Healing Your Inner Child
Table of Contents
When someone has a healthy inner child, they tend to feel more balanced, loved and supported in life. Unfortunately, not everyone has this experience. Many people go through situations in childhood that lead to a wounded inner child. As adults, they feel scared and alone and lack a cohesive sense of self. Learning how to heal your inner child and live with more joy, love, support and trust is possible.
What Is Your Inner Child?
Everyone has an inner child. The inner child is the central part of your identity created from your childhood experiences and stored memories. It is the part of your core self that did not grow into an adult. Your inner child was formed during your childhood years when you needed love, care and support from your caregivers. It influences how you respond to situations throughout your life as you mature into an adult.
The inner child recalls good and bad experiences. The inner child remembers how it felt when you baked cookies with your mother. The inner child recalls the smells of the cookies baking, the love and bond you felt baking with mom and how delicious the cookies tasted fresh from the oven. Your inner child remembers that feeling when you walk past the bakery and see those cookies. The inner child also remembers how horrible you felt when those kids did not invite you to the party. It recalls how rejected, alone and humiliated you felt. Your inner child reminds you of this experience when you face joining a new group of people and respond with fear and avoid the situation.
What Does It Mean To Have a Wounded Inner Child?
When a child experiences frightening, harmful or neglectful experiences, they typically feel unsafe in their world. They may not feel protected, loved and supported by the people they thought would care for them. They learn to respond to their environment as a dangerous place. This response carries over into adulthood as a wounded inner child who recalls childhood fears, traumas, harmful experiences and neglect. This wounded inner child negatively impacts how the adult experiences the world, forms relationships and makes decisions.
Many different life experiences can lead to a wounded inner child:
- Being told you cannot have opinions
- Being punished for expressing your individuality
- Being discouraged from playing and having fun
- Not being allowed to do spontaneous things
- Not being allowed to display strong feelings
- Being put down and shamed by family, caregivers, parents
- Being regularly criticized and verbally abused
- Being physically punished and abused
- Feeling responsible for your caregivers
- Not receiving hugs, kisses, cuddles, etc., from your family and caregivers
- Not having your emotional needs for love, support and protection met by your caregivers
- Not being nurtured by your caregivers
- Not having your basic physical safety and care needs met
When thinking about learning how to heal your inner child, the first step is to recognize potential signs that you have a wounded inner child:
- Feeling like there is something wrong with you or that you are not good enough
- Trying to make everyone else happy except for you
- Being driven towards overachievement and perfection
- Having trouble letting go of belongings and relationships
- Criticizing and judging yourself
- Feeling uncomfortable expressing strong emotions, especially around other people
- Having trouble trusting people, including yourself
- Having a hard time saying no to people
- Fearing abandonment and rejection
- Feeling anxious and nervous about new experiences or new people
- Having difficulty starting and completing things
- Trying to avoid conflict
- Feeling ashamed of your body
The Importance of Healing Your Inner Child
Nurturing and healing your inner child can help you to feel:
- Loved and supported
- More emotional space and the ability for creativity, play and new possibilities in your life
- Increased coping skills to handle challenging situations and difficulties in your life
- Improved ability to make decisions and choices
- Increased trust in yourself and others
- Stronger sense of identity
When you work on healing your inner child, you can figure out what likely caused this emotional pain beginning with your childhood. You can learn to recognize how these childhood parts of your personality and core self influence your adult life. As you work on healing this pain, you can learn how to respond to challenges as your adult self.
What Is Inner Child Work?
Inner child work helps you heal the wounds of your inner child. You learn to explore your maladaptive coping patterns, meet the needs of your inner child and heal the wounds. Inner child work can combine theories and therapeutic approaches focusing on how childhood experiences can influence adult minds.
Inner child work can offer many benefits on your journey toward healing:
- Enjoy a better quality of life
- Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Healthier coping skills and responses
- More integrated self
- Healthier relationships
- Better energy
- Improved or new sense of child-like curiosity and wonder
- Space for creativity and play
- Better ability to regulate emotions
- More understanding of your authentic self
- Greater acceptance of your whole self
- Feeling safe within your body
- Improved understanding of your triggers and responses
- Greater ability to experience joy in life
How To Connect With and Start Healing Your Inner Child
To begin your healing journey, you must learn how to connect with your inner child. Connecting to your inner child involves nurturing a relationship with your inner child through sensory and somatic experiences. These experiences help you better connect with your inner child instead of relying on your cognitive skills to work through a situation.
