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Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child
Retrieved April 2013

Inner Child Healing
Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child
By James J. Messina, Ph.D. and Constance G. Messina, Ph.D.

Introduction to Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child

When a person talks about INNER CHILD HEALING the first question which arises is: What are you talking about? This is fair since Inner Child is a term which means a lot of different things to different people. For our purposes here Inner Child means the person inside of yourself whom you have ignored for too long resulting in your having low self-esteem and feeling conflicted about putting too much attention on your own mental health.

Why the Term Growing Down? Why a Tools for Healing the Inner Child?
To ensure a greater sense of recovery from low self‑esteem, the metaphor of an "inner child" is utilized here so that you can direct your emotional work on that inner part of you, your inner spirit or inner voice which you have for too long neglected, ignored, or forgotten. The inner child is the emotional part of you which you may have stuffed or hidden when you were young. Rather than having the full array of emotions or feelings of childhood you may have been a "little adult" who grew up too fast for your chronological age. Your emotional life may have been stunted as a result of this "growing up" process.

In order to begin to feel "good enough" you must be able to feel the full array of feelings and not just the "black" anger and "white" happy ones. You may not currently believe, feel or act in ways which promote your healthy self‑esteem. You may not like you enough to take care of yourself. The metaphor of "inner child" allows you to take care of someone smaller, more fragile, and needier than you - the little child within you. If you can't take the time to make the "adult you" feel "good enough" maybe you will be willing to help the "child you'' feel better.

Where will you gain the strength to take care of the inner you? In the 12 step programs of recovery it is our belief that our Higher Power provides the spiritual strength it takes to take care of our inner children. It is through the joining of our inner spirit with the spirit of our Higher Power do we gain the serenity and peace needed to free the pain, hurt, sadness, and grief inside of us. By working with our Higher Power we are able to let go and hand over our negative feelings, memories, and images so that we can replace them with positive affirmations, visualizations and actions which help us move forward in self‑esteem.

Growing down is the term we use to symbolize the movement back to a feelings enriched life. In this new life we experience the joy of being alive, living one day at a time with no fear or dread of the future. In this growing down we awaken our creative spirit so that we can again enjoy playing, having fun, and relaxing. Growing down is a way in which we can prevent burnout of the spirit which can lead to relapse of the negative behavioral consequences of low self‑esteem. Growing down is a set of activities which helps us to let go of our premature “idealized adult view” of life so that we can again see life through the eyes of a child imbued with hope, enthusiasm, and excitement. Growing down is a way to learn to “live” again rather than just exist. Growing down is a set of activities to change the “sick adult” ways of thinking, feeling, and acting into a “healthy child” way.

Organization of the book

Chapter 1 is a self‑assessment to help you rediscover the inner child you have for too long forgotten, ignored or abandoned.

Chapter 2 is the definition of the Inner Child for you.

Chapters 3‑12 cover specific issues which will assist in the healing of your inner child:

  1. Chapter 3 Anger
  2. Chapter 4 Feeling Feelings
  3. Chapter 5 Shame and Guilt
  4. Chapter 6 Self‑Forgiveness
  5. Chapter 7 Unconditional Self‑acceptance and Self‑love
  6. Chapter 8 Self affirmations
  7. Chapter 9 Mirror work
  8. Chapter 10 Reparenting
  9. Chapter 11 Invisibility
  10. Chapter 12 Boundaries

Chapters 13‑19 present specific "child'' activities you can perform to give vent to the child within you:

  • Chapter 13 Visualizations
  • Chapter 14 Having fun
  • Chapter 15 "Child'' play
  • Chapter 16 Body Movement
  • Chapter 17 Children's Games
  • Chapter 18 Creativity
  • Chapter 19 Children's books

Chapters 17, 18, and 19 provide references to tools, books, games, and tasks which enhance your growing down work.

Chapter 20 is the CHILD System of the SEA's Program.

This book is to be a reference text to supplement the eight books in the Tools‑for‑Coping Series. It can stand alone as the manual for treatment programs whose primary focus is on healing the inner child. We use this text in Growing Down one day workshops we conduct in Jim's private practice.

It is our hope you will find Growing Down a useful tool for your inner healing and self‑esteem growth. Best of luck in your use of this work.

Growing Down Special Dedication

To Charles Panepento
"Some people come into our lives
and go quickly.
Some stay for a while
and leave footprints in our hearts
and we are never the same."

The author of these words aptly describes the influence of Uncle Chuck on our two lives. He was surrogate dad, father-in-law, grandfather and cheerleader to our family. His infectious laughter, sense of humor and comic wit touched our "inner children" so dearly throughout our lives. It is fitting that we dedicated this book on healing the inner child to a person famous for this joke:

Why did the mouse leave home? ...
Because he found out his father was a rat.

