6 Ways to Support Your Inner Child at Home

(Plus a music gift for your inner child!)

Hi folks, this is a bit more vulnerable of a post for me to share, and I’m hoping that it will help at least some of you feel more seen, understood, or give you a few new tools to try and heal the wounded inner child inside you.

Healing childhood wounds is something I am passionate about as a therapist, and I am often in awe of the power of working with a person’s “inner child.”  Most mental health professionals come into the field for a (heart/soul) reason, and I am no different – therapy helped me overcome childhood trauma that was robbing me of my health and wellness as an adult. Inner child work, in particular, was an aspect of therapy that transformed my life.

Inner child work is the process of identifying and healing wounds left in us from childhood – and we ALL have them. I don’t know of any adult that doesn’t have some childhood wound that still impacts them, and inner child work can be a powerful way of resolving many of our relationship dynamics of adults. These wounds can come from abuse or neglect, from teasing, from peers, teachers, basically from anywhere.

Think back to the memories you have as a child that are connected to shame, and there will mostly likely be an inner child wound there. (I remember being lovingly teased for singing in the bathroom when I was small, and this had such a huge impact on me that I not only wouldn’t speak in a bathroom for years, but I was also afraid to sing in front of anyone for years as well – “small” things can cause lasting effects on us all).

Behind almost every major emotional reaction we have as adults is a scared whisp of the child we once were who has been triggered, and often our responses are a reflection of how that child would have responded – we lose connection to the thinking, rational, logical part of our brain, and our survival mechanisms take over (whether we want them to or not). We retreat or hide from conflict, we shut down when we want to speak out truth, we feel helpless or full or rage and act on those emotions, and yes, we even have temper tantrums at times!

It can be incredibly frustrating to be the adult whose nervous system was just hijacked by a child-level reaction, and can lead to a lot of self-judgement. I remember loathing my very existence as an early adult. I actively hated myself, and used multiple coping skills that were harmful to me in the process. It was through recognizing the inner child behind my emotional responses that helped me begin to develop compassion for myself. I worked with children at the time, and had a solid understand of (and compassion for) their development, needs, and reactions well. Through the work I did in therapy, I was able to slowly start to recognize the angry 8 year old behind my aggressive emotions, and the scared 3 year old behind my people pleasing, and all the other responses as well (and like every other human, I had a LOT).

My therapist at the time was able to give me tools for communicating with the inner child inside me that still needed healing, and over time I was able to create a HUGE shift in the way I saw myself. After doing this emotional work for awhile, I can now say wholeheartedly that I love myself unconditionally, messiness, emotions, quirks, and all.

The tools and techniques I use with and pass along to clients are ones I have tried myself, and involve quite a range of options, six of which I will share here. Not every option will work for every person, or every situation, and some of them require practice before they feel natural.  Feel free to reach out with any questions, and if the song attached helps soothe your inner child, feel free to listen to it as often as you wish.

**Please note: Doing inner child work can bring up vulnerable, unexpected, or charged emotions (this is often a sign that you are truly doing the work, and these feelings are ones that have been buried and are finally having space to come up and out of you). If you can, try and sit with the emotions and allow them to move through you so they can be released – often focusing on the physical sensations vs the thoughts connected to the emotions can help reduce their intensity. However, you know yourself best, and if they become too intense, distract yourself with other coping skills, and do what you need to take care of yourself. This work (like all therapeutic changes) takes time. You, and your inner child, are worth that time!**

1. Written Conversation: This is a great tool to increase your ability to communicate with your inner child, and many folks (myself included) are surprised with what comes out of it. I encourage you to write honestly and kindly to your inner child, and remember that even teenagers are quite young and vulnerable.

  1. Using your dominant hand, write a greeting or question to your inner child. Using a different colour to write with, use your non dominant hand to allow space for your inner child to respond. Try not to require a structure, and allow whatever comes out to come out. It can be awkward at first, and works best if you can relax your mind into a place of curiosity.

2. Inner Child Imagery/Meditation:

  1. Take a few deep breaths and settle into a comfortable position. Imagine your inner child in front of you – sometimes it helps to imagine yourself walking down a road into the past, and seeing who greets your along the way. Notice what they look like and how old they are. Notice how they might be feeling, and what they might need from you (a hug, reassurance, freedom to play, protection, etc.).

3. Photograph Connection:

  1. Take a photograph of you at an age where you knew you struggled as a child. Look at your face and body, and notice any emotions that come up. You may even wish to talk to the child in the photo, or write them a letter (see below).
  2. (if there is a lot of anger towards your inner child, this option might work better): Look at the photo of yourself, and see if you can look at it as you might another child. Notice how young the child in the photo is, notice how another (loving) adult might view the photograph.

4. Letter, or creative message:

  1. Write a letter to your inner child, and add in the messages you needed to hear as a child that you never got to receive (ex. You are beautiful, you were neve too much, it’s okay to feel sad, I love you anyway, etc.). As you move deeper with your inner child work, you may notice changes in the letters you write, how honest and authentic you feel, and how your inner child responds. What starts of feeling awkward, emotionally difficult, or unnatural can become a really beautiful relationship over time.
  2. If you wish to get creative, you can write a poem, paint a photo, or create some other work of art for your inner child. This is a song I wrote my inner child a few years ago:

     (Creative expression is a fantastic way of connecting with your inner child!)

5. PLAY:  Adults need play, and so often our inner child will be the one to remind us!

  1. Do something that you used to love as a kid: swing on swings, blow bubbles, dig in the dirt, build with lego, make some playdough, etc. Play is necessary for our nervous system to integrate information, move us out of stress-mode, relax and release, and connect. It’s no wonder kids naturally know to play. Again, this can feel awkward at times, but see if you can let your inner child lead the way. If this brings up difficult emotions, and play was not something that was safe for you as a kid, I highly recommend having the support of a professional while working through this item.

6. Visualize Connection:

  1. This works especially well when you are feeling triggered by something. Imagine your adult self standing behind your inner child with your hands gently on your inner child’s shoulders. It means so much for a child to have an adult have their back during hard moments. See if you can imagine facing an obstacle in your life with the two of you united together (our inner children often feel like it’s them against the world).

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