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How To Teach Your Kids To Listen To Their All-Important Gut

Making good decisions involves, in part, responding to their own intuitive messages.

11/01/2017 11:50 EDT | Updated 11/01/2017 11:52 EDT
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Our intuitive feelings might, at some point in life, help save us from harm and that is one very good reason to begin to teach children about intuition. "The inner voice is wise" and "Intuition is... knowing without knowing why," says Gavin de Becker in his book The Gift of Fear.

In a world where wisdom can seem increasingly rare, and vigilance about our surroundings is necessary, our children need encouragement to connect to that voice. Decisions in life should be made with thinking and feeling skills.

All too often regrets for decisions we've made are a result of ignoring that inner message. Intuition, gut reaction and inner voice are names for a natural resource each one of us possesses. Positive outcomes to gut decisions can help build a child's confidence.

The decision-making process is an ever-evolving skill, but as the author Alfie Kohn notes,"Children learn to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions." Making good decisions involves, in part, responding to their own intuitive messages.

Consider that "there are over 100 million brain cells in our gut, as many as are in the head of a cat." It's certain that any cat lover will tell you their pet is "exquisitely sensitive." Our gut brain cells are often termed the second brain. Although still early in the research, studies are proving there is a connection between this this second brain and our overall well-being.

Finding that "true message" is a skill in itself because often our gut tells us something we don't want to hear.

"A big part of our emotions are probably influenced by the nerves in our gut," says Emeran Mayer, professor of physiology, psychiatry and biobehavioural sciences at U.C.L.A. in a Scientific American article.

Most people have many stories where their gut reaction saved them. For parents, sharing personal stories in which gut reactions had an impact on your own life is a starting point. Your stories lend credibility to the practical application of intuition in the real world. Intuition and gut reaction can be termed an inner sensitivity to our outer world.

Like any other skill, children need to first identify a gut reaction. The best one to start with is the "butterflies in the stomach" reaction when we are nervous. This happens in all sorts of situations and is a direct response to the stomach-brain and head-brain connection. It is involuntary and even young children can relate to that feeling.

That is one of the more overt stomach-brain responses but there are others that are more subtle. It is all about training yourself to listen. You need to take a momentary pause when faced with a situation and purposely ask yourself "how does this feel?" The lesson is beneficial to children because what you are really teaching them is to take a moment before proceeding.

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Focusing on the question and response will usually yield an answer. However, don't look for the answer you want, instead accept the answer those feelings give you. Finding that "true message" is a skill in itself because often our gut tells us something we don't want to hear.

Our gut isn't always tuned to the happy channel. We can get messages that disturb us, surprise us, anger us or confuse us. All those emotions need to be covered with your child as they develop attention to their intuition.

Then your child will inevitably ask: "Why did your gut fail you when the situation turned out badly?" In many instances that is because we weren't listening or we ignored the feeling because we believed that everything would turn out OK. How many times in your life have you said "I knew I shouldn't have done that"?

To avoid those situations, there are some who believe we should just respond spontaneously and find out why later. The why will present itself.

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De Becker suggests that your child listening to their gut can actually help keep them safe. If children are in situations that create a "knot in their stomach," then there's a good chance the situation will get worse. If something doesn't feel right or they are being coerced into a situation, then their gut is giving them the "flight" option.

Use available opportunities in the everyday to practice with your child. There's the intuitive feeling when a phone call you make goes unanswered or the sense of destiny when meeting someone new. Query your children as well. What if that inner message is not what they want to hear? How will they respond? Talking to your child about strategies for dealing with life is always beneficial. Like any other skill, a child becomes more proficient with practice.

Listening to and reacting to their gut instincts is a skill that will grow and develop over the years and throughout your child's life.

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