We hear a lot these days about 'helicopter' parents, but in their defense, I think their inclination to swoop in and protect their children comes from a good place. After all, no one relishes the possibility that her child may be heading into a painful situation, right?
But unless your children are allowed opportunities for trial and error while they're young, they may
miss valuable lessons disconcerting situations sometimes offer. So unless you believe your children are in real danger, keep your fear and discomfort in check and resist the urge to interfere, lest you unwittingly squash their budding intuition. Instead, let them learn from situations and "Let them learn how to love themselves," encourages Victor van Slee, co-founder of the youth group Blue Papaya at Crystal Life in Geneva.
"Empower your kids," he adds. "Let them make choices."
Notice opportunities to let them have a say, even over something as apparently trivial as deciding what to wear. Even young children know what they like, what feels good. Think back to the last time you did this. Remember the look of pride on your child's face? This is how developing the skill of 'listening to your gut' is allowed to blossom. It's that simple.
Continue reinforcing your child's budding intuition by celebrating moments when she uses it, like when she notices that her dog needs a hug or a friend needs cheering, for example. "How did you know she needed that?" you might ask. And when apparently negative things do happen, help your child to process them, calmly and without judgment. Ask, "What about that situation felt 'off'?" or "What did your gut tell you?"
Don't worry about how you'll handle these moments when they show up. Relax and let your own intuition be your guide. The right words-if any are needed-will be there when you need them.
But what if your child's experience extends beyond mere intuition? What if he perceives things that others don't?
"When they tell their stories, listen," urges van Slee. While there are no hard numbers on the percentage of children with 'extended perceptions,' television shows like A&E's "Psychic Kids" and organizations like the ChildSpirit Institute, headed by university professor and psychologist Tobin Hart, are helping to increase awareness.
People are beginning to accept that "All kids are born open," says Tammy Johnson, children's meditation facilitator and co-founder of Blue Papaya, but many children are still told their experiences are just figments of their imaginations, which inhibits their intuitive side.
Nora, a member of Blue Papaya whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, says she hopes that when these conversations do happen, parents of kids with extended perceptions will "be calm."
She says that getting involved with others who are like her has helped her feel less isolated. But, cautions Johnson, children should choose their friends wisely. This is great advice for any child, but how? Encourage your children to "use their intuition," she suggests.
Ah, but of course. And for that to happen, dear moms and dads, we need to get out of their way and let them.
Part 2 next month: Meditation for children
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.