When you grew up with abusive parents, you likely have a wounded inner child. So you likely need to do some inner child work to begin healing from that childhood abuse.
Abuse causes trauma. And with trauma, it’s like you’re frozen in time. And since you experienced that when you were a child, a part of you is still stuck in your childhood. To truly heal means healing your inner child.
And to be able to heal your inner child, you need to first be able to connect to it. Connecting helps you better bond with your childhood self and better understand your childhood experiences.
I’ve discussed a little bit about connecting with your inner child in a previous post. But this post will go a little more in-depth about what inner child work is and how you can connect with your inner child.
What is Inner Child Work?
Inner child work, also known as inner child healing, typically refers to the therapeutic work on healing childhood wounds. However, while it can be carried out in a therapeutic setting, it’s also something you can do alone.
Everyone has an inner child. You can see it as a representation of yourself in your early years or your childhood experiences.
For many people, their inner child might be represented by their childhood dreams and playfulness. But it’s oftentimes a bit different for abused individuals.
If you’ve suffered from childhood abuse or other kinds of childhood trauma, you may not necessarily associate childhood with playfulness and fun.
Instead, your inner child may seem small and vulnerable. Because of that, you may have buried your inner child as a way to either suppress the pain or protect yourself, whether that’s your current self or childhood self.
However, you probably know that hiding or suppressing your pain doesn’t heal it. On the contrary, it makes things worse.
Unresolved issues from your childhood may surface in your adult life. For instance, you may have trouble forming healthy relationships or meeting your own needs. Doing some inner child work can help you address some of these issues.
Not only is inner child work essential for healing, but it’s also a form of self-discovery and self-care.
The Benefits of Inner Child Work
We live in a world that pretty much forces us to repress our inner child and “grow up”. But really, most adults aren’t emotionally or psychologically “grown-up”. That’s because many people don’t try to connect with their inner child, unaware that it affects their current adulthood.
Our inner child affects how we respond to difficult feelings or situations in our current life. We may not be aware of the connection, but the past is often connected to the present.
And when you’ve been through childhood trauma or abuse, the wounds it created often live inside of you until you actively put in the work to heal.
Being able to connect with and heal your inner child can help you more effectively and healthily deal with current challenges and obstacles that arise.
Research also suggests that having a deeper understanding of your past self can be a key to improved health and well-being later in life.
Inner Child Work: 10 Ways To Connect With Your Inner Child
Below are some things you can do to begin connecting with your inner child.
As you go through inner child work, remember to keep your best interests – past and current – in mind. Also, try to think of your childhood self as a child you are currently interacting with.
Those of us who have been abused may tend to treat others kinder than we treat ourselves. So if you can look at your childhood self as an actual child right in front of you, perhaps you’d be able to show more compassion and care.
Also, inner child work does not mean reliving your trauma. So as you engage with your childhood self, try to recall rather than relive certain experiences. This is a journey of healing and self-discovery, not retraumatization.
Also, realize that this process is not intended to be a form of avoidance or escapism. In other words, try to avoid going so far into your inner child that you end up neglecting your adult life and responsibilities. Try to find a balance that works for you.
In addition, try to steer clear of people who think inner child work or trying to connect with your childhood self is silly, immature, or perhaps even crazy. Being able to connect with your inner child, have fun, and learn to be a child again is actually emotionally freeing and healthy.
1. Acknowledge your inner child
Anyone can get in touch with their inner child if they’re open to it.
However, if you feel doubtful or resistant to the idea, you’ll have more difficulty with this.
If you’re skeptical of the idea of inner child work, try to think of this process in terms of exploring your past self and experiences instead.
Try to acknowledge your childhood self and let them know that you’re there. When you do, treat them with the love, kindness, and respect they (and you) deserve. Find that inner child and accept and care for them in a way that your parents couldn’t.
2. Listen to your inner child
Acknowledging your inner child also means listening to them. This helps you connect the past to the present. Try to listen to how your childhood self felt.
Did they feel angry, abandoned, rejected, insecure, vulnerable, guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, anxious, and/or helpless? What triggered those emotions?
If you can trace back certain emotions to certain childhood events, you may notice similar circumstances in your adult life triggering the same feelings.
It’s important not to push away your inner child. Their concerns might seem unimportant or silly to you. But remember, many of our current issues likely stem from unresolved issues from our childhood. So listening to your childhood issues might help you better understand the current issues you’re dealing with.
