If you experienced what psychologists call an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), a type of trauma particular to childhood, you may still have thoughts and behaviours that reflect that experience today. For example, a person who received lots of criticism as a child may still feel the need to minimise themselves or make themselves small in order to avoid negative attention from others.
But how do we begin to overcome these ACEs — especially if we aren’t even aware of how they may be affecting us? Therapy is a good start, but so is something called inner child work. Inner child work is the subject of this blog post, and it states that we can reparent ourselves as adults to make up for the trauma we experienced in childhood.
RE-PARENTING YOUR INNER CHILD
In order to heal your inner child, you must begin to undo the damage your traumatic childhood did to your inner child. Experts call this reparenting and focuses on constructive actions you can take to reparent your inner child. For example….
1. Start making authentic decisions that reflect who you are and who you want to be.
2. Create a safe space for yourself. This can be in your home or somewhere where you go that brings you in touch with your inner child. If you did not feel safe at home as a child, it is especially important to create a space for yourself where you can feel safe and loved. This should be a comfortable, roomy space where you can partake in self-care activities to take care of your inner child, such as journaling or mindfulness.
3. Practice forgiveness, not complacency. It’s not saying that you’re okay with past hurtful actions, but it’s accepting that everyone makes mistakes. You don’t need to tell others explicitly that you forgive them, but it may help to write it out in a journal or write a letter that you will never send.
4. Take part in play activities. As an adult, the need to feel or look “mature” overtakes our drive to play and be spontaneous. Determine if there are activities you used to love as a child, such as drawing or coloring, that you feel comfortable taking part in. While you do so, let go of the feeling that you look silly or appear immature, and instead focus on getting in touch with your inner child and giving her the opportunity to play.
5. Tell your inner child what he/she needs to hear in order to feel safe. You can use affirmations like “You are safe” or “You are loved” to reassure yourself in moments where you may not feel that way. Speak as if you were speaking to a child in your life; treat yourself gently, rather than giving in to your inner critic. Transforming your self-talk is one of the first and most important steps toward healing your inner child.