When we become an adult, we’re given no lengthy manual or formal training - we’re just thrown into the world and forced to navigate all the responsibilities that come with the territory. As we’re presented with never-ending bills, sketchy dating experiences, big decisions, hard transitions, and bodily changes, it’s easy to get lost and find ourselves far removed from our inner child. When we aren’t connected with our inner child, we’ll not only know it intellectually, we’ll also experience it physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
The loss of our inner child is often accompanied by grief, confusion, shame, and anxiety. It can lead to persistent stomach aches, headaches, and tightness. It can fracture relationships, sabotage friendships, and make us shy away from new opportunities. It can even impact how we connect with our faith and experience God.
The irony is that, in order to bring more order, freedom, and joy into our life, we don’t need to learn how to be better adults - we need to learn how to embrace this child within.
It may sound strange, but our inner child holds the best, most honest, and most authentic part of ourselves. Think back to your own childhood. You can probably recall a version of yourself that slid down the tallest slides, unapologetically shared subpar artwork , felt unashamed to show emotion, and lived with wonder, creativity, and openness. This version of yourself still exists! This inner child is alive within you waiting to be seen, heard, known, and loved. When we embrace this part, we have an opportunity to reclaim who we truly are as children of God. We receive the opportunity to live.
But embracing your inner child also means embracing what your child self experienced, and all the ways those experiences have shaped you. When we embrace our inner child, we embrace the goodness, purity, and beauty of our child self and we embrace the wounds, insecurities, false roles, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and behaviors that our child self adopted.
As we learn how to do this work, we learn to turn towards ourselves with greater love, curiosity, and compassion. We also learn how to navigate adult challenges knowing that we have child parts that might impact how we perceive and interact with those challenges.
How to Embrace Your Inner Child
How can we begin doing this important work today and start living our best adult life? Consider these three tips for how to embrace your inner child.
1. Get to know your child self again.
Look back at old pictures and home videos, watch your favorite old movies or listen to that song you played a million times. Ask your mom and dad questions about what you were like as a child. Read old journals or school assignments. This information will help you remember this authentic part of you that holds many of your natural strengths, interests, and passions - and it will help bring out this part of you more often.
2. Be curious about your experiences.
When you’re faced with a cycle that feels eerily familiar, feeling intense emotions, unsure of what career to choose, or struggling in relationships, ask yourself: Were these feelings present in childhood? Do any of these experiences mirror what I experienced as a child? Is it possible that these feelings are my inner child’s feelings? Are my behaviors truly a reflection of my adult self? The answer to these questions will help you recognize the wounds your inner child holds and her deeper needs that may still be unmet.
3. Respond to your inner child with love.
Think about who your child self is - including her joys and her sorrows - and the way she learned to cope with those sorrows. When you see that present in your adult life, you know you’re encountering your inner child. It’s important to not shame, ridicule, hide, or punish this part of you that comes up. Instead, try to better understand it. Be open and extend compassion. You can even dialogue with this part of you to develop a healthy relationship with your inner child, and even reparent this part of you.
If we do this, we find that those adult challenges, transitions, and anxieties are actually manageable. We have an internal world that helps us experience adulthood courageously.