Have you ever been told to stop acting ‘childish’ when you are upset? Or to grow up when someone else feels like you are being dramatic? The hurt you feel when your friends accidentally leave you out of plans is your eight-year-old self who wasn’t invited to Tiffany’s birthday sleepover? And the indescribable, almost irrational frustration you feel when you and your classmate can’t agree on a direction for your project could be your middle school self who constantly felt misunderstood?
Your inner child is the voice and emotions that you carry with you on a day-to-day basis. ‘Healing’ your inner child is a form of listening to your younger self and giving yourself things that maybe you didn’t fully get to have as a child. Basically, healing your inner child is the concept of filling in the gaps from your childhood.
According to many experts, doing work with your inner child can be a great pathway to understanding yourself and your emotions in a more complex way and coping with current problems.
The best part is that there are innumerable ways to work with your inner child. For example, I love tutoring young kids, and my most recent job before moving to Ithaca was an after-care assistant at an elementary school in my hometown. When I was younger, my parents— and also myself— put a lot of pressure on myself to get the top grades and be the best in the class. Those perfectionist standards and connection between my perceived intelligence and self esteem have followed me to college. But by working with children and being more gentle with them when they’re struggling to pronounce words or learning how to do addition for the first time, I am able to come to terms with the B- I got on my recent paper or that I’m going to have to get a Spanish tutor in order to pass the class. Doing arts and crafts with third graders makes me giddy because I get time to destress and be creatively raw in a way that I don’t necessarily get to as a college student or even as a third grader.
For others, like Ananya Chandrasekhar, a freshman at Rutgers University, healing her inner child looks like eating foods from her childhood. She said, “I used to be embarrassed to eat Indian food, but now that I’m older, eating those foods help me reconnect with my culture and that part of my childhood.”
Other ways of connecting to one’s child include playing with toys from your childhood, using coloring books, visiting your hometown, and whatever else you can think of.
Another popular method of healing your inner child is going back to the media that you enjoyed as a kid. For example, I love rereading my old diaries- it helps me look at my past self with kinder eyes. There’s a sense of forgiveness and acceptance that comes with it. But I also love watching old TV shows and cartoons that were my favorites as a kid.
The concept of ‘comfort characters’ has become increasingly popular in mainstream media: a comfort character is one that happens to be your favorite, the most relatable, or simply maybe the most comforting to watch.
A science teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, at East Brunswick High School said, “There’s a reason why there are so many ‘Disney adults’ and why Disney continues to stay a popular franchise. Or even Harry Potter. Yes, there’s a new generation of kids discovering these things, but there’s also the adults who feel nostalgia for when they themselves discovered those things, and they keep these franchises alive. It’s all about wanting to go back to a space of comfort and carelessness and freedom.”
She went on to explain how “comfort characters are probably characters that you related to the most or who made you feel the most seen as a kid. There’s a certain joy in watching old shows where you know exactly what’s going to happen and that the characters will resonate with you.”
For the most part, everyone agrees that healing your inner child is important and is helpful, and a great way to healthily cope with your problems and possible trauma. However, it’s also important to remember that adult problems often do require adult solutions. Your inner child isn’t everything- who you are right now and your current environment and actions have impact as well. Be mindful of your entire subconscious- the child, the teen, and the adult.
Alefiya Presswala is a first-year journalism major who might have the cure to healing your inner child. Alefiya can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.