By: Rachel Koutnik, LCSW

Do you listen to your inner child?

As adults, we often become preoccupied with our “adult” roles and forget that despite the aging process, we were all once children. Your inner child is within you no matter how old you are, and this part now depends on your adult self for nurturing. If you struggle with mental health issues, even if it’s not depression with a capital D, your inner child may benefit from more nurturing.

Many of us are guilty of neglecting our inner child.

When one ignores, minimizes, or avoids the parts of oneself that hold painful memories or resists urges to cry, experiences intense emotions, or pushes away opportunities for connection and soothing, one’s inner child is being neglected. Over time, this behavior can lead to a lot of work during therapy sessions with a counselor to correct.

If childhood wounds are not healed, they will often continue to reemerge throughout life, looking for one’s adult self to do the healing. Without taking steps to soothe one’s inner child, one might experience a sense of disconnect within oneself, problems within relationships, re-experiencing childhood trauma, and feeling unwanted emotional pain as an adult.

By taking simple steps to listen to, protect, and comfort one’s inner child, the suffering that is triggered can be reduced significantly and the youthful joy that one might be disconnected from can be integrated into the present moment. If you are unsure how to do this, a counselor or psychologist can help you

When you work on building a healthy relationship with your inner child, either in therapy or outside of it, you will start to notice increased self-esteem, reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, improved mental health, and you will start attracting and choosing healthier relationships with others.

Below are some steps you can start to incorporate daily to get to know your inner child and start the process of connection and healing:  

  1. Listen

– Simply start to pay attention when your inner child reacts to experiences you are having

– Identify the feelings, thoughts, and experiences that have been felt in childhood

– Listen without judgment

– Repeat back in your mind what your inner child is trying to communicate

  1. Talk

– Approach the conversation with your inner child with compassion

– Provide loving affirmations such as “I am here for you”

– Give feedback that helps reduce emotional suffering

– Let your inner child know he/she is not alone

  1. Hold

– Soothe your inner child by holding yourself or snuggling with a blanket or stuffed animal

– Use imagery to create a holding environment in your mind where your inner child can feel safe

– Allow for physical touch by others who love you through holding hands, hugging, and healing touch

  1. Play

– Laugh and play to reconnect with your joyful inner child

– Move your body

– Walk in nature

– Dance

By taking these initial steps to identify, listen to, and connect with your inner child, you can begin to feel the powerful healing effects of strengthening this relationship within yourself. A wounded inner child is often the root of much of the emotional suffering we encounter as adults, and you have the power to nurture this part of you and feel healed deep from within.

It is never too late to start listening to and loving your inner child. Whether your physical, emotional, and/or spiritual needs were met in your childhood or not, you as an adult can love and heal your own inner child.

If you would like to work on healing your inner child and improving your mental health, please contact Symmetry Counseling to be linked with one of our clinicians. Request a therapy appointment at one of our two Chicago locations online or give us a call to get started.