How To Care For Your Inner Child When You’re Home For the Holiday

Pregames aren’t just for sports. When a friend of mine had to see very challenging family members for a funeral, I told her to prepare like she was training for the mental health Olympics. You wouldn’t expect to do well at a marathon without training, and you can’t expect to feel good seeing challenging family without upping your self-care beforehand.

One helpful practice is to make a list of any worries or concerns you have. Worried your dad is going to ask you to explain exactly why you bought that car? Concerned you won’t get any downtime? Write all of that down.

When you’re done, take a breath and put your hand on your heart. This is a very effective way of coming back to your body and bringing your inner adult online. Once you’re in the right headspace (which is really a heart space, #sorrynotsorry), talk to your inner child about the feeling underneath the concerns on the page. It may feel awkward at first, and you don’t have to do it out loud. But the truth is we all talk to ourselves anyway, so why not make it a consciously validating conversation?

Throughout it, make sure that you are talking to your inner child with compassion and concern. You aren’t talking your inner child out of their feelings; you’re validating them. And yes, all their feelings are valid. That doesn’t mean you have to do everything your inner child wants, but hearing them will help calm you down.

From there, you can decide on some practical strategies to help you feel better when you’re with family. (Scheduled naps perhaps? Make some conversations off-limits from the start?). And bonus: You also just did a tiny reprogramming of that old subconscious way of reacting to family habits.

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