Past-Lives and Children Who Remember Them
You find with many children an awareness of the contents of the collective unconscious, a fact which in some Eastern beliefs is interpreted as reminiscence of a former existence.
Recollection of past lives are life-altering experiences, on spiritual, psychophysical, and social-emotional levels. Terms such as “impactful,” “significant,” or “otherworldly” are woefully inadequate to describe such phenomena. This is especially true if past-life recollection happens in childhood. My first past-life memory occurred when I was six years old. It forever changed my life.
Unlike many children who share these memories with parents, I never mentioned my recollection to any family member. I saw no point. I had shared previous other-worldly experiences with my mother. She insisted I was fantasizing, pretending, or lying to get attention. Thus, I kept my experience to myself.
Children typically recollect past lives between two to six years of age. During this developmental stage children are still close to “the other side”, curious, open, unjaded, and unfiltered. Yet, at the same time, they are capable of sharing these experiences verbally, or through art, drama, or song. Around seven years of age, most children tend to lose their memories of early childhood, including initial past life memories.
Unlike most children, my past life memory is indelibly imprinted in my memory.
Childhood past-life memories often impact family dynamics. Children who remember past lives will frequently make comments such as:
“I have another mommy and daddy,” or “I have different parents.”
“When I was big, I … (used to have blue eyes/had a car, etc.).”
“That happened before I was in mommy’s tummy.”
“I have a wife/husband/children.”
“I used to … (drive a truck/live in another town, etc.).”
“I died … (in a car accident/after I fell, etc.).”
“Remember when I … (lived in that other house/was your daddy, etc.).”74
How does a parent react to such remarks? We are aware that our children have vivid imaginations and engage in creative play. Most of us encourage this. Imaginary playmates? No problem—we barely break a sweat. What happens, however, when our child repeatedly insists, “I was a chimney sweep in England. I had a wife and five children. We were very poor. I died after I fell off a roof in 1905.” Do we shake our heads in disbelief? Insist our child is fantasizing or perhaps emotionally unstable?
Most parents are confused—unsure how to react or respond.
As one mother explains:
When Ryan was four, he began directing imaginary movies. Shouts of “Action!” often echoed from his room. But the play became a concern for [us] when he began waking up in the middle of the night screaming and clutching his chest, saying he dreamed his heart exploded when he was in Hollywood. His mother asked his doctor about the episodes. Night terrors, the doctor said. He'll outgrow them. Then one night, [as I] tucked Ryan into bed, Ryan suddenly took hold of [my] hand. “Mama,” he said. “I think I used to be someone else.”
He said he remembered a big white house and a swimming pool. It was in Hollywood, many miles from his Oklahoma home. He said he had three sons, but that he couldn't remember their names. He began to cry, asking [me] over and over why he couldn't remember their names. “I really didn't know what to do,” [I] said. “I was more in shock than anything. He was so insistent about it. After that night, he kept talking about it, kept getting upset about not being able to remember those names. I started researching the Internet about reincarnation. I even got some books from the library on Hollywood, thinking their pictures might help him. I didn't tell anyone for months.” *
Research indicates that most parents of children who recall past lives are often more upset than the child himself. Understandably, they are unsure how to handle their child’s experience.
Dr. Jim B. Tucker is a child psychiatrist and Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. His research focuses on documenting stories of children who report previous lives, natal (in utero), and prenatal memories.
Tucker offers several tips for parents.
He recommends that parents be open to what their children are reporting. Some of the children show a lot of emotional intensity regarding these issues, and parents should be respectful in listening just as they are with other subjects that their children bring up.
When a child talks about a past life, we suggest that parents avoid asking a lot of pointed questions. This could be upsetting to the child and, more importantly from our standpoint, could lead the child to make up answers to the questions.
We do think it is fine to ask general, open-ended questions such as, “Do you remember anything else?” and it is certainly fine to empathize with a child’s statements (“That must have been scary” when, for instance, a child describes a fatal accident).
We encourage parents to write down any statements about a past life that their children make. This is particularly important in cases where the children give enough information so that identifying a deceased individual that they are describing might be possible. In such a situation, having the statements recorded ahead of time would be critical in providing the best evidence that the child actually had experienced memories from a previous life.
At the same time, parents should not become so focused on the statements that they and their children lose sight of the fact that the current life is what is most important now. If children persist in saying they want their old family or old home, it might be helpful to explain that while they may have had another family in a previous life, their current family is the one they have for this life. Parents should acknowledge and value what their children have told them while making clear that the past life is truly in the past.
Hearing a child describe the experience of dying in a painful or difficult way can be hard, but both parent and child can know that the child is safe now in this life. Overall, parents often find children’s claims to remember previous lives more remarkable than do the children, for whom the apparent memories are simply part of their experience of life. Most often, the children then move on from the memories to lead typical childhoods.**
I knew that if I ever spoke about my past life memories with my parents, I would be told, “That’s just your imagination” or “Stop making up things!” Thus, I “stifled” myself, never sharing my recall.
I urge parents in similar situations to simply listen to what their children are saying, and acknowledge their words in a gentle and kind way. Give them the validation they deserve, in a safe and loving environment.