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Educators from Carolina Friends School in Durham explore the relationship between health and education.


CAROLINA FRIENDS SCHOOL is an independent Quaker school serving students 3-18. Contact the school at:

4809 Friends School Road
Durham, NC 27705
Telephone: ( 919) 383-6602


Olynda Smith is a member of the Carolina Friends School learning community (where she teaches yoga to Upper School students), a Montessori Early Childhood Educator, an E-500 YA certified yoga teacher for kids and adults, a Simplicity Parenting Family Life Instructor, a writer, a Mom and a huge geek about health, healing, parenting, teaching and writing. Currently she also teaches yoga to preschoolers at the LEAP program and to adults on Sundays at Durham Yoga Co. For her full bio, class listings and blogs, or to connect go to

Nurturing Informed Intuition

By Olynda Smith

If you search Amazon for “Parenting Books,” you get 70,000 results. I am not exaggerating. Try it. 70,000! It is no wonder that parents often feel overwhelmed and pulled in many different directions when they look for parenting advice. Just as there are many approaches to healing and wellness, there are many approaches to parenting. When you get down to it, there are as many approaches to parenting as there are children. So how do you navigate this onslaught of information? Ignore it all, and trust only your own intuition? Read all 70,000 titles? Religiously follow only one style of parenting? My advice is to find a balance between gathering information and trusting your own observations and intuition.

Olynda Smith

I think of this practice as having “informed intuition.” You would never go to a dentist who has no training and ask them to do a root canal just by intuition! And you would likely get sub-par results if you go to someone who is only “following the book” and not using any intuition or observations about your particular case. The best dentists and doctors have a high level of intuition and presence that is helping guide them along with their extensive training.

It is the same way with parenting. Caring for children is a skill. Helping children be at their best and creating a harmonious family life is a huge undertaking. We parents can’t assume to do it all by intuition; we also need information, training, and support. But if we only look to the books and webinars, then we also miss the mark. Our intuition and our kids themselves show us time and time again what is and isn’t working.

Parents are often told “you’ll just know!” and for many of us that often feels untrue. Sometimes our instincts are actually in direct opposition to what will work best. In fact, the experience of not “just knowing” what to do as a parent is so common it has a name: Nurture Shock. Here is the thing about intuition: for most of us it requires practice, and for all of us it needs presence. Also, much of what we think of as intuition is actually deeply informed by information and experience. Without new input and experiences, our instinct often leads us to either try the same techniques used by our own parents or to swing completely in the opposite direction.

Developing Intuition

So how do you develop intuition? I find that practicing yoga is hugely helpful, but it doesn’t have to be yoga. Meditation, quiet walks in the woods, journaling, mindfulness, long hot baths—any practice where you are listening inwardly will do. We all need time for the debris of our mind to settle in order for us to see clearly. Taking time to develop a practice of presence and deep listening will help you see clearly what is going on with your kids, help you find a new way forward, and allow you to enjoy the process of parenting more fully. Make the time, take a class, join a group that can help you explore and deepen your intuition through mindful practices.

As you are more able to be present, you will be more able to feel and know when something is not working for your family or for your child. You’ll be able to trust that inner guidance as you look inwardly for a new way forward. When you are at a loss for what to do, or nothing you are trying is having the desired results, your intuition can help you filter and evaluate the vast world of parenting information. Maybe you’ll find a new perspective that will change how you see the situation. Maybe you’ll find a technique that is new and strange but you feel you’d like to try it. Once you make a change, then the practice is to stay present and keep listening. You’ll know if this new way is allowing your child to thrive and your family life to become more easeful. If it isn’t, you start the cycle over again.

In this way we all write our own “parenting book,” tailored to our own family and children. These booklets are like scrapbooks. They will have some pages taken from other sources, and they will have some that you have created all on your own. They will likely even have some pages handed down from your parents. It is a living document that changes as you and your kids grow.

May this process of using “informed intuition” help you be at your best as you support your kids to be their best. May it help you come back to connection, health, joy, and ease in your relationships with your children again and again.