When it pays off, which is more often than not, it can keep your child from being exposed to danger. Here’s how to trust and better interpret it.
If you’re a mother or father, then there is no doubt that at one time or another, you have used your parental intuition. Here is a real-life example of it in action: One night a mother stayed up late watching a movie with her littles. When the film ended, her son had fallen asleep on the couch and she didn’t want to move him because he had been feeling unwell. She decided to take her daughter upstairs, put her to bed, and go to bed herself, but didn’t want to leave her son alone.
After tucking her daughter in, she went back downstairs to sleep on the couch with her son. Around 1 a.m., for no specific reason, she woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, which was uncharacteristic for her. To pass the time, she decided to make a snack and scroll through her phone, all while thinking it was very unlike her to be up at that time of the night.
An hour later, as she finally started to doze off, she heard a door opening. At first, she thought her husband had awoken to use the bathroom, but something told her to sit up and look at the back door. To her horror, someone was standing there, attempting to get into her house. She screamed, startling the would-be intruder, who ran off. Thankfully, her family was left unharmed, and the mom couldn’t help but feel grateful. She was grateful that her instincts told her not to leave her son downstairs by himself, grateful that something in her spirit would not let her sleep, and grateful that when she screamed the individual ran away. Her parental intuition caused her to act and respond in ways she may not otherwise have responded. Perhaps, it saved everyone’s life that early morning.
But what is parental intuition really?
Modern science defines it as an innate ability to know what is best for your child. Other definitions characterize parental intuition as instinctual gut level knowledge of when something is off, not right, or there is some danger to your kid.
While informative, these definitions do not explain where parental intuition comes from. Is it part of our evolutionary DNA? Is it survival instincts passed down through generations of experience raising children? Or is it something from the spiritual realm, like angels or spirit guides helping us and our children avoid harm?
Melissa Ifill, LCSW, defines it as “our gut instincts that help guide us through life.” She continues, “This ‘sixth sense’ is amplified when we are emotionally connected to people. As parents, because of our emotional connection to our children, as well as the connection we have through DNA, this gut instinct may be intensified.”
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Eric Warren Jr., LMFT, agrees. “Parental intuition is the automatic sense of correct decision making that parents develop over time while raising their children,” he says. “Parental intuition serves as an internal compass that assists parents in guiding their children on what to do as well as what not to do.”
Most likely, you have found yourself in a situation where your own instincts are telling you to do something or avoid something. Did you listen and trust it or did you ignore it? “Trusting your intuition in all things supports you in doing things aligned with your values and what your spirit desires,” says Ifill. “The mind, body, and spirit are very much aligned in all that we do. So, that gut feeling that you have is also a combination of your conscious mind and unconscious mind. Trusting your intuition allows you to understand yourself, align your behaviors with your children and, if done accurately, can support in developing closer relationships with them.”
As parents, it’s important to trust the intuition we have. How one goes about that is all about respecting it first. “It is important to acknowledge that maternal and paternal instincts are a very real thing, and when you feel an ‘inkling’ that something is not right, please know that you are qualified to investigate,” says Warren. “As children get older, of course, you want to foster a trusting relationship, but never allow your want for trust to trump your need to assess.”
Ifill adds, “It is so important that you get curious when your gut is speaking to you. Learning how to calm your nervous system and consistently engage in learning about ‘the self’ helps you understand how your body speaks to you and allows you to get curious about what it is saying. We want to do the work of curiosity before we simply act on these feelings because intuition and ego-based stories and ideas can feel a lot alike. Ego-based stories and ideas can be detrimental to connections and counterproductive for the growth of our children, so we want to make sure that we know the difference in our reactions and that we are acting from a place of wellness and not simply fear.”