We love you Uncle Chuck and miss you. May your spirit reign within us through our Inner Child work.

Songs to Use in Inner Child Healing Work

What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong:

That's What Friends Are For by Stevie Wonder:

You Are The Sunshine Of My Life by Stevie Wonder:

Children's Books to Use for Inner Child Healing


  • What is re-parenting?
  • Reasons why you need to re-parent yourself
  • Signs in adulthood that you need to re-parent yourself
  • Different types of re-parenting activities
  • Steps to implement a re-parenting program in your life

What is re-parenting?
Re-parenting is:

  • Being a parent to yourself.
  • Giving yourself the nurturing, affection, and recognition you need to heal your inner child.
  • Giving yourself the guidance, direction, and self-discipline needed to gain self-control and to accept personal responsibility for your own life.
  • Letting go of self-pity over your being neglected or abused as a child and taking charge of your life.
  • Ceasing to look to others to nurture, affirm, or make you feel good, recognizing that you are the best source of self nurturance and support.
  • Allowing yourself to become an independent person, no longer needing to be dependent on others or to have others dependent on you.
  • Creating a bond between the adult you and inner child you to give you a sense of security, self-confidence and self worth.
  • Overcoming the shame, guilt, or self-deprecation you have towards yourself over the unfortunate history of your childhood, adolescence or young adulthood.
  • Accepting yourself the way you are in an unconditional way with no regrets or self hatred over what you "should'' have been.
  • Falling in love with yourself so that you are able to be more "centered on self'' as you proceed on in life.
  • Establishing healthy boundaries between you and the others in your life.

Reasons why you need to re-parent yourself
If you have experienced any of the following in your lifetime, you are an excellent candidate to re-parent yourself so that you can experience "growing down'' to healthy self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

  • Neglected by your parents.
  • Criticized by critical parent(s) or teacher(s).
  • Physically abused by your parent(s), sibling(s) or relative(s).
  • Emotionally or verbally abused by parent(s), sibling(s), relative(s) or teacher(s).
  • Sexually abused by parent(s), sibling(s), relative(s), or non-family member.
  • Raised in a dysfunctional family where alcohol or drugs were abused or parent(s) were mentally ill.
  • A product of a single parent led family or a family where there was a divorce.
  • Ignored and left to yourself.
  • Invisible in your family.
  • Ashamed of your family life.
  • Guilty over not being able to fix your family.
  • Frustrated because no matter what you did it was never "good enough.''
  • Never able to get the approval you needed.
  • Lacking male nurturance from your father who was emotionally unavailable to you and are therefore male nurturance deprived.
  • Lacking female nurturance from your mother who was emotionally unavailable to you and are therefore female nurturance deprived.

Signs in adulthood that you need to re-parent yourself
The following is a symptoms checklist. Put a check next to the items which are mostly true for you at this time in your life.

___ 1. Lacking in self-confidence in interpersonal relationships at home, work, socially, and in the community.

___ 2. Inability to believe you deserve good things in life.

___ 3. Feelings of shame about your past.

___ 4. Feelings of guilt about your past.

___ 5. Inability to have self forgiveness for all of your real or perceived faults, mistakes, or failures in the past.

___ 6. Inability to affirm or say nice things to or about yourself.

___ 7. Dependence on others to approve you.

___ 8. Fear of rejection from others.

___ 9. Desire to be invisible so that others don't know what you are thinking, how you feel, or what you are doing.

___ 10. Need to please others.

___ 11. Need to avoid conflict at all costs.

___ 12. Waiting for or wanting someone to nurture and care for you to make up for the absence of nurturance in your past life.

___ 13. Unwillingness to accept that the solutions to your problems are your responsibility.

___ 14. Not capable of exercising self-control over all aspects of your life.

___ 15. Excessive use of manipulation to get others to do what you want them to do for you.

___ 16. Excessive hostility, bitterness, sarcasm, and cynicism about life and how it has treated you.

___ 17. Extreme pessimism about your ability to do what it takes to recover from low self-esteem.

___ 18. Pent-up anger, rage, and hatred against the people in your past life who have abused or neglected you.

___ 19. Lack of clear direction and clarity of goals in your life.

___ 20. Not sure of who you really are.

If you have checked two or more, you are in need of re-parenting work.

