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  • Liz Perlin O'Hara

A Parent's Guidance


It is said that all children are born intuitive. Like the naturally "gifted athlete" or the inherently "musical child," it sometimes takes just one adult to recognize and encourage a young person's skills for them to grow and thrive. But in today's society, intuitive skills are not always embraced and encouraged in the same way. I remember being very young and having dreams that were so vivid I couldn't always distinguish them from my waking reality. Most of my memories from childhood are vague. As best I can remember, there was a specific moment, at the age of six, when I decided to turn off my "intuitive brain." I knew something I wasn't meant to know and I shared it. The reaction I got was not what I expected and I had an overwhelming sense I had made a mistake. This was likely not the first time I'd shared information I had received, but I knew as soon as I said it that I had created a problem, and I couldn't take it back. Looking back over the span of my childhood, this was a real turning point. Giving up my intuition was a powerful loss. When my intuitive skills opened back up in my thirties, I was like the runner who wonders why he ever left the road, or the musician who wonders how she ever put that instrument down in the first place. I've met other people who recall quite clearly what prompted them to let go of their intuitive capabilities. There was sometimes an explicit message from a parent or other adult, telling them their skills were unimportant, unwanted or even unholy. On the flipside, you may have heard from some well-known people in the Energy Healing community that their intuitive abilities were encouraged and nurtured. They often speak of what a profound effect this had on their path to where they are now. One of my Energy Healing instructors, Dr. Rebecca Sullivan, relays in her course how her mother encouraged her intuitive skills. She offers examples of some psychic games to play and encourages her students to use them to strengthen their intuitive "muscles." Some examples include guessing numbers, colors and cards drawn from a deck. She describes exercises like having someone hold a small object and seeing if a partner can sense what it is. Another one (my daughter's favorite) is thinking of a food and having a partner use his/her senses to get what it is.

I have enjoyed connecting with my children around our psychic abilities, and it's been different with each one of them. One of my children seems to have been born with a deep understanding of spiritual things that, in his younger years, were beyond me. I always gave it respect, and was often in awe of it, but I didn't yet have all the tools I needed to nurture it as I would have liked. He was in middle school when we started with psychic games at home. He's got a knack for numbers and the way he and I connected on this was by texting each other. For example, while sitting in the waiting room at a doctor's office, my son would type a number in his phone and after I guessed it, he'd text me the number he'd been thinking of (and then we'd switch). I guess we have to meet them where they are! Despite my support arriving later in the game, he has retained his awareness and sensitivity in the spiritual sense. I think it's also worth mentioning that, although we don't tend to give it much power these days, my son was diagnosed with ADHD and some other learning differences. This impacted his school life, especially socially and emotionally, most of the way through the elementary grades (more on this later). My daughter enjoys the psychic games mentioned above and is happy to play them. She also loves to tell us about her dreams. One simple thing we can do as parents (and I know many do this already!) is to acknowledge that our dreams have meaning and importance, avoiding any impulse to say things like, "It was just a dream." Instead, my husband and I will often listen together as she tells us the details and then ask her what she thinks it means. As for my youngest, a dynamic, active child with Down syndrome, whose verbal language is still emerging, connecting with him in the intuitive realm works a bit differently. We give him space to arrange objects across the floor, move and vocalize in the ways that appear to be his form of "connection," and, on our walks, allow him to spend fifteen minutes or more communing with a single tree. When we're invited to, we participate and let him take the lead. I will say, although I consciously understood what was special about my children's gifts, I had some things to clear from my field in order to embrace and see each of them more clearly. There was some ancestral fear that needed to be released. I was surprised to find I was also carrying some religious and cultural programming from childhood. The more I was able to open my intuition, the more I could perceive about theirs. That said, a parent does not need to view him or herself as intuitive to support a child's abilities, just as one does not need to be a concert cellist to make time to listen to the child practice the cello (although it is sometimes fun to hum along!). I taught art in public schools for over twenty years and I was often drawn to the students who were considered to fall under the category of neurodiverse. This was not because of their "disability," but rather because I loved the way many of them as individuals would approach things differently from their peers. I also found myself feeling for them in social conflicts, aware that their understanding of a situation was often different from the teacher's and the other students'. I recently picked up Anthony William's book, Medical Medium, and found it had a chapter titled, "Attention-Deficit/Hyperacticity Disorder and Autism." In this chapter he writes, "Children with these conditions often have a high level of intuition, are exceptionally creative, possess an extraordinary ability to see beneath the surface, and--though this goes against traditional thinking--actually have the ability to 'read' people easily." This supported much of what I had observed over the years with my students. This is not to say that I blanketly found the student with a diagnosis to be "right" in a situation more often than his or her classmate. It was often a matter of grasping the nuances of a situation to fully understand where things had gone wrong between them. Over my last ten years in the classroom, the "social curriculum" became a larger and larger part of the overall curriculum. In discussions either led by a teacher or facilitated by the school counselor, the concept of empathy was addressed on a regular basis, sometimes several times a week. A few years ago, I happened to have a class where a third of the students had a diagnosis falling under the category of neurodiversity, with four of the students on the autism spectrum. While many of these students benefited from explicit teaching on demonstrating empathy, I came to realize that many of these same students were also highly empathic. In other words, they were taking on the feelings and energy of those around them while trying to navigate their own feelings and actions at the same time. I'd like to share the following anecdote here to help demonstrate what school can be like for highly intuitive and empathic children. Recently, while waiting at the end of my street for my kids to get off the bus, a woman parked her car, stepped out and said, "Excuse me, I'm from out of town and I was hoping to take my daily walk before I head home. I was just at the cemetery up the hill, but I'm an empath and being in that cemetery is like walking into an Emergency Room. Do you know of another place I can go?" Now, I don't quite know how she knew I would understand her meaning, but, for a moment, let's imagine what it's like for an empathic child to walk into a building full of students, all with their own situations outside of school, emotions carried over from their previous school day, and so on. This doesn't mean the child is necessarily "reading" all of this, but as the child is navigating his own day, he may be sensing, perceiving, and even taking on the energy of a room full of other people's "stuff." In my opinion, one of the most important things a parent can do for an especially intuitive or empathic child is to give her the message that it's a good thing to be able to be tuned in to what's happening with people around her when she wants to AND she doesn't have to take it on. If intuitive games sound fun, they might be worth trying together. Or perhaps parents may choose another way to acknowledge their child's intuitive gift. Most families don't sign their little one up for gymnastics expecting her to become an Olympic athlete, or carve out space for guitar lessons with the hopes he'll become the next great rockstar (although we never know!). The goal is to nurture a love of something we see as having value. While there's always the possibility that encouraging intuitive skills may open doors down the road, these abilities can just as easily simply become one facet of a well-rounded person with a stronger sense of well-being, now and in the future.

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