Embracing Your Inner Child

May 10, 2022

By Whitney Taylor, Resident in Counseling 


Do you pay attention to that little voice inside of you? Do you answer or do you shut it out? Does this voice remind you of your younger self? Is this voice your authentic self? Is it an inner critic?

How do you feel when your partner doesn’t answer your phone call? Is there a story you begin to tell yourself about why they must have “ignored” the call? At work, when a supervisor or colleague offers feedback, do you feel defensive?

No matter how grown you are, your inner child is still present. If you can trace uncomfortable feelings back to specific childhood events, you may realize similar situations in your adult life trigger the same responses. Your reactions to these daily scenarios might be your inner child trying to communicate that there are still wounds that need healing. If you look closely, you might even see your own child displaying the same wounds that you developed in childhood.

Embrace your inner child Inner Parenting

At some point in our lives we have all taken on the belief that we are wrong or bad. This is false. It always will be. We are not wrong or bad, and neither are our children. If we continue to carry this belief there is a good chance our children will follow suit. This is why I invite you to explore the concept of inner parenting. It might sound kind of funny, the concept of becoming a parent to yourself- while you are knee deep in learning how to become a parent to another tiny human! But through treating the younger version of you the way they always wanted to be treated, by acknowledging them in the way they’ve always wanted to be seen, you are healing the pieces of your own heart. And then you can give your child the freedom to know how to do the same.

The Process of Healing and Accepting

Through the professional and clinical lens at which I see my clients and their families, inner parenting – healing and accepting one’s own inner child – is essential. I work with my clients as they build their own inner “tool” box. If I am doing my job correctly, they will essentially develop their own inner therapist. Meaning, they might find themselves pausing for a moment (or several) before responding to an upsetting text message from a friend. It can look like taking 15 minute breaks between 30 minute school assignments.

A strong inner therapist will be able to reflect on how you are talking to yourself. They understand that you are not your thoughts – you shake negative thoughts off. Can you experience something uncomfortable and allow it to pass through you without attachment? Maybe you have started to keep promises to yourself, like starting each morning with a glass of water because you deserve to start the day with hydration and nourishment. These are small examples of tender self care, yet they make up the moments of your day. When your moments feel gentle, you can feel more present, and when you feel more present you can lead a lighter life.

Helping Your Child Build Their Own Inner Parent 

In the same way I guide my client’s to build their own inner therapist, it is also up to parents to help their child build their own inner parent. And this can really, truly only be done when you have done your own inner parenting.

Many of us joke about “adulting” and how “adulting is hard” – and it is! Adulting is hard! But it can feel lighter. It can feel gentle. Maybe you think of yourself as a big kid trying to do grown-up things – like being a parent! Or maybe there was a certain age you hit that all of a sudden qualified you as a grown-up. The truth is though, many adults are carrying around younger, wounded versions of themselves in their hearts. This is called our inner-child, and we don’t get to know them because there are things like jobs and board meetings and mortgages and taxes and PTO to worry about. Nonetheless, there is still a child version of you looking, begging, for your attention. This child deserves to be seen. YOU deserve to be seen.

Toddler Intuition Embrace your Inner toddler

I invite you to think of a toddler. Have you ever noticed how they are so quick to shake their head, “NO!” or close their mouth and turn their head away when they are no longer hungry? Toddlers have a strong intuition. They have not yet consumed a world that has taken them away from themselves; their intuition, their boundaries. Toddlers are naturally grounded to their own needs. And, for the most part, they are unapologetic about asking to have these needs met. When did you lose touch with your inner toddler? Being an adult doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your intuition, and it is of the utmost importance to be modeling this for our children.

Embrace Your Creative Side!

When was the last time you sat down to color? Do you feel exhausted after playing with dolls or toy cars with your kiddo? The innocence of childhood; naivety, creativity, and joy are still inside of you! Don’t be fooled. The demands of adulting, the expectations of parenting, have just shut them out. I invite you to connect with your own inner child and offer them the parenting that they deserve. I invite you to begin treating yourself the way you hope your child treats themselves.

Below are several exercises and concepts I encourage you to explore.

  1. Write a letter to your inner child.
    • What do you admire about them? What do you want them to let go of? Many times we like to think about what we would go back and tell ourselves if we only knew then what we know now. But YIKES! Whatever you did then is what got you to where you are now. Write to yourself about how you can offer peace and acceptance. Ask your inner child what they want for you now, as the grown version of you…are you currently meeting your own needs?
  2. Engage in and with the joys of childhood!
    • You still get to prioritize fun! What do you enjoy doing? When was the last time you said no to a meeting and took a nature walk instead? A toddler would certainly say no to something they didn’t want to do. Be creative, paint a new wall in your house. Sign up for a class to learn something new. Treat yourself to something silly, like a giant ice cream cone or order a pizza with random toppings. My favorite, get messy doing something you love! And don’t worry about cleaning up the mess!!
  3. Seek support from a therapist.
    • Is your kiddo in therapy? Great! Good for you for noticing that they have a need and advocating that they get that need met. But what about you? What about your needs? Developing a safe relationship with a therapist can be incredibly life changing. A therapist can be a model for the kind of relationship your inner child deserves to have with you.
  4. Speak your truth.
    • Children don’t come with filters. While communication boundaries are important, and I do not recommend disengaging with them, I do encourage you to notice when you are holding back something that you would otherwise like to say. How would you encourage your child to share? Offer yourself the same opportunity. Example: Be vocal about which restaurant you want to attend for dinner. Say “No” to a social invitation without giving a reason- no is a complete sentence (your inner toddler thinks so, too).

Final note: This work is not for the faint of heart. When you notice yourself offering compassion, celebrate! Be gentle with yourself as you begin to both remember and grieve parts of your childhood; parts of yourself. Invite this version of you to become young, creative, and silly again as you continue to parent the child, or children, of your own.

Our team has put together a FANTASTIC parenting series this month. Stay tuned for more excellent tips!

Until next time, Be Wise!