Unveiling the Inner Child: Navigating Parenting Through Healing and Authenticity
By: Tina Hamilton, The Healing Parent (Parenting POV)
Imagine for a moment that you’re at the playground with your toddler after a long, sleepless night with your newborn, now (of course) asleep in the stroller. As your oldest independently explores the toddler-friendly equipment, you plop on a bench, and with one eye on the playground, you take out your phone.
There has to be a reason he won’t sleep, you mutter thinking back on the long hours of wailing and rocking your newborn; wailing and rocking.
When you look up to check on your toddler, you notice two other moms and their young children making their way toward the playground.
Immediately, you feel the urge to put your phone away. You nervously stand-up and move closer to your child.
Tucking your phone into your pocket, you walk toward your child, maybe even saying, “That was an awesome jump, hunny!,” because you want to appear engaged. You want these other moms to think that you’re a good mom.
Does it matter what these other women think of you?
You know you are a good mom.
You are a good mom who is exhausted. A good mom who is desperate for a solution to the sleepless nights. A good mom who has limited time when her toddler is happily occupying herself, when you can try to find said solution.
And yet, here you are, interrupting your toddler’s independent play to give off the impression of being a good mom.
The reason you do this – or any number of unaligned actions – is because your inner child is harboring pain from a childhood wound. Stay with me here.
What is my inner child?
Your inner child is the part of you that formed between the ages of birth and around seven. It stores the emotional memory of your earlier life experiences. As a child, your experiences were laying the foundation for your understanding of the world.
Any emotion or experience that was too big, too overwhelming, or that you didn’t have a trusted adult to help you move through was left unprocessed in your body. The unprocessed emotions and experiences are stored in the part of yourself that is referred to as your inner child.
Throughout your life, every experience you encounter is processed through this part of you – the inner child. Each new experience will be colored by previous life experiences, and you’ll see it through the perspective of the wounded inner child.
In the situation at the playground, your inner child was reminded of a time when, as a child, you experienced a rush of emotion – perhaps shame or embarrassment – and were not able to fully process and release the emotion. Perhaps, as a child, you did poorly on a test. When your teacher called home to tell your parents, their response was to punish you for not studying hard enough, or in some way, made you feel not good enough. Your inner child stored that memory in a way that, now, as an adult, you find yourself doing what you think you should be doing, rather than listening to what your intuition and body truly needs, because your inner child wants to avoid ever feeling that level of shame or embarrassment (pain) again.
How does the inner child relate to parenting?
There is no handbook for parenting, and as such, we often parent from a place of patterns and past experiences. Without conscious thought and intentionality, we will find ourselves parenting in the ways we were parented – for better or for worse. But oftentimes, the ways we were parented – and the patterns that have become habits – are not what is best for your child.
When you approach parenting in this way – from patterns and with a wounded inner child – you’ll find yourself pushing your child to do things or behave in ways that you *think* they should: achieve certain accolades, participate in specific activities or sports, or demand for them to meet arbitrary expectations.
As a parenting and inner child healing coach, I can say, with certainty, that the majority of the challenges you face as a parent regarding your child’s behavior – missed curfew, failing grades, talking back, tantrums (both toddler and teens) – are a result of you pushing for your child to meet an expectation that you set.
An expectation that might not be in alignment with their truest, most authentic self. Quite possibly, an expectation based on a message that you received as a child about how things are supposed to be; which was based on some external measure that means absolutely nothing to you now as an adult.
When you begin to heal your inner child, you will start to view these moments of struggle in your relationship with your child as an opportunity to get curious about your child’s perspective without the fear that typically drives your responses. You will be more open to building a collaborative partnership with your child, rather than a top-down approach to parenting, where what you say goes.
And when you are able to get on your child’s level and see things from their perspective – that’s where the transformation happens. That’s where you’ll find the magic of parenting.
Parenting is where you meet yourself. Maybe for the first time ever. I am a staunch believer that our children were brought to our lives to show us the parts of ourselves that need healing. And if you are open to this idea, your relationship with your children can help you rediscover your truest and most authentic self – the person who you really are–and were–before the decades of “shoulds” shaped you into someone you no longer recognize.