How To Begin Reparenting Your Inner Child

Use these tips to meet the needs you wanted them to, and explore forgiveness for your parents, and yourself.


The technical definition of reparenting yourself is giving yourself what you didn't have as a child. While I agree, the journey to successfully giving your inner child what you didn't receive is not that cut and dry - you can think you've as Auntie Iyanla says "done the work," and then you're triggered out of nowhere and have to go back to square one. Wellness is a journey, and to successfully explore reparenting; you have to be prepared for those curveballs your inner child with throw at you.

Last summer, I went to visit my dad, stepmom, and my little brother. When I arrived, he told me my younger sister was coming too. I was excited because I hadn't seen her in years (there's six of us, I'm the second oldest.) My siblings and I aren't close, but I'm always optimistic, so I was excited to see her; but I'll admit, I just wanted to hang with my dad. We have a great relationship, but like any parent/child dynamic, it's had its struggles, especially when you consider that I'm his oldest daughter.

Overall, my takeaway from most older siblings I encounter is that there's often underlying jealously of their younger siblings, and resentment for their parents. Most of us are seeing them engage, show up, and overall navigate life differently with our siblings in ways that they never did with us. Not to mention the painful moments that our siblings either never experienced or are too young to remember that being older, we recount vividly. These aren't easy emotions to navigate, especially with people that you love deeply.

Moments like those, and what happened next can be triggering AF - but it showed me that I wasn't as past my childhood trauma as I thought, and it gave me the crash course in inner child healing that I needed.

The night my sister arrived, my dad told me that he was getting her a car because she was starting college. When I left for college, my father was in prison, and my mother was unemployed - it was rough, so it stung, but I was happy for her. Still, I knew I had to set boundaries and not physically be there when they went to the dealership. We spent every other day together working out, having family dinners, swimming in his development, etc. but that day, I made sure (without causing a scene, you can set boundaries and not be selfish) that I would be MIA. Before they left for the dealership, my dad dropped me off at Starbucks to work, I told him I missed writing, and that this was my Saturday routine at home (which is true) so he wouldn't suspect anything.

He never said anything, but my guess is he didn't buy it because he called several times to ask if I was OK, and I said yes every time. I had the best day to myself, the hours flew by, and once they finished, he showed up to get me. Minutes into the car ride, I realized they weren't finished; we were going back to the dealership - the same dealership I told him I didn't want to go to. They had to sign some additional papers, and when they got out the car and walked towards the convertible he was all set to purchase, I felt myself losing it.

I got out of the car, and I walked far enough so that no one could see me, and I called my mother crying hysterically. It didn't matter that I had a car that I loved, in that moment, I was 17, and even though my dad was in eyes reach of me, I instantly felt abandoned. The emotions that followed shocked me even more because out of nowhere, I started to get flashbacks about my ex. It was as if my unresolved trauma was like, "Wait you forgot something," and I cried even harder, thinking of all the ways my ex showed up for other women that he never did for me.

I was a mess, a complete mess.

As I dried my tears, my mom calmed me down, and reminded me of where we are now and that I was safe. She told me that had my dad been home, he would have been there and that his absence didn't mean he didn't care about my needs, it meant he was in prison - a place where he was suffering too. Once we got home, I went for a swim by myself and guess who showed up? My dad.

He told me that he was sorry if seeing him do things for my sister that he couldn't do for me was painful, and that if I wanted, he would trade in my car too. The 15-year-old in me who would've killed for a punch buggy convertible wanted to respond, "Hell yeah!" But the 26-year-old adult whose car is almost paid off knew that wouldn't fix anything. The car wasn't the issue, the feelings of inadequacy were.

Inner child healing is admitting what the issues are, even when you don't want to face what's underneath the surface. If you've ever had a moment like mine, remember these things as you embark on your reparenting journey:

Your parents were not born to be your parents.

Jada Pinkett Smith's episode of Red Table Talk on forgiving her father gave me the reality check I needed. Along with her brother actor Caleeb Pinkett, the talk show host delved into how she forgave her father - and the moment where she realized that she'd been emotionally dependent on him based on his title:

"I had the most startling realization that Rob's life wasn't about him being my father. It was about him being on his journey, and along the way, he just happened to give life to me."

Freeing yourself from this narrative in your mind allows you to not only forgive your parents, but anyone else who you arrogantly assume has to behave a certain way because of the position they hold in your life.

Remind yourself where you are now.


Trauma can't be all you set your thoughts on; you need to tell yourself good things too. Lately, I remind myself of the small things that are different when I find myself getting sad; I say things like, "I have a growing relationship with God. I'm loved. I'm maturing daily. I'm meeting my own needs. I live in a beautiful home. I'm kind to others."

Affirm the truths that reflect where you are now, not the hurt of your past. Also, enjoy the good parts of your childhood too. My parents passed down much more than trauma - they gave me an understanding of God, creativity, sass and whit, money to travel the world, intelligence, and the freedom to explore any career path that I wanted.

Give everything you ever needed to yourself.

Reparenting can bring up a range of emotions for people who were abandoned, adopted, had inconsistent parents, etc. but here's something that we can all universally apply - your parents don't owe you shit but life. In my mind, I thought my dad should have been as gentle as Woody Carmichael from Spike Lee's Crooklyn, or as hands-on as Flex Washington from the UPN show, One on One, but all of that was rooted in my childlike ignorance of how life worked.

Asking my dad to be anything other than who he was, a young father with minimal references of what a man needed to be for his children was unrealistic AF. Beyond that, wrapping my head around this freed me from looking to anyone to fill voids within me. No one can be everything for you, and embracing this, allowed me to tap into a level of emotional self-sufficiency (and accountability to myself) that I never knew I could.

Have a real conversation with your parents about your childhood trauma (if possible).


A turning point for my dad and me after not speaking for a while was sitting down and talking about everything we left unsaid over the years. He told me things from his childhood that hurt him and admitted that without even knowing he'd been parenting me through the lens of what he didn't have, completely ignoring what I needed and I told him how his behavior affected how I interacted with men.

For the first time, I saw that much of my sensitivity comes from him and that he held onto things just like I did. That conversation made it clear that we both needed to reparent ourselves, and for the first time, I saw my dad for who he was, as a person, and quite frankly, as a child. Additionally, that discussion showed me how important it was that I continue to heal, so my children won't need to have a similar talk with me years from now.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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