Whose fault is it anyway? Re-parenting the parents

We are in an era of very conscious parenting. Whilst this awareness can offer valuable support to present-day parents redefining the legacy of emotional detachment from the silent generation (those born between 1928-1945) and the Boomers (1965-1980), it can also be overwhelming in its uninterrupted visibility, advice and pressure to emotionally engage with our children in the ‘right way’.


So how can we unpick this? What are the enduring effects of some of the emotional invalidations our parents and grandparents may have experienced? What are the negative consequences of being hurried through emotions, being invalidated, or being ignored during formative years? Finally, how can therapeutic coaching, and in particular reparenting sessions, help us avoid repeating the same emotional dismissiveness in our own children, and equally our own adult relationships?

Over the last couple of decades, there has been a noticeable shift in parenting approaches, particularly regarding how parents address their children's emotions. The parents of Gen Alpha (kids born between 2010-2024) are increasingly prioritising the validation and regulation of their children's emotional expression rather than rushing them through the feelings their parents’ generation would have labelled as ‘inappropriate’ or ‘extreme’ (Havighurst et al., 2010).

Overarching societal attitudes toward mental health have also shifted over time. In the past - reflective of broader cultural norms that placed a premium on stoicism and emotional restraint - there were often stigmas attached to emotions deemed negative or undesirable, labelled as ‘too much’. As a result, children were wholly encouraged to suppress, dismiss and ignore their feelings rather than express them openly (Morris et al., 2007).

One significant reason for the emphasis on emotional validation is the evolving understanding of child development and psychology, with current research shedding light on its importance in fostering healthy emotional intelligence and overall well-being in children (Eisenberg et al., 1998). Advancements in psychology and neuroscience are providing compelling evidence for the importance of emotional validation in promoting mental health and resilience, with studies showing that when children's emotions are dismissed or invalidated, they may internalise feelings of shame or inadequacy, which can have lasting negative effects on their self-esteem and mental health (Feng et al., 2016).

Parents now are recognising that emotions play a crucial role in children's social and cognitive development, and many are striving, with the right help, intervention and guidance, to create an environment where emotions are acknowledged and accepted; one where the child feels safe enough to express themselves fully and without harsh judgement. 

Of course, this is easier said than done (said every parent and caregiver the world over), and especially difficult if one is redefining one’s own upbringing and perhaps lack of emotional validation in one’s own childhood. It is also very important to note here that this shift towards validating children's emotions does not mean abandoning all forms of discipline or guidance altogether. Instead, it involves finding a balance between setting clear, consistent boundaries and allowing for safe, emotional expression within them.

It is also helpful to recognise that acknowledging and validating your children's emotions does not equate to indulging them without regulation but rather lays the foundation for healthy emotional development, healthy boundary-setting and autonomy and independence over their own regulation in the future. Easy! Well not really, actually, as research has shown the trauma from childhood invalidations and negative cycles of generational parenting reside much deeper within us than first thought. 

Inheritance and legacy

So what parenting traits may our grandparents, our parents, and us to a diluted variant, have inherited? The legacy of emotional repression is many and varied. During childhood, individuals rely on caregivers for emotional validation and support in navigating their internal experiences. When caregivers dismiss, hurry through, or invalidate children's emotions, it sends a message that their feelings are not worthy of acknowledgement or acceptance. This can lead to the internalisation of shame, guilt, and self-doubt, as well as difficulties in regulating emotions and forming healthy relationships.

Research indicates that childhood emotional invalidations are associated with a myriad of negative outcomes in adulthood. For example, studies have found an increased risk of anxiety disorders and depression among individuals who experienced emotional invalidations during childhood (Barlow, 2002; Siegel, 2012). Additionally, the adverse childhood experiences (ACE) study revealed a correlation between childhood emotional neglect and various health issues in adulthood, including chronic diseases and mental health disorders (Felitti et al., 1998).

Furthermore, individuals who have experienced childhood emotional invalidations may struggle with low self-esteem and self-worth. Constant messages that one's emotions are invalid or too much can erode one's sense of self and lead to a persistent feeling of inadequacy. This can impact various aspects of life, including academic and professional achievements, as well as relationships with other adults. Moreover, the lack of emotional validation and support during childhood can hinder the development of healthy coping mechanisms.

Instead of learning to regulate and express their emotions in constructive ways, individuals may resort to maladaptive coping strategies, such as avoidance, substance abuse or self-harm, to numb or suppress their feelings. In adulthood, the effects of childhood emotional invalidations can often manifest in difficulties with emotional regulation, meaning individuals may struggle to express their emotions effectively, leading to the bottling up of feelings, or commonly, explosive outbursts. 

Here we see that children who experienced this kind of emotional repression from their parents not only repeat this dismissive behaviour with their own children when confronted with the everyday stresses and challenges of parenting, but also repeat it in their adult relationships; repressing and devaluing their own emotional responses and needs, and in turn minimising their partner’s, leading to dysfunctional interpersonal familial relationships, and further negative effects on both their own self-esteem and well-being, and that of their partner’s and children’s.

