We call it instinct, a hunch, or a gut feeling: intuition is when we “just know” something without knowing why. It’s often considered mysterious, but intuition is actually a higher-level thinking skill that can be cultivated. According to author and Intuition Lab founder Kim Chestney, intuition is “our built-in guide, or GPS system” that helps us navigate life from a higher perspective. Experts say that everyone has intuition, and the more we practice, the more intuitive we become. Intuition is especially important for teens, empowering them to be self-confident, make wise choices, and stay safe. Here are five ways you can teach your teen to trust their intuition:
1. Understand intuition and talk about it with your teen.
Research shows that intuitive thinking is automatic and subconscious, drawing from past experiences, emotions, and bodily sensations. Analytical or logical thinking is slower and more conscious. Both ways of thinking are important, but we tend to overestimate logic and downplay intuition. Talking to your teen about intuition helps them develop awareness of their deeper emotions, sensations, and instincts. Ask them how they feel, not just what they think. Share your own intuitive hunches. Teach them to pause and check in with their feelings and sensations before making a decision. If they feel tense, queasy, or uncertain, it’s a sign to wait or make a different choice. If they feel calm, happy, and secure, these are better signs they are on the right track.
2. Give them the gift of your trust.
As teens become more independent, they learn a lot about trust: what people and situations are safe or unsafe, how much to share, and above all, how to trust themselves to make the right choices. You can help by demonstrating trust in their internal navigation system. If, for example, your teen is reserved or standoffish around a certain person, ask them what’s going on instead of automatically pressuring them to be polite. Be aware of any tendencies to “override” their inner guidance, and talk through their decisions with them so you both understand how they feel and why. You honoring their intuition is a big part of teens learning to trust themselves.
3. Help them put fear in its proper place.
Security expert and author Gavin de Becker says our intuitive minds pick up subtle signs of danger, so some forms of fear help us to stay safe. Teens need to know that there’s a difference between fears that hold them back and fears that protect them from harm. Unhelpful fear tells them to avoid risk even when it\’s likely to lead to growth and there’s no real threat to their safety. It may show up as feelings of worry about what others will think, repetitive anxious thoughts, or “catastrophizing.” Helpful fear is a gut-level instinct that clearly says “something isn’t right,” even if they’re not sure what that is. Parents can teach teens to discern between the two types of fear and let them know that it’s always the right decision to trust their instincts if a situation doesn’t feel safe.
4. Help them find ways to calm their minds and find flow.
Researchers agree that a busy mind impedes intuition. Timeouts from technology, homework, and packed schedules give teens time to be creative, play, and daydream – all activities that encourage intuition. Simple mindfulness practices like a body scan or box breathing teach teens how to disengage from their thoughts and access their felt senses. Rhythmic movement – everything from running to dance to knitting to playing an instrument – can help bring their minds and bodies together in a state of intuition-inducing flow. Even downtime spent playing with pets, taking a walk, or stargazing can calm anxious thoughts and help teens connect with their intuition.
5. Teach them how to ask their intuition for guidance.
When teens are struggling with a problem or a decision, let them know that they can ask their intuition to guide them. It’s as simple as holding the question in their minds while they sit quietly or go for a walk, just noticing what insights come up. If they don’t get an answer, let them know that sometimes intuition speaks up when we least expect it, after a good night’s sleep or when we’ve forgotten all about a problem and are focused on something else entirely. Journaling can also help teens explore their inner experience. Two intuition-building journal prompts are, “What do I need to know right now?” and “What is this feeling here to teach me?” With practice, teens can learn how to find validation inside themselves instead of looking for it externally from others.
Teens who know how to tune into their intuition have a powerful internal ally that helps them be confident, stay safe, and make positive, empowered choices. Best of all, parents can relax when they know their kids are navigating with intuitive intelligence towards their own highest good.