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Psychedelic Parenting Is About More than Just Drugs

Psychedelic experiences can bring us closer to our children.
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One night, after an especially challenging ayahuasca experience, I came home to find my then-toddler girls having difficulty falling asleep.

I was exhausted, but they were crying inconsolably. I got out my phone and started the playlist from the sacred medicine ceremony. I held my youngest daughter in my arms, dancing and singing the songs to which I'd lost and found myself, while my eldest looked lovingly into my eyes. There was a sense that this moment with my daughters was a continuation of the ceremony. In that moment, I found I could be completely present for them.

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I realized then that this was the highest value the medicine held for me. It is the reason why I continue to use it, and advocate for its place in family life.

We are at least three generations deep into the modern psychedelic era. Dr. Albert Hoffman'sfirst bioassay with d-lysergic acid amide took place on April 19, 1943, 72 years ago. Timothy Leary began his explorations of the inner world with his trip to Cuernavaca and his encounter with mushrooms more than 50 years ago in 1960.

The majority of psychedelic history rusts under prohibition, however, making it impossible to have a rational, informed discussion about how these medicines can benefit our families.

The idea that psychedelics could play a part in good parenting may seem radical. Our schools are declared "drug free zones," after all. And yet our classrooms are rife with psychotropic prescription medications. Antidepressants and ADHD drugs are seemingly dispensed like vitamins. These substances may be more socially acceptable than LSD or mushrooms, but they fail to address the underlying psychological and sociological issues at the root of childhood and family dysfunctions rampant in American society.

Psychedelics, on the other hand, are showing amazing promise in overcoming addiction, treating PTSD, and healing relationships. Rather than numbing our children's deepest emotions, we could be experiencing our own, and theirs, more fully. This is the inquiry that led me to the concept of psychedelic parenting.

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To be clear, I'm not advocating for the dosing of young children. No one should be given psychedelics against their will, a child below the age of consent, especially. However, as a father of a five-year-old, a six-year-old, and a nine-year-old who has benefitted deeply from a long relationship with plant teachers, I felt compelled to share the stories of my deepening relationship with my children.

I also began reaching out to others in the psychedelic community. Many held in common a commitment to being honest with their kids about their own experiences, and a conviction that by working with these substances, they were more open to their own emotions, truer to themselves, and more capable of providing caring, supportive environments for children.

Psychedelics encourage spirituality, mindful living, curiosity, honesty, and self-expression. What parent would not want to nurture these qualities in their children?

The word "psychedelic" was coined by psychologist Humphry Osmand to mean "mind manifesting." Depending on one's translation of "psyche," it could also mean "that which makes the soul visible." When we, as parents, direct our lives and behaviors toward this work of "making our souls more visible" through the psychedelic experience, we have an opportunity to create more supportive environments for our children's formative years. We know ourselves more fully because we have faced our shadows and bathed in bliss.

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Again, psychedelic parenting is not about giving psychedelics to children before they are mature. Rather, it is about bringing the lessons learned from our own mystical experiences back to our everyday lives, and using them to provide a nurturing, magical home for our children. Psychedelics encourage spirituality, mindful living, curiosity, honesty, and self-expression. What parent would not want to nurture these qualities in their children?

When Katherine MacLean worked with patients under the influence of psilocybin as part of her research at Johns Hopkins, she saw how otherwise healthy individuals were powerfully impacted by experiences they had as infants. For example, many still felt a profound fear left over from when their parents left them to "cry it out."

These insights led her to believe that it's better to "over-love" a child than to try to teach them independence by withholding love.

"I feel that every experience I've had personally and supporting others with psychedelics prepared me for motherhood," she told me in a conversation recorded for my podcast.

Psychedelic parenting is the work of integrating and embracing our own mystical experiences, to create healthier, happier families. It is in this work that we have the greatest chance, I believe, of catalyzing the dramatic cultural changes needed to transform our culture of consumption and materialism into something new; based on healing, honesty, and love.

And if the kid wants to take mushrooms in high school? At least they'll know how to identify the good ones, and who to come to if things get weird.

Lit Up is a series about heightening—and dulling—our sense of perception. Follow along here.