Explaining Flashbacks to Littles.

t’s always hard to explain sophisticated psychological concepts to children, whether they are inner or outer children. It’s hard enough to explain them to adults, but with kids you have to match your words to their age and keep things really simple.

Kids do much better, however, when they know what is happening. They may hate it, but they don’t feel wild and crazy and totally panicked.

Here’s something I wrote in, I believe, 2002.

“This is what grown-ups call a flashback. It feels yucky. It’s something we are remembering. Once long ago we forgot it, and now we are remembering. It isn’t happening now. It just feels like it is because the memory is so strong. But that’s okay. It’s like the mind is burping up a memory. Burp! It feels better after you burp.”


It’s not quite right for little kids. It needs elaboration, and needs breaks for questions. Here’s a rewrite:

“I’m going to explain something to the littles. Anybody can listen if they want to. Nobody has to listen.”

“You are having what grown-ups call a flashback. I can explain it to you. Do you want to hear about them?”

“Okay, fine. You are remembering something that happened to you. Once long ago you forgot it, and now you are remembering. It’s pretty terrible, isn’t it? Do you have any questions?”

“It isn’t happening now, it’s a memory. The memory is so strong that it feels like it is happening right now. That’s why it is called a flashback — the memory is coming back in a flash. After you have had some more flashbacks of this memory, you will understand that it is a memory like any other memory and you won’t be so scared.”

“Here’s a funny way of thinking about it — it’s like a burp. Your mind is burping up a memory. It feels better after you burp.”

If older inner kids are listening, they won’t feel talked down to because they know it’s in language the littles can easily understand. And, of course, both older kids and adults can understand it, too.

Since kids don’t get things right away, it’s a good idea to repeat it each time you recognize a flashback.

4 thoughts on “Explaining Flashbacks to Littles.

  1. Thank you Jean, I found this to be very helpful especially the way you explain how to explain it to little ones that are internal and external. I think that this is a very useful tool


  2. Hi Jean,

    Can I just check with you that you are ok for me to send this info to clients?

    Warm wishes

    Mary J

    Melbourne Australia


    1. Of course! Anybody can share anything I write on the blog or ra-info.org. In general, I ask that you include the url, but if you don’t think your client is ready, just tell her she can have it if she wants.

      On another subject, do you know these people? http://di.org.au/ If so, what do you think of them?



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