We were all children once and, even though we are now adults, they are still in there somewhere.

This can be great when we have children ourselves and can quickly connect with that part of us and enjoy playing, having fun, being absorbed in one activity and laughing out loud without stress or thinking about what we have to do next.

But it is not good if our inner child is controlling and making life decisions that children should not be part of…

Our inner child might then start to sabotage our lives with fear, sadness and the experiences of how we may have been parented ourselves.

I often hear parents saying to me that as soon as they have children, it is like their partner changes. It is almost like their own mum and dad comes out in them.

Or their fear of certain things gets worse because not only do they have to protect themselves but also a child too.
This defence mechanism may even lead to alcohol or food related issues or even self-harm or depression.

Where to start re-parenting your inner child:

Start by thinking: is it my inner child or my adult self who is in charge of my life and the decisions I make and my daily behaviours?

* When I say NO to my 10-year-old child walking over to the neighbour’s house is that my inner childhood experience taking control, or a realistic adult parenting decision?
* When I tell my partner that they are not being a good enough parent is it my sad inner child talking or is it a valid and mature observation?
* When I’m feeling left out or ignored is that my inner child reacting, or is there some fact to it?
* When I feel that I am not good enough is that my inner child feeling insecure and hearing “I am no good”, or do I simply need to work on certain skills to improve?
* When I try to please others before caring for myself self, is that my inner child telling me that it is my job to please, fix and be a good ‘child’? Or I am just truly enjoying doing things for others?

And so on – you get the picture!

So when you are making decisions that might seem a bit ‘off’ or when you are reacting or behaving in a way that you are not super proud of, STOP and THINK: ‘is my inner child in charge here?’

I remember as a child that I was often told that I ate too much and that I was a bit chubby. Today I have to be very conscious that my hurt inner child does not make decisions when it comes to food and eating behaviours.

A client once told me that his parents fought all the time and he grew up living in a horrible atmosphere. As an adult he hates conflict and loud voices and would do anything to avoid them. So, he let his children and partner walk all over him because his inner child told him to let them in order to avoid battles.

When my daughter was younger she was called the ‘shy one’, ‘the quiet one’ and even arrogant sometimes because she didn’t speak much in social settings. But she is neither of these, she just likes to observe, listen and take things in at her own pace. She is actually very sociable and loves to meet new people. Now she has to challenge her inner child daily when she is telling her ‘you’re shy, so don’t speak up, don’t go over there’ etc.

What’s next :

Take control:

Awareness is the first step to change. By reading the above you are already having a think about who is in the driving seat: your inner child or your adult self. Who makes the decisions?

But also you have considered WHY, and where it comes from.

Now think about the triggers:

• How do you know who is in charge? Do you get a physical sensation that something is not right (heart racing, headache or stomach pain, looking away, sweating etc.?
• Or is it more emotional, you start feeling sad, upset, angry, screaming (having a tantrum) etc.

Knowing the triggers will help you take the lead as your adult self.

To be kind to your inner child and tell them that it is ok, you are safe now – and that you, the adult, is in charge, control of YOUR life, actions and behaviours.

Now you can take control and make sensible adult decisions and start acting and behaving like the adult and parent you can be proud of.
Your inner child is safe now…

Examples: The dad I mentioned above who would do anything to avoid battles in the home could now sit with his family and talk to them about setting agreed rules, routines and responsibilities and agree on consequences if rules were broken. But more importantly, if there were consequences to manage, his adult self was now ok sticking to his boundaries and values and following through in a firm but respectful way. He told himself that his children could have a reaction to his boundaries and requests, that their emotions were nothing to do with him, but something they had to deal with. He had done nothing wrong. His inner child felt safe.

And when I want to take a piece of cake now, my adult self tells me that it is OK. I eat healthily on a daily basis, I am a normal weight and size, I exercise regularly, and it is my choice to eat a piece of cake and no one will tell me I am fat. My inner child is happy.

When people look at my daughter now, her adult self has to quickly tell herself, ‘they are not looking at me thinking I am shy and introvert or arrogant, they are just looking because they want to talk to me, because my work is interesting or they might just like me!’ – her inner child can breathe safely.

So be kind to your inner child, even welcome them into your life. But only the part that you enjoy.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing (George Bernard Shaw ).

So think about what you enjoyed as a child and embrace that again.

Think about some qualities you had as a child i.e. fearless, sporty, even selfish (it is ok to think about yourself and put your needs first at times) and try to nurture these so they can grow again.

Would you laugh out loud and without filter? Do it again, don’t mind what others think, that is the inner child you don’t want to welcome back in.

Would you like you say NO to others and YES to self (when appropriated)? Then do it I a way that sit well with you and still respect the receiver.

Don’t bother that some part of your inner child is telling you be please others. You CAN and WILL please yourself first.

I wish you good luck re-parenting your inner child.

Good luck and have fun..

Best wishes Mette Theilmann, Director of Predictable Parenting & Founder of the Parenting Community App