For example, growing up, my mother being angry, upset, or annoyed means impending abuse, whether it’s verbal attacks or beatings. Now, as an adult, I’m triggered by tones and mannerisms from other people that I perceive as upset, angry, or annoyed.
3. Observe your inner child
Acknowledging your inner child also means observing their behavior. Many times, children act out because they don’t know how to properly manage their emotions.
Were you often withdrawn, aggressive, violent, reserved, hidden, isolated, or distracted? What feelings might have caused you to act that way?
Growing up, my parents and some relatives called me a “troublesome” or “bad” child. I remember being aggressive, loud, and throwing tantrums whenever I don’t get what I want. So I grew up blaming myself on why no one loved me, why I had no friends, and why I was abused.
However, as I got older, I started to see things a little differently. My grandmother never called me a bad kid. On the contrary, she often praised my childhood self, claiming I was helpful, intelligent, and overall great. Why? Because my grandmother was the only one who was patient, caring, and loving towards me. She was the only one who believed in me.
So in the end, I don’t think I was a bad child. Actually, I don’t think there are bad children. There are simply struggling children, children who don’t get enough love and don’t have the proper tools or parenting to deal with it.
So if you ever think you were bad, weird, or that something’s wrong with you, think about how your abusive parents or environment might’ve contributed to it.
4. Write a letter to your inner child
Writing a letter to your inner child offers them insight and explanations from your current adult perspective. This can help them understand various things that might’ve happened to them.
For instance, when writing a letter to my inner child, I can let her know that she wasn’t a bad child. I can remind her of all the good things she did and how much she tried, but it was just never good enough. And that isn’t her fault, at all.
You can reassure your inner child that the abuse they face is not their fault. Or you can give them hope by telling them that positive things can and do happen.
Doing this can help your inner child understand certain things and perhaps soothe some pain of yours that may still be present. Maybe it can help you reach at least some kind of closure. Maybe it can help you let go of some of the guilt and shame you’ve felt all this time.
5. Have a conversation with your inner child
Similar to listening to them, you can also have a conversation with your inner child. This can help you better understand their perspective and how it might’ve led to your current self and life.
You can speak out loud, have the conversation in your head, or simply write everything down. Whatever you prefer.
As you talk, treat them with kindness and respect as you would with any other child.
How you want to converse is up to you.
You can make it a Q and A and ask your childhood self questions. Then, answer them from your inner child’s perspective. Or you can have a casual conversation and see where it goes.
Speaking to your inner child may help you uncover certain negative patterns, experiences, or feelings in the past that you might’ve buried. It can also help you form and strengthen a bond between your current and childhood self.
Making a habit of speaking and listening to your inner child can help you better learn how to meet your childhood and current needs.
6. Look to children for guidance
If you’re having trouble connecting, listening, talking, or whatever else with your inner child, perhaps you can look to other children for some guidance. They can be your kids or kids you know from family and friends.
Interact with some children and see if they can help spark some memories from your childhood. Like with your inner child, try to listen, observe, and have a conversation with other children to see what your childhood self might’ve been like.
Try to see the world through their eyes. Do fun things together. Find out some of the things you can do with kids in this post. Any type of play you engage in with children can benefit you.
7. Journal as your inner child
Journaling can help you deal with challenging or confusing experiences and emotions. So you can try journaling as your inner child.
Try to adopt the perspective you had back then as a child.
When writing, you don’t have to think too hard or too carefully. Try to let the thoughts simply flow out as they come up. Like how journaling should be, try to avoid perfectionism or self-censorship. Simply write.
If it makes it easier, try to choose a specific time and age you were at to focus on. This can be a time when you were particularly struggling as a child or a time when you felt the most carefree and happy.
You can write about a specific experience. Or you can pick one of these journal prompts to help:
- What’s your favorite experience? Why? Who was there? What were you doing? How did you feel?
- What are some of your hobbies? How often do you do it? Why do you enjoy it?
- How do your parents treat you? How do you perceive their treatment?
- What are some common emotions you feel? What seems to trigger them?
- Where is your favorite place to go? Why?
- What or who do you want to be when you grow up? Why?
- What are some of your dreams?
- Who do you feel safe and happy around? What do they do that makes you feel that way?
- Think about a time you were really scared, hurt, or upset. What happened?
- How do you feel about yourself? If you were to describe yourself in three words, what would they be? Why?
As you answer these prompts as your inner child, also think about how you might answer them as your current adult self. Then, think about how or why your feelings, answers, or perspectives may or may not be different.
