Have you heard the phrase “inner child” before?
If not, don’t worry. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like! You see, as we age, our old selves don’t just disappear. When you turn twelve, your eleven year old self doesn’t somehow slip out of your body and mind to make room for an entirely new twelve year old person. Imagine yourself more like rings of a tree–each year we add onto who we already are, but those younger versions of ourselves stay right there inside of us.
So what’s the point of connecting with your inner child?
Oftentimes there are wounds we didn’t heal in childhood–we may not even have recognized them as wounds at the time. Lots of times, it’s not until we’re into adulthood and in an emotionally safe space that we begin to see the ways we may have had unmet needs, or emotional injuries from childhood. Being able to identify those things is a great step in connecting with and healing your inner child.
Have you ever reacted strongly to something that later seemed like not that big of a deal? Well, it might not be a big deal to your adult self, but when those unhealed wounds from childhood are poked at, it’s not our adult selves reacting. It’s the childhood version of ourselves, still hurting, who reacts to the wound being opened again.
And connecting with your inner child isn’t limited to addressing past traumas or healing old wounds.
It can also just be a joyful way for you to engage in some play, or provide yourself a happy, healthy tool for healing. Finding new things that bring us joy and fulfillment is just as important as managing what has hurt us.
This is a great time of year to dip your toes into some inner child work. Winter is a difficult season for many to get through–both because of changes in our weather and environment impacting mental health with conditions like seasonal affective disorder, but also because it’s a time of year with high expectations and lots of opportunities for bumping up against childhood wounds and tense family situations.
It’s also a time of year that felt magical for many of us as children. As adults, some of that magic has gotten lost in our day to day responsibilities. Taking time to “play” with your inner child can help bring some of that magic and joy back, even if just a little bit!
So what can you do to connect with your inner child this winter?
Give yourself a chance to play:
What were your favorite things to do in winter as a kid? Did you like to sled and play in the snow? When was the last time you bundled up and jumped in some snow just for the fun of it? Or tossed a snowball at a friend?
You can also just “silly” up some grown up winter activities too. If you like to make cookies every winter to share with loved ones, let your inner child loose in the kitchen! Get messy, play with the dough, get silly with the frosting and decorating. Ask yourself what you would do as a kid, and make space for that in your regular traditions!
Take your inner child for a walk:
Kids can be naturally very mindful. The world is newer and fresher for them, so they notice things that we adults often glaze over or take for granted. Go for a walk around your neighborhood and imagine you’re taking your younger self with you. What do they notice? What excites them? What will make them feel safe, when thinking about their future? How can that inner child appreciation for where you’ve gotten yourself help you feel proud of yourself?
Ask them what they need:
What needs of yours weren’t met as a child? What did you wish for in the holiday season that you were never able to get? Can you find new ways to give yourself those things now? For example, if you were emotionally neglected as a child, this season might bring painful reminders of that feeling of isolation and disconnection from your family. As others continue on with traditions they’ve grown since childhood, you might not have happy memories or traditions to enjoy yourself. But now you’re grown and you can provide new ones for yourself. Think of those needs or desires you had as a child this time of year, how can you meet them now?
If you’re looking for more ways to connect with your inner child, our clinicians can help you find what works best for you! Get in touch today.