I always joke that I’m a fully-grown child. I love Disney, coloring books, Bluey, and you can always find me on a swing set when I’m at the park. I love this aspect of me, but it’s taken me a while to get here.
A while ago, I realized just how much damage had been done to my inner child, and I began the lifelong journey of healing her.
What is Inner Child Work?
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If you’ve never heard of the inner child before, it’s one of the more vital but overlooked parts of ourselves. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the childlike usually hidden part of a person’s personality that is characterized by playfulness, spontaneity, and creativity usually accompanied by anger, hurt, and fear attributable to childhood experiences.” Your inner child is the part of you that wants to connect with your childhood in both a fun and therapeutic way – known as inner child work.
Inner child work is a fancy name for the work required to heal wounds that were developed in our childhoods. There’s nothing we necessarily need to ‘fix’ about our inner child; instead, listen, acknowledge, and learn from them. According to Cambridge Dictionary, “Your kid within is the part of your personality that still reacts and feels like a child.” Everyone has an inner child, but we don’t all recognize or respect them.
The Process of Inner Child Work
Inner child work is not just for people who suffered from trauma at a young age. Children aren’t dumb, they’re very aware of what’s going on around them and what people are saying about them. Doing inner child work could mean working through small comments that were made throughout your childhood, feeling misunderstood or like an outcast, and anything else that might appear as you work with your inner child to discover healing.
You may want to think about inner child work if you’re experiencing problems in your current life that can be traced back to your childhood. Again, remember that these problems don’t necessarily have to be abuse – they could manifest themselves in an anxious attachment style, commitment issues, or even finding yourself retreating to a ‘childlike’ personality.
How to Heal Your Inner Child
Sadly, inner child healing isn’t a quick process, but it’s a necessary one. Thankfully, there are a few key steps you can take if you want to begin the process of healing your inner child.
1. Acknowledge that your inner child is there.
More than likely, you experienced some sort of rejection in your childhood. When you’re trying to heal your inner child, don’t reject them. Acknowledge that your inner child is still there and that they need to be taken care of.
2. Understand your pain.
This might not always be easy, especially considering some effects of trauma and PTSD can include memory loss, and also, sometimes the pain you felt as a child can’t just be summed up in one word. But as you’re working with your inner child, think back on the painful times you’ve experienced and go from there. I don’t suggest doing this on your own, but instead, looking to a professional to help you out with this step. Some therapists will use guided imagery, art therapy, writing prompts, television shows, or even journaling to get to the bottom of your inner child’s pain. Be patient and kind with yourself throughout this process.
3. Build compassion.
Understand that inner child work is all about working with the child inside of you. We all experienced a moment in our childhood where we were wrongfully blamed for something and we held onto it a bit too tightly. Working to forgive your past self is one of the first and most vital steps you can take as you begin inner child work.
4. Play again
It can be such a joy to heal your inner child because it gives you permission to embrace the parts of childhood that you might not have had when you were a kid. Go back to the interests you had as a child and explore those now as an adult.
If you were the kid who was always reading, drawing, dancing, or playing make-believe as a child, do it again. You’re never too old to build a pillow fort or buy a coloring book.
5. Schedule unstructured time.
Inner child work can be difficult, long, and draining. When you’re beginning to do the work (and any time you can) take a block of your time and schedule nothing in it. When you get to that time block, do whatever your spirit wants. This could be watching an episode of a TV show, taking a nap, going on a walk, or playing. Make sure that you make time for your soul to grow.
6. Check in with yourself.
The good news about inner child work is that you’re working with a child. And just like a child, if your basic needs are met, theirs will be too. Make sure to note the last time you drank water, when you last ate, when you last went to the restroom, moved your body, or stretched. Is there anything you need to change or improve on those basic needs? Sometimes our most basic needs are the easiest to forget about.
The Inner Child in Adulthood
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Working with your inner child can be an ongoing therapeutic adventure that you take on for the rest of your life. The good news is that inner child work allows you to explore aspects of yourself and outlets that you may have written off years ago.
As you begin to heal your inner child in your adulthood, embrace the fun child inside of you and allow them to shine through. It may not always be easy, but it will be worth it.
Have you ever heard of inner child work? Are you going to do it now? Comment below!
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