When I first read the statement “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood”, I thought rather crossly, “Yeah, right!” But when I had thought about it for a while, I changed it to an enthusiastic “Yeah, right!”My little insiders represent times in my childhood that were not happy. As part of my healing process I am working on re-parenting them. That brief couple of sentences rolled off the tongue with ease, but in reality it represents five years’ hard work in counselling.At first I didn’t even want to be in the same room as my insiders. They know that I am sorry about that now. I thought they were horrid and dirty, and I didn’t want anything to do with them. I felt ashamed. I didn’t want to be connected to them. But eventually I came to understand that the shame was not mine, and that it belonged to those who had wronged me.

I realised that they are younger parts of me who got pushed out of play, and life carried on disconnected from them. They are still experiencing childhood, so in many ways it is up to me now whether they continue to re-experience trauma, or perhaps whether I can give them some happiness.

The kind of parenting that I had received involved one angry, frightening parent, and one frightened, anxious parent. So, like many dissociative survivors, I didn’t have a great example to follow. If, when I was a parent myself, I had been able to recognise and name emotions, I would have understood that I was following the angry parent route.

My own children were grown up before I discovered what emotions are. They have graciously accepted my apology for being an angry parent. So now, not only do I want to give my little insiders a happy time, but I also want to give my adult self a different parenting experience.

I have wondered: What makes kids happy? My insiders like a range of things:

  • They like swimming and having stories read to them.
  • They like feeling safe and being cared for by someone nice, someone consistent.
  • They like chocolate, jam tarts and ginger beer.
  • They like skipping and bouncing a ball against a wall.
  • They like the sea.
  • They like chicks and lambs and rabbits and fluffy things.
  • They like teddy bears.
  • They like having a packed bag ready in case they have to move in a hurry.

Not everyone wants to do the same thing, but learning to take turns is a really useful skill.

I have also wondered: What does it mean to be a good-enough parent?

  • Good enough parents put in boundaries that help a child feel safe.
  • Good enough parents give the child a routine, especially helpful at bedtime.
  • Good enough parents don’t always say yes to every “I want …”
  • Good enough parents enjoy their children’s company.
  • Good enough parents help their children to manage their emotions.
  • Good enough parents say positive,things.
  • Good enough parents help children to get over their disappointments, to face their challenges, and to thrive.
  • Good enough parents teach children healthy habits like cleaning their teeth and brushing their hair.
  • Good enough parents build up their children’s self-esteem.

What a great opportunity we have to forge some new pathways in our brains – to start giving our little insiders some happy memories. It is never too late to have a happy childhood!