They say that our personalities and many of our beliefs about ourselves are formed by the time we are three to five years old. Many of us carry the wounds of childhood with us for our entire lives. We walk around replaying negative messages we may have heard from our parents, teachers, or friends. So often, we are unaware of all the thoughts we are thinking. Much of what we think is quite negative. The inner child is that child-like part of us that represents our capacity for innocence, wonder, awe, joy, sensitivity and playfulness. It is this part of us that often holds onto the old wounds from our childhood. When we were children, we believed we were responsible for anything that might go wrong in our families or classrooms. This part of us still yearns for love and many times feels that if we’re not perfect we are simply undeserving of love. We begin to reject ourselves and even punish ourselves subconsciously. It does not need to be this way. We can learn to nurture our inner child. Embracing your inner child is one of the most valuable things we can do for ourselves as we attempt to heal the issues of our past. As we let go of the past, we free ourselves up to enjoy our present moment and to move forward into a joyous future. Here are just a few ways for you to connect with and nurture your inner child.

1. Make a play date with yourself: Take some time to sit quietly. Perhaps you might play some soft, comforting music. Grab a paper and a pen and start thinking about things you loved to do as a child. Begin by listing all of the activities you enjoyed in your youth. You can make your list and elaborate on that list. Get specific about all the things that gave you great joy when you were young. What was it about the activities that made you happy? How did you feel when you were playing? Rate the activities. Now, treat your inner child to a little play date. Find an activity you’d like to do, and then do it. Maybe you like coloring. Well, adult coloring books are all the rage and there’s even research that shows coloring is a great stress reliever. Maybe you loved ice skating as a kid. Go ahead and spend a day at the rink. Horseback riding, dancing, swimming, playing with clay, all of these are fun activities that can help you to reconnect with your inner child. Be imaginative. Show your sweet little inner child a good time and promise to do so often!

2. Become a nurturing parent for your own inner child: Some of us were lucky and grew up in very loving homes. Some had a more difficult childhood home environment. Even the most loving parents still had moments when they were over-tired or cranky. Perhaps they lost their tempers at times. This can leave a lasting imprint on our inner child. When you make a mistake today, pay attention to your thoughts. Do you immediately throw yourself under the bus? Do you belittle yourself? Is this how you would treat a young, innocent child? Hopefully not. So, do not treat your inner child this way. The next time you falter, instead of berating yourself, imagine yourself as a little five-year-old. You’ve just made a mistake and you’re scared and upset. Comfort your inner child. Take her by the hand and reassure her. Love is the most healing force in the world. You and your inner child deserve lots of it.

3. Write a letter to your inner child: Here you are, big, grownup, you. Sit for a moment and picture yourself as a small child. What would you say to this little child to comfort her and let her know that she is OK? On a piece of paper, write a letter to your inner child. Tell her how beautiful she is. Tell her how smart she is. Don’t hold back. Tell her all the things you wish you had heard as a child. Write a beautiful love letter to your inner child. You can tell younger you that everything is fine. She’s doing great and her life will be absolutely amazing. Tell her to smile more; laugh more; enjoy life and play more.

4. Find a photo of you as a child: Take a moment to find some photos of you as a child. Various ages are fine. Take a good look at these photos. What do you see? Maybe you see a happy child or maybe you seem sad. Talk to that child in the pictures. You can even do this in front of a mirror. Louise Hay is a huge proponent of mirror work. Talking to yourself in front of the mirror has some powerful effects. As you converse with your inner child via these photos, it’s quite normal to be emotional. Let it flow. It’s been said that, “we need to feel it to heal it” and with inner child work this is so true.

5. Don’t forget your inner teen: Just as we all walk around with an inner child inside of us, we all have an inner teen too. Imagine how much turmoil that part of yourself carries with her. Remember all the troubling times of adolescence. Now is your chance to look at them through more mature eyes. You can walk through these moments with your inner teen. Learn to love that teenager. Nurture her just as you did your inner child. Guide the inner teen through the awkward, sad, tumultuous times. Imagine just hugging her and reassuring her that all is well. All of the issues she faces right now will seem so much less important in the future.

6. Remember, you’re all grown up now: You might have had the best childhood or a horrific one, or something in between, but the fact is you are all grown up. There’s no need to blame your parents, teachers or friends for where you are now. Now, you are the adult. You can make the choice to heal past wounds. You can choose to nurture all the parts of yourself. Blame keeps us stuck. Forgiving leads to healing, which opens the door to loving. You can begin to love your life. Tap into the love and the nurturing and allow yourself to heal. Enjoy your inner child. Play, laugh, smile, love. Look at the world with new wonder and awe.

Every day, remind yourself by affirming; I embrace my inner child, I love and approve of myself, I create my future with joy as I nurture each part of myself, I take loving care of myself and my inner child. As you connect with that playful innocence of childhood, you will bring a new sense of joy and fun into your life. Remember, we can be child-like and not childish!

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