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How to Self-Parent Your Inner Child

Little girl on a slide.

“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.”

–Yong Kang Chan

Who is Your Inner Child?

Your Inner Child is that child-like part of you who still exists today, even though in chronological years, you may now be a teen, a young adult, or an older adult. She is the playful, spontaneous, imaginative, and creative part of you who views the world with wonder and delight.

In the context of self-parenting, the Inner Child is viewed as wounded due to emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or due to abandonment or neglect.

Your wounded Inner Child may exhibit some or all of the following behaviors today as an adult:

  • Overreacting to minor events
  • Engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms
  • Experiencing relationship issues with family or friends
  • Overly self-critical
  • Exhibiting low self-esteem
  • Exhibiting emotional, mental, physical, or sexual issues

Why Develop a Relationship With Your Inner Child?

Self-parenting helps the wounded Inner Child heal from childhood trauma. One of the reasons to start developing a loving relationship with your Inner Child is that it’s frequently easier for your Adult self to initially connect to the basic physical and emotional needs of your Inner Child rather than to the more complex emotional or psychological needs of a teenager or adult. Most importantly, by loving, comforting, and encouraging your Inner Child, you give to her (and by extension to your Adult self), what you may not have received from your parents or guardians as you grew up.

What is Self-Parenting?

Self-parenting is the process whereby your Adult self develops a loving and trusting relationship with your wounded Inner Child. The concept of self-parenting is based on the idea that within you exists two selves—the Child, known as the Inner Child, and the Adult. Typically, your Adult’s behavior originates from childhood experiences. If your childhood experiences were difficult or traumatic, then self-parenting is a method to meet your Inner Child’s unmet needs.

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is loving, acknowledging, nurturing, and respecting both your Inner Child and your Adult self. Regardless of your age or position in life, if you suspect or know that you have low self-esteem, one of the best ways to begin loving your Adult self is to self-parent your Inner Child. After you develop a loving and trusting relationship with your Inner Child, you can then work to develop the same loving and trusting relationship with your present teenage or Adult self. When you love and respect both your Inner Child and your older self, you establish a self-esteem foundation.

How Do You Develop a Basic Relationship With Your Inner Child?

It’s never too late to learn and practice this valuable technique, which I learned about in the ‘80s by reading a book that my therapist suggested: Self-Parenting: The Complete Guide to Your Inner Conversations. As I was recovering from substance and child abuse, I began to practice the technique.

The Inner Child has basic needs, feelings, and emotions that you can easily identify, which include but are not limited to:

  • Hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Safety
  • Discomfort: too hot, too cold, or experiencing pain
  • Negative feelings and emotions: fear, anxiety, sadness, helplessness, or hopelessness

To begin to develop a relationship with your Inner Child, follow these steps:

  1. Name your Inner Child.
  2. Identify your Inner Child’s age.
  3. Find a photograph of yourself that you like at your specified age.
  4. Talk to your Inner Child.
    • Recognize and acknowledge your Inner Child when she is hungry, tired, physically uncomfortable, or doesn’t feel safe.
    • Love, comfort, and encourage her. Develop a loving and trusting relationship. Give her what she did not receive while growing up.

Honey, Carol Ann’s Inner Child

My Inner Child is three years old. I chose that age because I think kids are the absolute cutest when they’re three! Her name is Honey. I developed a relationship with her in the ‘80s and we’ve been pals ever since.

I told my husband about Honey soon after I identified and named her decades ago. His initial reaction was “Huh?” although he soon understood the Inner Child concept. Gradually, I began to include Honey in conversations with my husband. For example, if I had to work late at home after dinner, I’d tell my husband, “I need to spend two hours working after dinner tonight. Honey is tired and she’s mad about it; very mad!”

By doing that, I acknowledge Honey’s fatigue and her feelings about it. At the same time, I’m aware that my Adult is overriding Honey’s needs because the Adult knows that the deadline the following day must be met. Having workaholic tendencies, my Adult frequently overrode Honey’s needs, dismissing her fatigue and corresponding feelings. Constant dismissal of Honey’s needs and feelings results in an unbalanced, unhappy adult temperament.

Honey in the Workplace

Years ago, I started a new job that was in an industry in which I had never worked. During the first couple of years on the new job, I began seeing a therapist. I told her that I didn’t take Honey to work because children don’t belong at work since it’s an adult-only environment. The therapist told me that she thought it was sad that I didn’t take all of myself to work. I realized that I didn’t take Honey to work because the Adult didn’t feel confident or comfortable enough in the new job to bring playful Honey along. The job, after all, was serious business.

But as my confidence on the job increased and as I developed solid working relationships with colleagues, I finally felt safe enough to behaviorally introduce Honey, thereby bringing all of me into the workplace. I introduced Honey by talking about enjoyable activities and interests that were not work-related. Injecting my sense of humor into situations also increased camaraderie and playfulness. When that happened, I began to have more fun on the job and my work relationships improved.

How I Benefited from a Relationship with Honey

Developing a relationship with Honey allowed me to develop a more balanced persona because I now consider both Honey’s needs and my Adult’s needs.

  • It helped smooth out my workaholic and perfectionist tendencies by considering Honey’s needs instead of relentlessly focusing only on accomplishment.
  • It brought a greater degree of playfulness and spontaneity into my planned and scheduled life.
  • It improved my relationships with my colleagues because both selves were initiating and responding to events in the workplace.
  • It resulted in a collaborative and trusting relationship between Honey and my Adult self, which led to a healthier and happier persona.

My relationship with Honey continues. After 38 years, she is integrated into my life and I cannot live without her. She is my creative self who delights at a green grasshopper-like bug on a cactus. She loves small dogs in coats and the green marble eyes of Sweet Girl, our tabby cat.

Today, when Honey and my Adult self have conflicting goals, I negotiate with her to find a compromise solution that appeases both selves. In this way, it’s a win-win solution and neither self feels defeated or ignored.

If, on the other hand, I relapse and consistently dismiss Honey’s needs and feelings, she becomes fearful, anxious, and sad; not a happy camper.

Related Blog Post

Separating from Your Inner Critic

Reference

“Do you have a wounded inner child? Here are 7 key signs.” My Therapy Assistant. July 7, 2022. https://www.mytherapyassistant.com/blog/do-you-have-a-wounded-inner-child-here-are-7-key-signs

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