Do you still have the same dreams? Are you who you wanted to be when you grew up? How do you feel about your parent’s treatment of your childhood self now?
8. Look at mementos from your childhood
Looking at mementos from your childhood such as photos, sentimental items you’ve kept, videos, yearbooks, drawings, toys, and whatever else can bring a sense of nostalgia and help you connect with your inner child.
You can even look at things that are not necessarily yours or related to you from that period to also help you connect. For instance, you can watch a show, play a game, or look into items or trends that were popular at that time.
As you do this, think about how life was at the time and how you felt. Then, think about how that moment in time contributed to your present life.
9. Do things you enjoyed as a child
As a child, you probably did many things just for fun. You didn’t have to, you just wanted to. So try to do that as an adult now to connect with your inner child.
Watch movies or shows you enjoyed from your childhood, reread some of your favorite books, play some of your favorite games growing up, or eat foods you used to enjoy. Make arts and crafts, do a science experiment, play in the sand, or blow some bubbles.
Don’t think this is childish at all. This is about enjoying and seeing the world through the eyes of your childhood self again.
If you didn’t get to do many fun things as a child because you didn’t feel like it or weren’t allowed to, think about what you’ve always wanted to do and find a chance to do it now.
Maybe you always wanted to visit a specific place, try a specific hobby, get a specific toy, or play a specific game. Perhaps you never got the chance to as a child. You might be all physically grown up now. But you can try to make up for things you never got as a child.
Maybe you don’t have to go all out, but try to fulfill at least a few of your childhood wishes if you can.
10. Have fun!
Adulthood comes with a lot of responsibilities which brings forth a lot of stress and anxiety. But relaxation and playfulness are essential for your mental well-being.
Whether or not your childhood lacked positive experiences, getting back in touch with your inner child and making time for fun can help you heal. Maybe it can lessen the pain of missing out on fun experiences you deserved as a child.
You don’t have to necessarily do the childhood activities like blowing bubbles or going down a slide (though you definitely can if you find it fun!). But you can do things just for fun as an adult.
Not everything has to be productive or accomplishing. As my favorite sayings go, the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted. Besides, having fun and doing things you enjoy makes you feel better, thus improving your health. So it isn’t pointless or wasteful at all.
Also, try to take pleasure in the little things. Realize how a child’s day can be lit up just from ice cream or a small gift. Try to practice that in your everyday life.
Childhood abuse and trauma can cause a lot of distress and pain.
As you go through inner child work, some uncomfortable or painful emotions may come up. Consider seeking professional help. A professional can help you cope with those emotions and guide you towards healing.
Additionally, here are some books about inner child work you can check out.
Sign up for a free trial of Kindle Unlimited to read some of these titles for free or at a discount. Or sign up for a free trial with Audible and claim an audiobook for free, which is yours to keep even when you cancel.
- Parent Yourself Again: Love Yourself the Way You Have Always Wanted to Be Loved by Yong Kang Chan
- Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child by John Bradshaw
- Inner Bonding: Becoming a Loving Adult to Your Inner Child by Margaret Paul
- Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Taming Your Outer Child: Overcoming Self-Sabotage and Healing from Abandonment by Susan Anderson
- The Inner Child Workbook: What to do with your past when it just won’t go away by Cathryn L. Taylor
Inner child work doesn’t have to end. It’s more of a lifelong process.
You started the process by connecting with your inner child. Now, you can use this newfound awareness and continue listening to your inner child as you heal and move forward.
Stay in touch with your inner child. It can lead to a more complete sense of self as well as boost confidence and motivation.
Continue listening, conversing, loving, and meeting your childhood needs to heal any ongoing wounds.
Again, doing inner child work does not mean you’re immature or that you can’t or don’t want to grow up. On the contrary, it’s a very responsible and mature thing to do because it means that you’re taking care of your health.
Also, inner child work helps you heal so you can better handle present and future challenges that may arise as well as fix issues that might be caused by unresolved issues from your childhood.
By remaining connected with your inner child, you can validate your needs – past and present; learn to express yourself in healthy ways; and increase your self-compassion, self-exploration, and self-love.
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Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with a physically and emotionally abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.
I am always trying to better learn, understand, and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this healing journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda, a place where others who faced childhood abuse can hopefully find support, resources, and motivation to begin healing.
A lot of time and effort is put into this blog – for me and for you. If you enjoy my content or find it helpful, please consider sharing and/or making a donation. Thank you!