How to Heal Your Inner Child: Childhood Trauma & Reparenting
Ready for a happier life? Learn how to heal your inner child with reparenting strategies & exercises. Plus, everyday coping skills to help you live your best life
If life right now is something less than you hoped, it’s possible your Inner Child is ready to be healed.
If you’re wondering how to heal your Inner Child, we can help. In this post, we’ll–
explain who your Inner Child is and how it becomes wounded.
show how childhood trauma plays itself out in your adult life.
demonstrate the critical importance of Inner Child healing.
show how Reparenting your Inner Child can lead you to a better life.
We’ll begin with this quick TLDR, followed by the article. Ready for a life filled with happiness and love? Let’s get started.
How to Heal Your Inner Child--
20 Things You Need to Know
1. Everyone has a wounded Inner Child—in the world we live in, trauma is unavoidable.
2. The main effect of Inner Child wounding is a sense of Unworthiness, which drives us to seek approval from others.
3. One cannot feel love for or from others unless they’ve learned to unconditionally love themselves.
4. Over 85% of adults function at the emotional level of a wounded Inner Child.
5. Inner child wounds gives themselves away in narcissism, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, abusive relationships.
6. Healing begins with what’s not working—what in your life do you want to change?
7. Everybody is different, so healing paths are different.
8. Knowing your trauma is where healing begins. Your triggers will show you what needs to be healed.
9. A life coach can help you identify your core wounds, and shift out of dysfunctional patterns.
10. The only way to heal your wounded Inner Child is with love and reassurance. This is known as reparenting.
11. Reparenting the Inner Child means responding inwardly to your triggers with loving and nurturing.
12. For healing to happen, your adult self must assume the role of parent to her inner child.
13. The gift of inner child healing is learning to love yourself as you learn to respond to others.
14. The greatest challenge in healing is pausing when you feel triggered, and responding with self-love.
15. Stay vigilant to what triggers you, and instead of reacting, turn inwardly to nurture, reassure, and love yourself.
16. The more you remain vigilant to your triggers, the less often you’ll be triggered.
17. Healing means we stop blaming others and use triggers as opportunities to self-nurture and grow.
18. A big part of reparenting is an awareness of how we talk to ourselves.
19. As within, so without. Harmony with the world around us begins with change from within.
20. We came to this world to learn to love ourselves. Our childhood wounding is purposeful to our evolving as self-loving beings.
Who Is Your Inner Child?
Lionhearted Counseling, LLC
The Inner Child is the embodiment of everything we experienced between the ages of 3 months and 7 years of age. Every act of love, neglect, happiness, and pain shaped our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.
Explored extensively by esteemed psychologist Carl Jung and written about by Alice Miller (The Drama of Being a Child) and Bessel van der Kolk, (The Body Keeps the Score), the Inner Child isn’t an abstract concept but the subconscious collection of our unmet needs, suppressed childhood emotions, innocence, creativity, curiosity and joy.
It’s a powerful part of us, and when it’s wounded and left unhealed, the Inner Child will have a big effect on our happiness as adults.
How Is Your Inner Child Wounded?
The nervous system of a young child has limited tolerance for difficult emotions. When it’s overwhelmed, we experience trauma, and trauma is what lies at the heart of childhood wounding.
Experts like Aundi Kolber and Gabor Mate divide childhood trauma into two categories–Big T trauma and Little T trauma. Big T trauma, as the name implies, is experienced alongside natural disaster, sexual violence, adult abuse and neglect, or the sudden death of parent or sibling.
Little T trauma may be associated with the withholding of parental affection, repeated separation from loved ones, recurring health crises and financial hardship, belittlement, bullying and addictive/codependent parent relationships.
It can even happen by cultural or religious imprint, like severe rites of passage or religious shaming like Original Sin. And over time, Little T trauma can have a cumulative effect similar to Big T trauma.
Regardless of the extent of the trauma, our childhood wounding will be unconsciously played out in how we think, feel, and respond to others.
What Are the Signs of Inner Child Wounding?
In each of us, there is a young, suffering child. Each of us, no matter our upbringing, has suffered our unique woundings.
Our Inner Child wounds often show up in the form of Guilt, Fears of Abandonment, an Inability to Trust, and the Scars of Neglect. They play themselves out in dysfunctional relationship themes and patterns of behavior, which not only reflect the trauma we suffered as children, but how we learned to cope with them.
It’s for this reason that our triggers—be they big or small—are the result of a childhood wound. And how we respond to those triggers become familiar signs of childhood wounding, including—
Overreacting to unmet needs and distress.
Pervasive feelings of neither belonging nor being understood.
Difficulty expressing needs and setting boundaries.
Having a harshly critical inner voice.
Self-sabotaged careers and relationships.
Fears of abandonment and difficulties with commitment.
These and many other indicators of childhood wounding lend credence to what John Bradshaw, author of Homecoming says–
Our childhood becomes the filter through which all new experiences must pass.
