5 Ways To Take Care Of Your Inner Child, Because They Could Use Some Love
When we're children, we rely on our parents or other caregivers to provide our basic needs. But as an adult, you need to take care of yourself, which also means taking care of your inner child. The concept of behaving as if there's a small child in your brain might sound silly, but getting to know and caring for your inner child can also be life-changing.
"The essence behind [inner child] work is acknowledging that most of us experienced things during our childhood that left us feeling out of control, anxious, depressed, or traumatized," licensed psychologist Sue Sexton tells Bustle. "In fact, from ages 0-7, we are in such a deep theta brain state that our caregivers and society are pretty much programming our subconscious to believe the world works certain ways based on the words and experiences people offer us. So, when we are adults, it is our responsibility to go inward and feel, release, and reprogram ourselves — pretty much heal those parts of us that had difficult experiences."
Don't worry — caring for your inner child doesn't have to be a full-time job. Here are some little things you can do to show them the love they deserve — and maybe didn't get when they needed it.
1. Do Something You Enjoyed As A Kid
Who's to say that playgrounds or arcades or stuffed animals are only for kids? If you enjoyed it as a kid, you might enjoy it as an adult as well — and your inner child would, too.
"In inner child work, we discuss a time when the person experienced joy as a child," Dr. Angela Kenzslowe, clinical psychologist and founder of Purple Heart Behavioral Health LLC, tells Bustle. "Maybe they went to a carnival as a child and had the time of their life, but now, as an adult, they believe that's for children and silly and not becoming. So, to honor the inner child, we would encourage a trip to the carnival and allow that pure joy to be experienced again. This would then give the adult permission to once again experience joy in their life."
2. Practice Compassionate Self-Talk
When you're speaking to yourself, ask yourself whether your words would be appropriate for a parent to say to a child. This exercise will probably help you realize that you need to stop beating yourself up.
Take "a compassionate stance, like you would with a child, toward your own vulnerable and irrational inner battles," Dr. Helen Odessky, licensed clinical psychologist and author of Stop Anxiety From Stopping You, tells Bustle. "If you feel ashamed or hurt in some way, rather than dismissing it as irrational, you would first find some compassion for yourself and acknowledge that you do feel a certain way, before deciding on how to move on or proceed. This means that the way you talk to yourself, particularly around sensitive topics, does not involve harshness, shaming, or belittling of yourself, your needs, or your emotional experience."
3. Get Back In Touch With Old Friends
Give your inner child a "play date" by hanging out with the people you played with as a kid and letting your inner children come out together.
"Preserving contact with friends from childhood can be beneficial for our inner child because these are the people who have known us for so long, who remember us when we were kids," psychotherapist Dr. Vladimir Musicki tells Bustle. "So usually, it is much easier to have a sense of silliness and playfulness with them than with the people whom we met as adults."
4. Take A Vacation
"Traveling somewhere and getting to know different cultures, which are very different from our own, can invoke feelings of awe, astonishment, or wonder — all of which are very much associated with the innocent, openhearted perspective of the inner child," says Musicki.
Traveling by yourself, with nobody else's agenda to adhere to, is a particularly powerful way to explore a new place with a childlike spontaneity and curiosity.
5. Write Your Inner Child A Letter
If you have unmet emotional needs from childhood, one way to meet them now is to write your inner child a letter telling them everything they need to hear.
"This activity can help you reconnect with your inner child and remember the emotional quality of being a child," says Musicki. "You can write about how adult life has been stressful for you, how easy is to forgive your inner child, and what you are planning to do in order to spend some time with your inner child. In the beginning, it might seem weird, but after a few sentences, people usually forget about the social restraints which hold them back and get inspired to write a long letter!"
And, most of all, remember to go easy on yourself. You may not be able redo your childhood, but you can be the parent you need now.