Nurturing your inner child

This morning I had to be at a different office for a work meeting. On my way there, I had the opportunity to drive through wooded areas of Pennsylvania where the leaves have reached their peak of autumn brilliance — pumpkin oranges, fire engine reds, sunflower yellows, and the residual greens of summer were lit up by the early day sun and I couldn’t help but shed tears over their beauty. I thanked God for all creation, but especially for my ability to appreciate the beauty of this earth.

And that short prayer got me thinking about autumns I enjoyed as a child, whether it was carving pumpkins to be lit and set out on our front porch or playing “pin the stem on the pumpkin” at Halloween parties, or raking leaves into a big pile at my Grammy and Pop-Pop’s house and grabbing my little brother’s hand and running and jumping in, squealing with delight. The sheer joy of being a child is something I now, as an adult, long for and often struggle to recapture.

In my work with adolescents with drug and alcohol addictions I’m discovering that their own childhoods are not full of happy memories. My heart aches for them — I want them to experience the innocence, the joy, the laughter, the wonder of being a child. I’m realizing just how vital the “inner child” is to humans’ happiness.

So, what are you doing today to nurture your inner child? If you don’t have joyful memories of childhood, what can you do to honor the child within you who was never able to show her- or himself? What about doing something silly like telling a joke…even if it’s not funny to anyone but yourself? You could take a walk outside and pretend you’re seeing the world for the first time. What do you notice around you? You could rake a big pile of leaves and jump in it! You could sit quietly in a room with construction paper and crayons and just see what your inner child creates when it’s not constrained by the “adult voice of reason” or the perfectionist within you. Write a poem that rhymes. Skip down the sidewalk (I did this once in Philadelphia and felt simultaneously foolish and wonderful…it left me breathless with laughter!). Watch a G-rated movie (My parents…who also cherish their inner child…and I plan to watch the new Muppets movie when it comes out!).

Imagine how fun and wonderful the world would be if everyone, for just a few minutes each day, could honor their inner child. Let’s start a trend!

Peace, joy, and health,


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