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7 Reasons to Embrace Your Inner Child and Heal From a Painful Past

After struggling with depression and anxiety most of my life, I'm now dedicated to becoming a stronger person who lives life to the fullest.

Inner child work doesn't have to be painful. It can give you  the happiness and peace of mind you missed as a kid.

Inner child work doesn't have to be painful. It can give you the happiness and peace of mind you missed as a kid.

The Chance of a Lifetime

When the hoopla about embracing one's inner child reached its apex, I was teaching all-day kindergarten, parenting two rambunctious sons, and struggling to be a loving, patient wife. The idea that I'd have the luxury to do inner child work was laughable when I barely had time to sit down for a meal, floss my teeth, or read the newspaper. But, down to my core, I knew my unhappy early years with an emotionally absent mother were something I desperately needed to explore as painful memories often left me anxious and depressed.

When my sons became teens, and I stopped teaching, it was the chance of a lifetime to champion my inner child. In the beginning, I tip-toed around the experience, fearful that it would make me sad and prevent me from moving forward in life. But, I soon started to experience all the joy, whimsy, fun, and lightness I never felt as a kid. I quickly realized I needed all that . . . and deserved all that. I think you do, too. So here are 7 reasons to embrace your inner child so you can heal from an emotionally absent mother and finally find joy:

1. To Stop Blaming Your Parents and Take Control of Your Own Well-Being

When we're kids, our lives are largely out of our control. This is especially true if we have parents who are alcoholics, drug abusers, mentally ill, angry, depressed, or, as in my situation, emotionally absent. When we embrace our inner child as an adult, we get to re-live our early years but with complete autonomy. Instead of remembering how our mom and dad shuttled us back and forth after the divorce or never said I love you, we can take concrete steps to make ourselves feel valued. Each morning I begin my day by composing a note of affirmation from my imaginary mother, “Mona." She writes about how much she loves me, how wonderful I am, and how proud she is of me as a wife and mother. She encourages me in my endeavors and cheers me on when I'm feeling discouraged. She gives me all I missed as the daughter of an emotionally absent mother.

2. To Make Your Life Happier

To make your adult life happier, you must make your inner child happy. Sadly, some of us were “parentified” as kids, meaning we reversed roles with our moms and dads. This occurred in my life when I was a teenager, and my mother turned to me for advice and comfort whenever she thought my father was cheating. When this happens to a youngster, it chips away at her innocence and diminishes her hope in the future. When we're grown, we can bring joy and whimsy into our lives by doing things we missed out on as children: swinging at the playground, building a sand castle at the beach, riding a bike through the park, roller-skating at the rink, sitting in the shade and reading a book, going to an amusement park, and running through the sprinklers. We make a conscious and concerted effort to help the parentified child who missed out on so much.

Coloring Books Are Great for Relieving Stress But So Is Painting, Printmaking, and Sculpting

Tapping into our creative side helps us honor our inner child while lowering anxiety and tension.

Tapping into our creative side helps us honor our inner child while lowering anxiety and tension.

3. To Increase Your Creativity

In recent years, we've seen a rise in the popularity of coloring books for adults. Dr. Nikki Martinez, as well as many other mental health professionals, recommends them to her patients to reduce stress, calm nerves, and promote mindfulness. But why limit ourselves to just coloring when we can use other art activities to stimulate our creativity and get us in touch with our inner child? Painting with watercolors, sculpting with clay, doing printmaking, and expressing ourselves with collage are all fantastic ways to let our imaginations soar while taking a much-needed break from our hectic lives. It doesn't matter if the work is worthy of getting displayed in a gallery. It's all about enjoying the process, not worrying about the product.

4. To Tap Into Your Spiritual Self

According to Dr. Edward Diener, known as “Dr. Happiness” for his 25-plus years of study on the subject, we can find joy by tapping into a child-like spirituality of awe and wonder. It's not necessary to be part of organized religion and attend weekly services to experience the positive effects of faith. Diener argues that “positive spirituality,” a belief in something bigger than ourselves, is needed to experience feelings of well-being. Positive spirituality is gratitude for the good things that happen in our lives and an appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us. It includes a focus on helping others, which gives our lives meaning. A belief in a higher power can help us connect to our inner child, giving us comfort and hope, especially during trying times. This is incredibly helpful for those of us with emotionally absent mothers.

My Parents Ridiculed Activities Such as Meditation and Yoga, But Now I Make Them A Part of Each Day

5. To Develop Self-Care Habits

Many of us as kids were never taught the value of self-care, and it caught up with us as adults. I've always struggled with weight because my parents were self-involved individuals who emotionally neglected my siblings and me. I always starved for love and affection and found solace in food. I learned at an early age to devalue myself and never put the effort into my appearance. I thought it was selfish to spend time chopping up vegetables for a salad or taking an hour off from studying to jog or ride my bike. When I embraced my inner child, I was finally able to hear the right messages about taking care of myself—that it was wholly positive and necessary. Now I tell myself each day to sit down and eat a healthy meal, walk on the treadmill, lift weights, get outside, meditate, read, and relax. For the first time in my life, I'm making myself feel valued. For the first time, I'm loving myself and not waiting for someone else to do it for me

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6. To Make Sense of Your Life Story

Too many of us barrel through our days without understanding our life stories. This leads us to repeat the same mistakes and never take responsibility for our choices. When we experience a breakup, it's our partner's fault. When we have problems at work, it's because our boss is a jerk. When our kids are difficult, it's because our spouse is a lousy parent. Looking into the mirror (and looking into our childhood) is more challenging than blaming others, but it's also much more effective. By embracing our inner child, we can stand back and notice the patterns that started when we were kids and continue today. A philosopher wisely said An unexamined life is not worth living. While we can't travel back in time to re-do what happened, we can learn from it and better our lives today.

Getting Exercise Is One of The Best Ways to Demonstrate Self-Care

Some of us were never taught the value of taking care of ourselves. We feel selfish and guilty if we take time for exercise and eating right.

Some of us were never taught the value of taking care of ourselves. We feel selfish and guilty if we take time for exercise and eating right.

7. To Become Better Parents and Grandparents

When we connect with our inner child, we unify parts of our personality to become whole. We're happy, complete individuals who have something to offer the world. When we're damaged beings, still hurting from our early years, we're just taking up space on the planet, unable to contribute. Since embracing my inner child, I'm a better mother to my sons with more compassion and empathy. I'm no longer hyper-sensitive, reacting defensively whenever my kids criticize me, or I feel unappreciated. I'm more secure now, knowing they and my husband love me unconditionally—something I never got from my parents. Nothing has helped heal my inner child more than that.

It's Never Too Late to Heal the Pain From Your Childhood and This Book Shows You How

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2017 McKenna Meyers


Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 18, 2017:

Thank you for all these good suggestions. I think that Number 6 is a powerful tool in the process. It takes time, but is very well worth it.

McKenna Meyers (author) on September 29, 2017:

I think it's a terrific idea to talk to yourself like a little girl and offer encouragement. We could all use more of that. Inner child work for me is about treating myself better—with more respect and kindness. As I get older, I need more messages to "slow down," "eat a healthy meal," "not lift that heavy box." If I don't take good care of me, who will! Thanks for writing and commenting, Catherine. Have a wonderful day.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on September 28, 2017:

I very much agree. If you have reached your 30th birthday and still blaming your parents for whatever is wrong in your life, the problem is you, not them. I also agree about the value of loving your inner child. I even wrote an article about "Act Like A Kid Day." Being a kid for a day is a great stress reliever. And True Confessions: I sometimes talk to myself and call myself "Little Girl or "Little one." For instance, "Great Job, little girl.

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