Different types of re-parenting activities
Re-parenting activities include:

  • Inner child healing
  • Child play work
  • Mirror work
  • Self-affirmations
  • Unconditional self-acceptance
  • Identification of feelings
  • Anger workouts
  • Self-forgiveness
  • Personal journal writing
  • Personal feelings log
  • Self-assertiveness
  • Accepting personal responsibility for self
  • Exercising self-control
  • Letting go of the need to control
  • Restructuring of lifestyle
  • Time management
  • Stress reduction and relaxation work
  • Goal setting
  • Physical exercise program
  • Maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle
  • Self-nurturing physically by hugging and cradling self
  • Grief and mourning work focused on letting go of past hurts, losses, and pain
  • Letting go of shame and guilt

Steps to implement a re-parenting program in your life

Step 1: You first need to identify if you are in need of re-parenting in your life. Use the symptoms checklist in this Chapter. If you have two or more symptoms, you are in need of re-parenting work. In your journal, identify all of the symptoms of the lack of healthy parenting, nurturance, unconditional acceptance, and love currently present in your life.

Step 2: Identify in your journal all of the unhealthy thoughts you have about yourself and your life which re-parenting can help alter. Then identify healthy counter thoughts which are more rational and conducive to personal growth. These are re-parenting guidance statements which you need to tell yourself. What follows are some sample positive re-parenting statements for your negative unhealthy thoughts.

Unhealthy thought: I am worthless. Re-parenting statement: I am a worthy person.

Unhealthy thought: I'll never amount to anything. Re-parenting statement: I have and will continue to amount to something in life.

Unhealthy thought: I can never do anything right. Re-parenting statement: I am a human and it is OK if I don't always do things right.

Unhealthy thought: Everyone is against me. Re-parenting statement: I am for me and that's all that I need right now.

Unhealthy thought: Why can't anyone love me for who I am? Re-parenting statement: I love me for who I am.

Unhealthy thought: Why am I always the one who has to make the first move? Re-parenting statement: It's OK if I am always the one to make the first move since it ensures that I get the things I deserve, want, and are good for me.

Unhealthy thought: I will never be able to do this. Re-parenting statement: I can do anything I commit to.

Unhealthy thought: I can't succeed in anything. Re-parenting statement: I can succeed and be a winner in life.

Unhealthy thought: I am a horrible human being. Re-parenting statement: I am a loveable, capable human being.

Unhealthy thought: I should have known better. Re-parenting statement: I did the best I could knowing what I did at the time.

Unhealthy thought: I should have sought out help so that they wouldn't have been able to continue to abuse me the way they did. Re-parenting statement: I was a kid and I deserved to be protected from the abuse and neglect I received. But today I am an adult and need to protect myself and be responsible in all areas of my life.

Unhealthy thought: Because I experienced the sensations and physical excitement, I am guilty for the act of sexual abuse committed against me. Re-parenting statement: Physical and sensual pleasure to the victim of sexual stimulation often results from a sexually abusive situation but this does not make the victim guilty of the act.

Unhealthy thought: Because as a child I asked for or sought it out, I was responsible for it. Re-parenting statement: As a child I needed healthy guidance and direction from the adults in my life and because I lacked this direction I didn't know or have the strength to avoid such unhealthy or inappropriate activities. In many cases my curiosity needed a parent's gentle guidance. Instead I was left to roam and wander, thus leading me down the "hurtful'' paths that I took.

Unhealthy thought: I should have run away instead of allowing it to happen to me. Re-parenting statement: When I was being victimized, I was in shock or disassociated from the event so that it was impossible to run away from it.

Unhealthy thought: I must have been an awful child for them to neglect or abuse me that way. Re-parenting statement: They neglected and abused me because they had problems. I did not deserve the treatment I received.

Unhealthy thought: I must have got what I deserved. Re-parenting statement: No one deserves to be abused, neglected, overly criticized, put down, or humiliated the way I was.

Unhealthy thought: I was an unlovable, ungrateful, despicable child growing up. Re-parenting statement: I was an innocent child who was a victim of the rage, hatred, anger, and bitterness of the adults in my life.

Unhealthy thought: I hate myself. Re-parenting statement: I love me. I deserve my love. I can love myself. I will love me.

Unhealthy thought: I'd rather die than go on. Re-parenting statement: Life is worth living. I have a contribution to make in life which makes my life worth living.

Unhealthy thought: I can't live with myself. Re-parenting statement: I can live with myself, I can be my best friend. I can be the major source of nurturance in my life. I can enjoy living by myself all alone if I need to.

Unhealthy thought: If my parents couldn't love me, how can I love me? Re-parenting statement: My parents did the best they could, knowing what they did at the time, but I must take personal responsibility for my own life and love and care for myself in ways they never did.

Unhealthy thought: No matter what I do, I'll never be able to let go of the past. Re-parenting statement: I am able to let go of the past through healthy anger workout which allows me to grow in self-esteem, forgiveness, and acceptance of what happened to me.

