Re-parenting The Inner Child

inner child dressesDraw your inner child connecting with you

In the mental health world, we often consider those with complex trauma as “stuck.” This means that at the point where their trauma began, a portion of their brains stopped developing, and even as adults they exhibit some of the same emotional development they did at the age where they became stuck. Clients who are “stuck” may over-attach to those who exhibit desired parental qualities or are older. This can easily lead to unhealthy attachment. It is typically healthier to transfer these feelings onto a therapist, who is better able to manage these needs with proper boundaries. Talk of re-parenting usually occurs in these therapeutic situations.

I heard a beautiful story once of a family who re-parented a teenager with complex trauma, including reading children’s stories and tucking her into bed. Through this endeavor, the family changed the course of the teenager’s life and improved her attachment style. Though this is the deepest desire of all inner children, the time and effort this requires makes this kind of story quite rare. However, the concept is very common, especially in therapy.

Some therapists help clients re-write their stories as if they were their own parents, each chapter of the story being a different age bracket. Other interventions include encouraging the clients to listen to and meet the needs of the inner child. This may include offering her something as simple as a juice box, time on the bed with her favorite blanket, or a coloring book when she is having a tantrum. Through meeting these needs, it is theorized that the inner child will feel her needs are met and will calm down. I personally do not believe the child will ever become completely “un-stuck,” but the inner child can certainly be made to feel safe. With care, the child will not feel she needs to wreak havoc in her adult’s life.

When people hear talk of re-parenting, it is common to feel uncomfortable. After all, connecting with the inner child may remind us of how popular culture has turned diagnoses like Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) into something to fear or make jokes over. According to a study, DID occurs in approximately 1.1% of the population and ought to be better understood than a few movies. Dissociative Disorder NOS (DDNOS) is a far more prevalent diagnosis for survivors of complex trauma. Those with this diagnosis may have successful careers, and when their brains are engaged professionally, they exhibit no symptoms (this relates to their ability to easily separate from other parts of themselves). However, they have frequent and lengthy periods of partial or complete dissociation or feeling they are walking in a fog. Those with DDNOS often have a very strong sense of an inner child, who is developmentally the age of the adult when the trauma began (re: being “stuck”). It is the inner child who recalls and relives the trauma. However, they differ from DID in that the child does not have her own identity or take over completely. The adult is typically always in ultimate control of the mind and body, though they may feel the constant struggle of the inner child.

Some ideas on meeting the needs of the inner child

Cut your food into small pieces

Have a blanket to use for comfort

Have crayons and a sketch book or coloring book handy

Listen to kids music

Keep juice boxes in the fridge for her

Write letters to her

Allow her to keep a journal (giving her a voice will calm her)

Visualize yourself holding her and tucking her in at night

Keep your favorite childhood toy, or buy a favorite toy for her

Paint fingernails and toenails

Finally, if you have children, play with them. Allow yourself to feel nurtured as you meet their needs.

For more ideas on healing the inner child, read Courage To Heal or click here 

inner childA bed prepared for my inner child’s favorite doll, which should arrive Saturday

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15 thoughts on “Re-parenting The Inner Child

  1. Wow what an amazing idea. Something I never would have thought to do, but makes sense the way your describe it. I’ve been struggling with hyper vigilance, and I’ve been isolating myself inside my house for day’s and even calling in sick to work as well as cancelling appointments so I don’t have to leave the house. Maybe I should try some self comforting in the form of connecting with my inner child instead of all the negative talk about my weakness in the face of leaving my house.

    Self care is a difficult concept for me as I don’t really love myself enough. But if I view it as me giving care to myself, as I was when I was a child it somehow makes it different. Like I have a responsibility to keep her safe and comfort her. I have often wondered if I secretly have DID tho and am scared on some level that doing this type of practice will lead to more of that realization. And to be honest I simply cannot take another diagnosis/hurtle right now.

    You’ve left me with a very open mind on this subject tho that I hadn’t even known existed. Thank you.

    • Thank you for sharing. While it is certainly possible to have DID, DDNOS occurs much more frequently. Regardless of the label, you are right- meet the needs that you never had met as a child. You are the only one who can meet her needs and help her feel safe. Are you in therapy? If so, I suggest talking to your therapist about his or her feelings on the inner child, because your therapist knows you much better than any of us. Good luck, and I hope you tuck her in tonight 🙂

      • I see a psychiatrist every couple of weeks. I’m kinda scared to bring up my thoughts regarding my inner child and possible DID or anything else….we shall see tho as I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t filter my thoughts in his office. Tonight I’m going to paint my nails and go to bed early and lose myself in my fav author’s novel. Thanks doll.

  2. I just wanted to say thank you for writing this post although i have not been able to read it in depth as it touches too many raw nerves. How strange we should both post about DID on the same day at almost the same time. I have a form of DID which i tried, rather unsuccessfully, to describe or explain to others. I think i am too caught up in it ‘to see the wood from the trees’. I have read and have a copy of the Courage to Heal – i’ve not picked it up in years. You describe, well, the problems connected with DID or trauma such as attachment or abandonment issues which i struggle deeply with. In my post, Chloe is my inner child. I will try and read this again when i am not feeling so fragile and incompetent xxx

    • Thank you so much for sharing today’s post, Ellie. I loved it very much. I know it took a lot of courage, but you are doing some amazing work on this blog! You are so open and raw. Take good care of Chloe… I have read some of her posts and she is a beautiful child. Hugs xx

  3. I loved the way you describe the need for reparenting the inner child. Your list of ways to have those needs met is very good. When I was doing inner child work I allowed Jesus to enter into the memory or should I say place of need and speak to me or comfort me or lead me out of the dark place I was in. Just last weekend He (being Jesus) came and spoke to me in this way. It healed me whether momentarily or to the core remains to be seen. But no matter it was beautiful

    • I am ever blessed at your faith and your openness of your faith on here!!! I have never allowed Jesus to comfort my inner child because my inner child is always kicking and screaming when He’s around. As I posted on your wall, she is afraid of Him. Maybe sometime…

  4. I think, like for many others, that this hit such a nerve for me, I don’t know how to comment. I am grateful that you have pushed beyond my normal barriers of thought and response with this posting. thank you!

    • You are following perhaps one of the most important ideas I posted on here… you are giving your inner child a voice through your blog!!! And she is very poetic and eloquently spoken. Big big hugs, my dear friend. Giving you hugs while our inner children have a sleepover with tents and cinnamon rolls (am I ever going to stop referencing that?!)!!!

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