Updated: Sep 23, 2019
“Remember when I had another mommy and daddy?”
“Remember before I was in mommy’s tummy?”
“I remember when I died … (in a car accident/after I fell, etc.)”
"Our son is named after a Marine that was killed in action on my husband's last deployment. One day when he was three, we drove by the military base where his namesake is buried and our son said, 'I'm buried over there in the ground. You know, from when I died fighting bad guys with Daddy. Before I was your kid. Remember?"
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? Perhaps emotionally unstable? Research shows that in nearly all cases, such children are non-pathological and exhibit peer-appropriate behavior. In other words, they are normal.
Yet, how does a parent handle such remarks? Most are confused-unsure how to react or respond. Several strategies have proven helpful.
First and foremost, be open! Listen to your child in a respectful manner. Treat the conversation as if it was an everyday, “normal” discussion. Ask open-ended questions such as, “What else do you remember?” which encourages further dialogue. Avoid asking pointed questions, which tend to upset children.
Do not invalidate your child’s recall. Unfortunately, I personally know how crucial validation is to a child’s emotional well-being. I had a particularly traumatic past-life memory when I was six. Instead of receiving parental support, I acquired a nickname-“Sarah Bernhardt.” Bernhardt was a French stage actress active in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. She was known for her over-the-top, exaggerated onstage gesturing, and highly theatrical lifestyle. I was deeply hurt by my family’s inability or unwillingness to take me seriously. In their view, I fantasized and lacked the ability to live in the ‘real world.’
Show compassion. If a child recalls a traumatic past life (especially if he is referring to his own death in that life), give an empathetic response. For example, “That must have been scary.” It may be extremely difficult to hear one’s child describing a painful experience, however, it is important to remain calm and supportive.
Write down statements/facts your child makes about a previous life. If he gives enough concrete information, it may be possible to verify this past life.
Reassure your child that although he may have had another family in a past life, his current family is both the one he has now and the most important. Make sure he knows the “past is really the past,” and that he is safe in the here and now.
Parents may be comforted to know that the vast majority of these children stop talking about a previous life by the time they are 5–7 years old. This is the age at which children become involved with school-becoming more focused on the here and now. As children age, many do not remember having discussed a past life.
I however, was not one of these children. My early childhood past-life memories remain as vivid today as they did decades ago. However, due to a lack of parental validation, I spent many years struggling to integrate and process my memories. Thus, I personally understand how vital it is to really hear your child’s story with an open and compassionate heart.