Unhealthy thought: When will it be my turn to be taken care of by others? Re-parenting statement: I am able to care for myself and it is unhealthy for me to wait for someone else to care for and nurture me. I am the only source of care and nurturance I need to depend upon. I can do it.

Unhealthy thought: I'm tired of taking care of everyone else. I want someone to take care of me. Re-parenting statement: I don't need to care for others in order to feel good about myself. I don't need others to need my caring and nurturance in order to feel like a whole person. I can be a whole person by refocusing my caring and nurturance on me.

Unhealthy thought: Why do I have to be the only one I can count on to care for me? It's not fair. Re-parenting statement: It is a reality of life. Life is not fair. There is growth for me in accepting the reality of life that I can only count on myself to be my best source of caring and nurturance. As an adult I can be the only one who "parents'' me.

Unhealthy thought: Every time I try to solve my problems it always turns out that I am the one who has to change. It shouldn't be this way. Re-parenting statement: I am the only one whom I can control and change so it is realistic that I am the "real'' source of my problems. It is my unhealthy thoughts, emotions, and actions which need to change. This is the way it is and I will need to accept this reality if I am to proceed in my recovery from low self-esteem.

Unhealthy thought: I hate that I have to do all this on my own. Someone else should do this for me. Re-parenting statement: I need to do extensive anger workouts on the reality of the need for self-reliance and self focus in solving my problems. Until I rid myself of this anger about this reality of life, I will be stuck in my unhealthy mode of living. I refuse to stay stuck. I am capable of letting go of my disappointment and I will go on and succeed in my journey of self health.

Unhealthy thought: All I want out of life is to have someone pick me up in their arms and tell me how proud they are of me. Why can't this happen? Re-parenting statement: I will hug myself daily and tell myself how special I am to me. I will feel the warmth of my hug and realize how sincere my joy in being me is. I will daily affirm my good points and forgive my failures, mistakes, and setbacks. I can make it happen that I am my best source of reinforcement, affirmation, and recognition of worth in life. I am proud of me. I can remain proud of myself. I will be proud of myself.

Unhealthy thought: Life should be more fair to me than what it has been. Re-parenting statement: Life is not fair. I need to rid myself of the irrational, unhealthy, and unrealistic belief that life should have dealt with me better. I need to get my anger out about this stark truth so that I can accept it and get on with living the "real'' life I have left on earth.

Unhealthy thought: I'm never able to tell others to stop depending on me. Why can't I depend on someone else this time? Re-parenting statement: I need to tell others to stop depending on me. I need to let go of them so that they can become independent, self-sufficient, and self-reliant. It would be healthy for me to depend on myself. I need to depend on me for the caring, nurturance, and re-parenting I need in order to progress in my program of recovery.

Unhealthy thought: I'm tired of being blamed for all my problems. If my problems are real, then someone else should solve them for me rather than turning them back to me to solve for myself. It's so unfair that I have to do this on my own. Re-parenting statement: I am the source of my own problems because of my faulty way of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

(ladybug comment: i think they could have been a bit clearer in this statement. not 100% of our problems are our own doing! things do happen to us that we have no control over, and we are left to deal with them. i think it is more accurate to say that bad things happen to us, and that we are not to blame for those bad things. however, dealing with them in an unhealthy way and not taking responsibility for our lives is where we do have a part in our own problems.)

Step 3: Once you have identified in your journal a set of re-parenting statements for yourself, you now are ready to identify a program of re-parenting to follow on a daily basis.

Step 4: Once you have outlined in your journal a structured program of re-parenting, use this program for the next sixty days. If you do not find that you are experiencing a renewal of self-confidence, then return to Step 1 and begin again.
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Account Closed
I have looked at bits and pieces of this resource over the past year. But I missed the this part, or maybe I just didn't like what it said at the time that I read it. :eek:


Trying to pull up reparenting activites, but not able to brings up a advertisement each time. Can anyone help?


Trying to pull up reparenting activites, but not able to brings up a advertisement each time.

Please indicate exactly the link that is not working, and we can see if there is an updated link. The original post was written in 2007, so it is possible the links in the first post no longer work.

We'll check as soon as you let us know where the difficulty is.


Thanks, Steve,
None of the links appear to be working. I was particularly interested in the 18 activities under "Different re-parenting activities".
This is something I've been focusing on for several months now and this is the best info I've found. Hate that I can't access it all. But understand that it's quite old.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Thanks, Steve,
None of the links appear to be working. I was particularly interested in the 18 activities under "Different re-parenting activities".

This is something I've been focusing on for several months now and this is the best info I've found. Hate that I can't access it all. But understand that it's quite old.

This rather an old thread (2007). It appears that the original website has disappeared and the domain is now being redirected to another site (
Replying is not possible. This forum is only available as an archive.