Acknowledge Your Inner Child
Acknowledging your inner child begins with listening to what it has to say to you. Allow yourself to experience the feelings that develop from good and bad situations. As you allow these feelings into your awareness instead of pushing them away, you can begin validating the pain your inner child experienced. Instead of judging yourself, offer compassion and support for the painful experiences and how you feel about them.
Some people may journal or write a letter to their inner child to offer support and work on healing. In these writings, you can provide your adult insight into painful childhood experiences you did not understand as a child. You can provide reassurance, support and love to your inner child.
Many adults, especially those with a wounded inner child, often deny themselves access to creative outlets. Creativity may seem messy and scary as opposed to the restricted and tidy adult needs. Getting in touch with your creative side can help connect you with your inner child. Creativity is part of childhood that you can use to nurture and support your inner child.
Some creative outlets to consider include:
- Creating playful decorations
When working with creative outlets, allow yourself the freedom to be messy, color outside of the lines and have fun.
Remember How To Play
When was the last time you did something playful or fun as an adult just because it made you happy? Many adults forget how to play and how joyful it felt as a child. Engaging in play can help you to connect to that inner child who loved or wanted to play. You can ask yourself some questions to help you remember how to play.
- What did you like doing as a child when you played?
- What did you want to do as a child to play?
- What sounds like fun now?
- What memories do you have of playing as a child?
If you feel stuck, you can look at photos and talk to family members or childhood friends. As you develop a list of playful activities, make time to explore and engage in them. Allow your inner child the freedom to play and have fun as your adult self.
Some ideas to get you started are:
- Blow bubbles
- Go to a playground and swing
- Go to an amusement park
- Play a game
- Go to an adult obstacle course, trampoline park or a similar location
- Go to an arcade
- Go on a scavenger hunt
- Go to an escape room
- Go on a haunted tour
When someone has a wounded inner child, they often push away their feelings because, in childhood, they likely did not learn how to express their emotions or feel safe doing so. Mindful meditation helps teach you increased self-awareness and how to sit comfortably with your feeling. As you become more skilled in this practice, you can feel and express your once-uncomfortable emotions more comfortably and safely.
Meditations can also teach:
- Loving-kindness, so you better love your whole self
- Visualizing yourself as a child to better understand who you are
- Connecting to your inner child to offer support
Work Through Any Unresolved Trauma
Unresolved trauma can result in feeling unsafe, fearful and hypervigilant. When this trauma occurs in childhood, it leads to a wounded inner child who experiences the adult world as a dangerous and scary place. Working through unresolved trauma with a therapist can help heal these wounds so you can feel safe, loved and supported in your adult life. You can learn to provide your child self with the safety and security you did not receive or had violated through the traumatic experience(s).
Learn to Reparent Your Inner Child
You can provide your inner child with the love, protection and support you did not receive as a child by reparenting. Just because your parents, caregivers or loved ones did not meet your needs and provide you with this love and support does not mean you cannot learn to. It may feel uncomfortable initially, but the more you practice, the more natural it will feel.
You can practice exercises on your own or work with a trained therapist on reparenting your inner child. Some ideas to consider for reparenting your inner child include:
- Talking to yourself in a kind and loving way
- Reassure yourself that you are safe
- Using positive affirmations
- Reward yourself
- Verbally recognizing your achievements and accomplishments
- Tell yourself good morning every day
- Tell yourself, “I love you.”
- Make new and special memories and traditions
Working on healing your inner child is a journey. Consider reaching out to a trained therapist for help using the Nobu app on this voyage. Nobu offers free mental health support, including learning coping skills, journaling prompts and goal setting. You can also connect to a mental health professional and begin online therapy sessions. The app is available for download on the Apple Store and the Google Play store.
Take Control Of Your Mental Health
- Carr, S. and Hancock, S. “Healing The Inner Child Through Portrait Therapy: Illness, Identity and Childhood Trauma.” International Journal of Art Therapy, April 10, 2016. Accessed September 27, 2022.
- Davis, S. “The Wounded Inner Child.” The Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Foundation, July 13, 2020. Accessed September 27, 2022.
- Ekeinde-Jimenez, A. and Tineo-Komatsu, K. “Connecting To Your Own Inner Child.” Columbia University, Accessed September 27, 2022.
- Sjoblom, M.”Health Throughout the Lifespan: The Phenomenon of The Inner Child Reflected in Events During Childhood Experienced by Older Persons.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, June 16, 2016. Accessed September 27, 2022.