figure you may have lacked and guiding yourself to gaining the skills and experiences you needed as a child.” It is naming needs and working to meet them. It is telling the inner child that it is okay to have emotions, that those emotions are real, and that those emotions deserve care (Martin, 2019). It is treating the self with kindness, kindness needed as a child that parents were sometimes, or maybe often, unable to provide.

Re-parenting is hard work. It requires the uncovering of primal pain. This may occur naturally, or through a therapeutic experience such as the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) (George, Main, & Kaplan, 1985). Re-parenting often requires the support of another human who can demonstrate compassion so that the person can learn how to practice self-compassion (Brown, 2021; Korb, 2022 in Carmel, 2022). That person might be a friend, partner, spouse, or even therapist. Re-parenting might also require a lot of rest as the nervous system is working to heal itself (Braman, 2022). It might look like taking longer in relationships to make sure that those relationships are meeting current, rather than past, inner child needs. It will probably look like something the person has never experienced before, which is accurate if it is meeting unmet needs.

Parents are not perfect. Even the best ones are not able to be there all the time. This is why re-parenting, or maybe better stated, self-parenting, is necessary. It is reconnecting with self, meeting self-needs, and being there for self, because the self is the person who is ever-present and always there.


Braman, L. (2022). New research in trauma and PTSD. Lindsay Braman.

Brown, S. J. (2021, September 2). 5 self-soothing tips to heal your inner child. Forbes Women.

Carmel, M. (Host). (2022, June 22). Going on the upward spiral with Dr. Alex Korb (Part 2 of 2) (No. 69). [Audio podcast episode]. In What You’re Craving.

Kristenson, S. (2022, January 16). How to reparent yourself: A 7-step guide. Happier Human. https://www.happierhuman.com/reparent-yourself/

George, C., Main, M., & Kaplan, N. (1985). Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) [Database record]. APA PsycTests.

Martin. S (2019) How to reparent yourself. Live Well With Sharon Martin.