Meaning, your Inner Child is very powerful, and will make your life difficult until its wounds are healed.
The good news is that your Inner Child is ready for change.
Why Healing Your Inner Child Is So Important
“No one’s going back for that Inner Child. Except you.”
Inner child healing involves working with a life coach or therapist to become aware of our Inner Child, the traumas it lived through, and how the coping mechanisms it devised interfere with our happiness.
But it begins with you.
Inner Child Healing Is An Inside Job
Our past no longer exists as something we can “go back to.” In essence, we aren’t “going back” but “going in.” The answers are all within us now.”
—Michael Brown, The Presence Process
Michael Brown captures the dilemma of childhood wounding, and the essence of its healing. Yes, we were wounded when we were powerless to defend ourselves. And yes, we’d love to experience happiness, but we live a life of self-sabotaged relationships, addictions, and limiting beliefs.
So, as within, so without, must become your new mantra.
You can’t go back and change things, nor will you experience healing in blaming others. But what triggers us IS a reminder of ancient, buried wounds waiting to be known. And as we respond to those triggers with self-love and compassion, we become healed.
Choosing Your Healing Guide
Inner child work is often done with the guidance of a life coach or therapist. Who is best suited to guide you will depend on the experiences you had as a child, and how they affect your adult life.
The best approach to healing is always one that best matches your experience. And where extreme instances of trauma were experienced as a child, the course of action should involve crisis counseling and serious therapy.
Reparenting, Reintegrating, Healing
Reparenting is a very effective process for healing the wounded Inner Child. The focus is on reintegrating the Adult with her Inner Child, and involves three phases—
1. Connect— where you acknowledge the Inner Child as a living and very real part of you.
2. Communicate— where you begin an honest and compassionate dialogue with your Inner Child to explore the source and nature of her childhood traumas.
3. Nurture and Reparent— as your adult self, you accept the role of nurturing parent, loving, guiding and protecting the Inner Child.
Let’s take a deeper look at each of these–
Connect– Recognize and Identify With Your Inner Child
Reparenting begins with Identifying and Connecting with Your Inner Child
The goal in this phase is awareness of who you were as a child. You’ll begin to uncover details like where you lived, how you felt at home and at school, things you worried about, how you played, who you were when you felt joy.
This stage is not unlike an adult meeting its natural child for the first time, years after their separation. It’s a vital first step to integrating the adult with her Inner Child, and sets the stage for assuming the role of self-parenting.
Communicate– Know Your Inner Child’s Experience, Discover What She Needs
The second stage of Reparenting– Communicating with the Inner Child– is where the real work of healing begins.
Using journaling, creative exercises, meditation, Spiritual Response Therapy, and hypnosis, the life coach will help the client name the wounds, appreciate (without judgment or shame) how they were experienced, and deliver self-compassion to begin the Inner Child’s healing.
This phase of reparenting is important because the adult and Inner Child are forming a real relationship, and as with other relationships, change means things can get pretty, well, real.
For example, the life coach may help the adult identify her Inner Child’s core wounding—
I don’t belong.
And how it affects her inner dialogue—
They don’t want you here.
The adult may even be asked to visualize her Inner Child, and repeat that devastating message to her.
Powerful, life-changing, and trust-building, this stage is all about uncovering the past and creating intimacy, so the adult and Inner Child become reintegrated.
As the connection grows, activities encourage a deepening of their dialogue—
How do you feel?
How can I support you?
What do you need from me?
What are you blaming yourself for?
Questions like these will often produce powerful emotional revelations, like–
Anger over parental rejection or the failure of the parent to protect.
Anxiety from having been abandoned.
Fear of becoming emotionally vulnerable.
Shame and guilt with sex, or rage from repeated belittlement.
Invariably, the adult begins to see how her wounding in childhood created a sense of prevailing unworthiness. She’ll appreciate how her need for approval is played out in her perfectionism, imposter syndrome, self-abusive relationships and other themes.
And she’ll see that it began with the Inner Child, trying to make sense of it all. She’ll feel the sadness of it, and find the ability to love her Inner Child, and herself.
She’ll think about the messages she’s been saying, to her Inner child, and to herself, and she’ll begin to put the entire message of unworthiness to lie.
There’s some powerful work being done at this stage. It’s the beginning of healing.
Nurture and Reparent– Completing the Reintegration
The first two stages of Reintegration– Connection and Communication— are mainly about discovery.
In the Nurturing and Reparenting phase, the adult learns to parent the Inner Child with love, support, guidance and structure, things which went missing when she was very young.
And where Connection and Communication helps us see What happened, and Why we are the way we are, Reparenting shows us What is Possible when we learn strategies for managing what has until now been unmanageable.
It’s not easy—the goal at first may be for the adult and Inner Child to simply coexist. But in time, with nurturing, safety and unconditional love, a healthy relationship begins to take shape within the unified person, and with the world that surrounds her.
