For many of us, our mental health self-care and healing journeys include learning how to heal our inner child. Like it says in the name, this is a “healing” journey or process. And it’s one that more and more people are curious about since the art therapist Lucia Capacchione wrote a book about it in the 70s.
Although the term “inner child” has been around since Carl Jung’s work in the late 1800s, it’s only recently that psychologists are studying therapy techniques to reparent or repair our childhood wounds.
If you’re new to this idea of how to heal your inner child and want to learn more, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog, we’ll walk you through how to understand it and begin doing it in a series of steps.
Understanding How to Heal Your Inner Child
Inner child healing is a therapeutic process aimed at addressing and healing emotional wounds from childhood. It involves exploring and understanding the experiences, beliefs, and behaviors that were formed during childhood, and how they may be impacting your current life.
The process of inner child healing involves identifying and working through the emotions and experiences that were repressed or denied during childhood. It may involve revisiting painful memories, learning to express emotions healthily, and developing new coping skills. The goal of inner child healing is to address and heal these childhood wounds, allowing you to live a more authentic, fulfilling, and joyful life.
6 Steps to Heal Your Inner Child
Remember that healing your inner child is a process, and it may take time and effort to overcome past wounds. Be patient with yourself and celebrate every step of progress along the way.
Step 1: Connect with your inner child
The first step in healing your inner child is to connect with the younger version of yourself. This involves recognizing the pain, hurt, and trauma that you may have experienced during your childhood.
Take some time to reflect on your early years and try to connect with the feelings and emotions that you may have repressed or denied. This process of self-reflection may be painful, but it is an essential step toward healing.
Inner child healing exercise: Set a timer for 10 minutes. Turn on soft meditative music. Repeat these soothing words of affirmation, “I have survived 100% of my bad days. I am strong.” Begin to meditate on your past.
Step 2: Understand the areas you experienced neglect
A lot of childhood trauma fits in the category of neglect. The impact of emotional neglect is often overlooked. Even the most loving parent can be guilty of this type of accidental harm. And yet the child self can carry the emotional pain that comes with not having your emotional needs met.
So, understanding the areas where you experienced neglect is a key step in the process of learning your inner child’s perspective. Spend time in your journaling practice listing out what a parent or grownups in your life did (or did not do) to cause childhood wounds. Consider journaling about specific childhood experiences that you feel have influenced your adult relationships.
Inner child healing exercise: Open a new page of your journal. Spend time journaling through the following prompt(s): “What is one painful childhood experience? How do you think it influences your adult self? What about your early life sticks out to you the most?” If you want more journal prompts, check out our Inner Child Journal Prompts.
Step 3: Allow yourself emotional expression
It's important to validate your emotions and acknowledge that they are a part of you and worthy of attention. Avoid dismissing or minimizing your feelings, and instead, give yourself permission to feel and express them. This could involve journaling, speaking to a trusted friend or therapist, or simply allowing yourself to cry or healthily express your emotions.
Inner child healing exercise: Light a candle, incense, diffuser with essential oil, or whatever sensory element will help engage your senses. Find a comfortable place to sit on the floor. Wrap your arms around yourself. Give yourself a comforting hug. Inhale. Sway or twist your torso from side to side. Exhale. Repeat.
Step 4: Become a loving parent to yourself
Re-parenting involves giving yourself the love, care, and attention that you missed out on as a child. This could involve practicing self-compassion, setting healthy boundaries, and prioritizing your needs.
Start by identifying the ways in which you may be neglecting yourself and making a commitment to prioritize your own well-being. This could involve engaging in self-care activities such as yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature. But it also could be as simple (and yet difficult) as rewarding practice.
When you’re doing the difficult things that need to be done to rewire your thinking about yourself and your past, reward that effort with out-loud affirmations or a physical prize for a job well done. Just like a loving parent would have done.
Inner child healing exercise: Create 5 written affirmation notecards. Phrases like “I am worthy of like and love”, “I am not defined by what’s been done to me” and “I am full of kindness, compassion, and goodness”. Place them around your home, car, and office. Read them out loud to yourself throughout your day.
Step 5: Practice forgiveness
Forgiveness is an essential step in the healing process. This can involve forgiving those who wounded and hurt you. And it may also involve forgiving your younger self for mistakes and failures.
Remember that forgiveness does not mean forgetting, but rather releasing the anger, resentment, and bitterness that may be holding you back from healing. Forgiveness is the gateway to unconditional love. Once we can walk through the process, we can access both the freedom and the power of forgiveness.
Suggested inner child healing exercise: Cut a piece of paper into strips. On each strip, write a hurt, wound, or painful memory that you’ve identified in step 2. Fold them up into small squares or pieces. Drop them into a bowl of water and watch them dissolve, burn them carefully in a flame of a candle, or throw them deliberately into a trash can. Do a cleansing ritual that represents physical freedom and forgiveness.
Step 6: Ramp up your self-care
Self-care is undoubtedly a huge part of our ongoing love and compassion for ourselves. For that reason, self-care should incorporate activities that help us along our healing journey. When it comes to how we heal our inner child, self-care plays a big part in the aftermath of therapy.
In other words, unpacking painful emotions and reliving difficult experiences from our childhood is incredibly draining. And self-care is a way that we can show compassion to ourselves and help care for the reopening of these wounds - bandage, mend, love, and embrace ourselves.
Engage in activities that bring you joy, such as hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or taking care of your physical health. Self-care can help you connect with your inner child and bring a sense of comfort and joy to your life.
Suggested inner child healing exercise: Incorporate one new (or replace one existing) daily self-care activity that directly addresses a need you have after doing inner child work. Need ideas? Check out our Daily Self-Care Checklist or our Mental Health Self-Care Checklist.
Why Should You Learn How to Heal Your Inner Child?
The act of doing inner child therapy to heal childhood wounds can change your entire life. It can help you deal with unresolved childhood trauma that is influencing your adult life. Through a process of uncovering your inner child’s needs, you can figure out what emotional needs you have that aren’t being met.
You can sever ties with negative beliefs about yourself and the person you are today. And ultimately through techniques like inner child healing exercises, you can define and discover your true authentic self.
You may relive certain painful emotions associated with childhood wounds. You may travel back to show compassion to your younger self. You may revisit attachment wounds and emotional neglect that you’ve been carrying your entire life. You may even discover a playful side that has been lost or buried deep inside.
All Healing (Especially Inner Child Healing) Take Time
Healing your inner child is a process that requires time, effort, and dedication. We encourage you to find emotional sherpas along the way to help you carry the load - a dear friend, a trusted therapist, or partner.
This type of inner work and healing from wounds that may be generations deep is no small undertaking. It involves recognizing and acknowledging the emotional wounds that were formed during your childhood and taking steps to address them. By connecting with your inner child, understanding areas of neglect, re-parenting yourself, practicing forgiveness, ramping up your self-care, and even seeking professional help if needed, you can heal your inner child and live a more fulfilling life.
Remember that healing is a journey, not a destination, and every step you take towards healing is a step in the right direction. For more resources on self-care and inner healing, check out the Silk+Sonder blog.