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The Inner Child is a concept introduced by Psychoanalyst Carl Jung when he identified a childlike quality, or essence that lives within us all. The Inner Child is one of Jung’s core archetypes that has various aspects of expression and states of being such as the wounded child and loving child.

Inner child work is rooted in reconnecting to the child within to create a loving relationship to support the restoration and healing of past wounds, trauma and conditioned responses that are no longer serving us in our adult life. Furthermore, inner child work provides the opportunity to reclaim lost parts of ourselves and integrate these childlike aspects into a state of wholeness, rather than fragmentation that is often causing the responses that no longer serve us.

The parent connection in inner child work is vital in forming a trust relationship with your inner child, as well as providing the framework in how to safely integrate the inner child. The parent connection is initially made with the inner child to support the child, be present and available to listen, meet their needs and carry out actions that result in the healing and integration of childhood.

The term ‘reparenting’ offers a tangible approach to inner child work, where you become a parent to yourself and thus reparent your inner child to aid in the process of healing and integration. As children, most of us had unmet needs that subsequently caused or are related to learned patterns of behaviour, emotional reactions and ways of relating to ourselves and each other in sometimes unhealthy or dysfunctional ways.

The outcomes of inner child work include a more conscious, loving relationship with yourself and others, healthy ways of relating which leads to more harmonious relationships and greater sense of well-being and fulfilment in life.

Meeting your Inner Child

The inner child is the primary part of self that develops in our psyche that remains with us throughout our lives. Carl Jung describes several aspects of the inner child that relate to ways in which the inner child shows up and has developed as a result of their unique childhood experiences. The formative years in childhood that span over the first eight years of life are significant; agreed across many schools of thought as the most significant years of our lives.

The inner child is a reflection and accumulation of the internalised experiences coinciding with the various developmental stages during early life. The extent to which a child’s needs are met shapes the development of a child’s self esteem, cognitive, emotional and behavioural aspects too. The inner child is the collective representation of these different aspects of self, which often become fragmented at times during our development as certain experiences cause us to compensate for unmet needs.

The adaptations a child makes unconsciously form the automatic responses that show up as our behavioural and emotional tendencies relating to our personality and how others perceive and experience us too. Oftentimes we need to compensate for unmet needs, which are driven by survival instincts that influence our unconscious thoughts, beliefs, behaviours and emotional reactions. These tend to be viewed as a child ‘acting out’, when in fact they are trying to get a need(s) met.

Inner child work aims to bridge the gap between those fragmented parts of the inner child that may still be causing discomfort or disruption in your adult life. For example, the wounded child may be apparent in circumstances, relationships or decisions that require an adult perspective. Yet the lens through which we experience life is in fact through that of a wounded child.

How does the parent connection form?

The role of the parent, similar to the traditional outward experience of having a parent(s), is to take responsibility for the child’s well-being and be available and present to meet the child’s needs. The parent connection begins during the journey with inner child work by an intentional formation of a relationship between the inner aspects of self that include the parent/adult and the child.

An inner parent is created as part of the mechanism through which to approach and interact with the inner child and their various aspects too. There can be complex threads within the inner child that need care, time and attention to work through to enable a clear sense of well-being for the inner child. Significantly, a trauma-informed approach to inner child work is one that views the inner child as whole and complete whilst also acknowledging past pain, hurt and trauma.

There can be further damage done to the inner child and part of our psyche if the inner child does not feel safe and doesn’t receive appropriate considerations and care in the approach. Therefore, the parent connection is a vital step in this process of integrating the inner child within, as well as considering the appropriate approach that resonates and meets your own needs.

The inner parent acts as the protector, the guide and the emotional space holder for the inner child, which creates a foundation of safety and security. This relationship takes time to form and the process cannot be rushed; part of honouring this relationship is to give time and space to what is required for you and your inner child. With a foundation of security in place, the inner parent and inner child together can work through past wounds, trauma and misunderstandings that are still influencing your current adult life.

What is unique about this approach?

The concept of becoming a parent to yourself has been established in holistic healing modalities and many interpretations of inner child work. Acclaimed authors such as John Bradshaw, Margaret Paul and Cathryn L. Taylor provides a range of resources to get you familiar and begin the journey of parenting yourself. However, this may only bring you so far in your healing journey and you may require support externally with a therapist or practitioner.

As with many approaches to healing modalities it is important to find a technique that resonates with you. In some particular specialist approaches to inner child work part of the reparenting journey involves forming a secure attachment between the inner parent and inner child so that a trust bond can form based on a mutual, loving, trust relationship. This may not have been the case for the adult during childhood, so there are particular considerations that require working through to enable this relationship to blossom.

Reparenting yourself with your inner child focuses on the relational aspects to healing; providing unmet needs from childhood into tangible forms as an adult. Healing takes place on a foundational level beginning with love, acceptance, forgiveness for yourself which boosts self esteem and results in more satisfying, harmonious relationships. It may require the presence and expertise of a professional practitioner to hold space and guide you through the journey of reconnecting with your inner child.

Another unique aspect of some approaches is that the parent/adult takes responsibility for their own journey of healing, which is a form of empowerment not widespread in some modalities. Tools and techniques learned with the guidance of a practitioner can be applied to your daily life and onward journey of integration which enable participants to be honoured and trusted in knowing what’s best for themselves.

Getting started on the parenting journey

Some considerations that may serve as helpful in beginning to guide yourself on the self parenting journey:

  • Consider your intentionwhy do you wish to connect and heal with your inner child? Reflect on your intentions as the parent/adult on why you would like to form a trust relationship with your inner child
  • Write a letter to your inner child that reflects your intentions – begin an initial dialogue with your inner child and share with them why you would like to connect with them
  • Journal on the aspects and events from your past that you would like to acknowledge, accept and forgive
  • Find your joy – reconnect to things, places, activities, people, foods, games, play and fun that you used to enjoy as a child
  • Cultivate a mindfulness practice – supportive of raising self awareness and self compassion, these practices are rooted in the qualities of forming a loving, trust relationship with your inner child

There is more information and ideas for getting started with self parenting and nurturing the parent connection with your inner child in other blog posts. Feel free to browse topics such as building emotional resilience and mindfulness exercises for the subconscious mind.

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