Furthermore, the fear of being judged or rejected for their emotions may prevent them from forming deep and meaningful connections with others, perpetuating feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Re-parenting the parents

That’s not where the story has to end though. It goes without saying that entering into some form of regular therapeutic life coaching, talking therapy or counselling can be extremely beneficial in healing from and reframing negative childhood experiences. Within the framework of therapeutic life coaching, re-parenting sessions have emerged as a powerful tool for addressing and resolving emotional wounds stemming from childhood experiences (Schaefer, 2020), so let’s discuss how they work and how they might benefit the parent in you in a bit more detail. 

By integrating principles from cognitive-behavioural therapy and narrative therapy, re-parenting offers a structured yet flexible approach to healing childhood traumas and fostering emotional resilience (Bass & Davis, 2019).

Re-parenting sessions involve a structured process aimed at exploring and reframing challenging childhood experiences - clients are guided to recall specific instances where they felt unsafe, undervalued, or ignored by their parents (Kelley & Kent, 2018), and through introspection and guided reflection, will examine the emotional impact of these experiences and identify unmet needs and desires (Bass & Davis, 2019). Subsequently, clients are encouraged to reimagine the scenario, replacing parental actions with the support and validation they yearned for at the time (Schaefer, 2020). By rewriting their narratives, clients can experience healing and liberation from the grip of past traumas.

The benefits of re-parenting sessions can extend far beyond the therapeutic setting, permeating various aspects of clients' lives (Kelley & Kent, 2018), because in addressing unresolved childhood wounds in this way, individuals are able to experience increased self-esteem, emotional resilience, and healthier interpersonal relationships (Bass & Davis, 2019). Moreover, the process of re-parenting fosters greater self-awareness and empowers clients to break free from self-limiting beliefs and behaviours (Schaefer, 2020). 

It must of course be noted that while re-parenting sessions offer significant therapeutic benefits, we must also acknowledge their limitations (Kelley & Kent, 2018). Re-parenting may not be suitable for individuals grappling with severe or deeply ingrained traumas requiring specialised therapeutic interventions (Bass & Davis, 2019), and moreover, the effectiveness of re-parenting may vary depending on individual readiness and willingness to engage in the process of introspection and emotional healing (Schaefer, 2020). But despite these limitations, re-parenting represents a valuable adjunctive approach for individuals seeking relief from the lingering effects of childhood adversity.

Overall, re-parenting within therapeutic life coaching offers a transformative pathway to healing childhood invalidations and reimagining the legacy of negative generational parenting traits, enhancing mental health and strengthening self-esteem (Bass & Davis, 2019). By drawing on therapeutic techniques such as cognitive-behavioural therapy and narrative therapy, re-parenting empowers individuals to rewrite their past narratives and reclaim agency over their emotional well-being (Kelley & Kent, 2018), naturally extending to the well-being of their partner, extended family members and, of course, their own children.

While not a panacea for deeply traumatic experiences, re-parenting sessions within regular therapeutic life coaching sessions hold promise as a potent tool for fostering lasting positive change and emotional relief for those modern-day parents who really want to do the work to break the cycle. Until you can book yourself in, just remember to breathe.


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  • Morris, A. S., Silk, J. S., Steinberg, L., Myers, S. S., & Robinson, L. R. (2007). The role of the family context in the development of emotion regulation. Social Development, 16(2), 361-388.
  • Eisenberg, N., Cumberland, A., & Spinrad, T. L. (1998). Parental socialization of emotion. Psychological Inquiry, 9(4), 241-273.
  • Feng, X., Shaw, D. S., Kovacs, M., Lane, T., O'Rourke, F. E., & Alarcon, J. H. (2008). Emotion regulation in preschoolers: the roles of behavioral inhibition, maternal affective behavior, and maternal depression. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49(2), 132-141.
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  • Kelley, A., Redmond, M., Ley, R. (2021). Therapeutic re-parenting: A systematic review. Journal of Counseling & Development, 99(3), 306-318.
  • Felitti, V. J., et al. (1998). Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4), 245-258.
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  • Bass, L., & Davis, L. (2019). Reparenting the Child Within: A Blueprint for Emotional Healing. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  • Kelley, J., & Kent, M. (2018). Healing Your Emotional Self: A Powerful Program to Help You Raise Your Self-Esteem, Quiet Your Inner Critic, and Overcome Your Shame. New Harbinger Publications.
  • Schaefer, C. (2020). Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive. Penguin Books.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, EC1V
Written by Ali Coco Epps, DipLC, MAC, MEMCC
London, EC1V

Ali Coco Epps is a therapeutic and holistic Life Coach working between London and Ibiza, with clients throughout the world. She is a pioneer of hiking coaching and comes very highly recommended. She is known as The Real Life Coach.
Book your first free session via her profile, or on itsthereallifecoach.com

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