Here’s a look at the work that gets done in this phase–
Identify Your Emotional Triggers
Triggers are an uncanny way of revealing childhood traumas, so the process of healing begins with identifying trigger responses (negative behavior patterns) that can be traced to earlier woundings.
For example, the adult may think of situations where he’s triggered, and answer questions like–
Where, when does this happen? Does it happen often?
What do you feel when this happens?
Where do you feel it in your body– shoulders, stomach, head, throat?
Do you want to react? Or withdraw?
What do you need that they aren’t giving you?
Does it make you remember something when you were very young?
Matching the trigger (and response) with its associated trauma is a key step forward in healing.
Exploring a Childhood Event
Childhood trauma is revisited with counseling, Spiritual Response Therapy or hypnosis. The goal is to acknowledge the trauma and provide the support and compassion the Inner Child needs.
For example, the life coach or therapist may guide the adult back to an earlier time in her life, and ask–
How old are you?
Where are you?
What is happening?
Who is there with you?
What do you hear? Feel? Smell?
What secrets, what pain do you still have about that?
What do you want to say to your Inner Child?
What does she want to say to you?
It’s hard work but it comes with a promise–
When the adult revisits the wound, sees how she coped with it, and makes the connection to the triggers she struggles with, the Inner Child can begin to receive the self-soothing and compassion she needs to heal.
The Importance of Vigilance
The greatest challenge in Reparenting? The vigilance needed to manage our self-talk, our triggers and the responses that come with them.
You can know your core wounds, you can be wary of what triggers you, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be triggered. And it doesn’t let you off the hook of being responsible for your own healing.
So, when you’re feeling triggered—
Go silently inward, and assure your Inner Child that they are okay, they are safe, they are loved.
That pause is a nurturing moment vital for healing. As we feel ourselves being triggered, as we check in with ourselves when it’s happening, self-love replaces reacting.
The triggers become fewer.
We heal, and become reintegrated.
The WRONG WAY Strategy
I’ve used the WRONG WAY strategy for years now, and the time I spend worrying or being stuck inside fearful projections has reduced considerably.
When done consistently, the Wrong Way technique not only changes the direction of your thoughts, it’ll reprogram your default thought patterns from fear (worry and self-criticism) to love (gratitude and worthiness).
Here’s how it’s done—
Anytime you find yourself in a negative thought pattern, immediately visualize a WRONG WAY freeway sign. (This visualization stops the negative vibration in its tracks with a no-thought void). Then, proactively think of something you feel grateful for. Repeat an affirming, worthiness-building thought about yourself.
Keep it simple. Be yourself. Love the person you are here to become.
It’ll take you but 5 seconds—and don’t be surprised if you find yourself doing this every 30 seconds at first. Changing your inner dialogue from anxious to affirming takes time and habit-forming.
But gradually, you’ll see the time you spend in gratitude becomes longer, and anxiety will lose its control of your thoughts.
Self-Love & Harmony– the Gift of Inner Child Healing
Make no mistake, Inner Child Work isn’t easy.
Revisiting traumatic childhood experiences can be painful, and there will be times you feel yourself disintegrating. But when done with the guidance of a coach or therapist, supported by those who love you, the truth is actually the opposite.
As your Inner Child heals, you become reintegrated with yourself, free to ascend, just as you were called to this life to do.
Self-discovery becomes commonplace as you nurture your Inner Child, soothe her when she’s triggered, and love her in ways your parents couldn’t.
You practice healthy coping mechanisms and enjoy healthier relationships.
You rediscover passion, curiosity and joy, free to tap into your truest callings.
You’re empowered, autonomous, your boundaries intact, you ask for what you need, and refuse what you don’t.
And the thread that leads you through all of it, is love.
Without it, there can be no healing. With self-love, you, and the world around you, become a better place.
Janina Fisher, PhD: Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors
Alice Miller: The Drama of Being a Child
Bessel van der Kolk, M. D.: The Body Keeps the Score
Thich Nhat Hanh: Healing the Child Within (Mindful.org)
John Bradshaw: Homecoming
Michael Brown: The Presence Process (a Ten-week self-guided process for Inner Child Healing, I recommend doing it with another person for accountability and support)
Robert Jackman Healing Your Lost Inner Child
Charles Whitfield: Healing the Child Within
Your Inner Child’s Waiting for You
The gift of Inner Child healing is a world that is blessed by your presence.
How to heal your Inner Child…
It seems like such a daunting thing.
There will be wounds to revisit, and endless frustrations with moments perpetually waiting to trigger you.
Go back there, to your Inner Child, and with a loving coach or therapist, feel what happened, forgive and accept, and give to your younger You what it never got then, and what it needs now.
Your courage to go inside and seek healing for that precious life inside you, is all about love.
You’ll be better, healthier, happier, and whole.
Just as you were born to be.