Everyone knows that love and clarity are the most important elements in parenting.

Advaita Post, Volume 9, Number 18

Advaita Post 9, 18


An interview with Douwe Tiemersma by Pia de Blok


With a newly born child the slate is clean. The child is completely open and relaxed. How can you, as a parent, let the child keep that state from the beginning while simultaneously teach him to make a spot for himself in the world?
With this question you are talking about parents who think “I must educate that child.”  You can talk about it on a practical level. How it goes with the child depends very much on the situation of the parents. The child’s state is wide open and that’s clear to the parents. They see the child, and find it beautiful, because it’s totally open. That’s attractive. On the other hand, there’s also a growing life that needs to find a place for itself in society. When the parents see both aspects, then a place for both can be found. First of all, they must recognize the openness of the child within themselves. Then they discover that a total openness can exist, while the social processes and relationships still continue in a good way. When they don’t recognize that openness in themselves, then they educate the child with an emphasis on adaptation to society. The recognition of the openness doesn’t need to be limited just to the period of the young child.  It’s really about the parents becoming conscious of themselves.

Children today are very busy. In kindergarten there are already signs of stress. How can we insure that they remain grounded in stillness in this busy world where children are so stressed and have to try to do everything?
It’s best when the parents have recognized the realm of silence within themselves and then that is clearly experienced at home. A child grows up within that there. From that sphere, the insight can grow that it’s not necessary to run after so many things. To remain yourSelf in an atmosphere of silence: that’s what a child experiences and appreciates.


According to recent surveys 68% of the young people between ages ten and fourteen years experience stress. (source http://www.kidsweek.nl).
You shake your head when you see such a situation and ask yourself how it could be altered. You see the kind of suffering that it is and you hope that gradually more people can see what causes it. You can’t point to just one factor as a cause, because there are many different social factors, such as the pressure and the stress of the parents. That has always been a factor, but now the stress is almost epidemic.

Nowadays there are too many possibilities and therefore many young people don’t do anything anymore. For example, they drop out of school. In Rotterdam in 2008 a thousand young people lived on the street. What precisely is the core cause of all these problems in young people at this time?
The assumed forms of living together and of shaping life are much less prevalent now than previously. Before, it was simply natural that the son of the carpenter would become a carpenter. This natural process isn’t there anymore. Still you can show the child a certain naturalness, for example you live and have vitality in doing something, so it’s obvious that you are going to do things and if you don’t, then there’s something wrong.

As a youth, you are looking for happiness and all possibilities stand wide open, so you think “everything’s possible”, but still you are missing the realism of the adult.  So, you try everything out. Did you do that too?
Sure. That’s what all young people do. That’s certainly not bad, except when things continue and get stuck, such as smoking, drug use and alcohol. Then a new habit is formed which creates unnecessary limitations. Then it’s no longer about experimentation, but about continuing, so that it becomes the normal state of living. Then young people can get stuck there.

According to psychological insight the behavior of teenagers has to do with the brain. 
When you look from a particulat point of view, you will find certain phenomena. So from a neurological viewpoint you can say that what happens in the brain has a great influence. You can make a connection to the changes in behavior. But, of course, you can look everywhere: to the behavior, to the brain, to the experience, and to the energetic sphere in which teenagers live.  You can connect those features with one another, but you shouldn’t select just one out as the cause of everything. You could say that for each one of the other factors.

In Delft some eleven year olds were recently brought into a clinic in a coma with delirium. Where does the responsibility lie for the parents in a situation like that?
Yes, that’s very severe, they drink themselves senseless. The responsibility of the parents decreases from sixteen years on, but with a twelve-year-old you say: “Stop”.  And you enforce that. The point is that you must protect your children from situations that are dangerous for them.

Young people also expect us to say “that’s not good.”
Yes of course, that’s normal.

But sometimes you see that parents want to stay friends with their child.
When that’s too strong, then it’s an error. The relationship of parent to child is not that of friends. You can deal with them amicably. But because of the generation gap and the role that parents have in relation to the child it’s a very different relationship than that of friendship.

Letting go of the ‘I’-concentration

What do you say about children who are treated like adults?
That’s not right because they don’t have the overview that an adult has.

Actually, how did this idea occur?
In the 70’s any authority was rejected and in response you got the anti-authoritarian parenting where children were left completely alone. It was a correction to a too rigid patriarchal authoritarian situation. That there was a correction is good. But if all regulation is thrown away, then you see that children don’t have guidance any more. Indeed, they do need it. That guidance doesn’t mean absolute rules, but above all, a normal state of affairs in the home. That brings peace. That calm can be a good basis for openness.

Young children experience that everything is interconnected, that inexpressible in which everything proceeds by itself and is good. They lose that when they hit puberty. Is that ‘loss’ of the inexpressible the reason for the frequent occurrence of anxiety and loneliness in puberty?
That loss of the unity of experience goes along with the formation of a separate ‘I’-person. In puberty wide horizons open, even though the ‘I’ is frequently unstable. That ‘I’ is very worried about itself and is uncertain about the choice of adjusting to others or whether to go its own way. That great space is frequently  perceived as a ‘nothing’ that comes upon you and makes the world seem futile and the self-being meaningless. That creates loneliness, uncertainty and anxiety.

What do you think of the many antidepressants that are prescribed for young people?
This is an attempt on the level of brain chemistry to tackle depression. To some extent the depression may become less severe. There are many aspects to depression: brain, behavior, experience. You can see if some sort of medication to the brain can help, but that seems effective only up to a certain extent and also, it’s temporary.

How do you take care of a depressed child? 
An increase in insight is an important factor, that he can become a little more aware of himself. “I can stay with this restriction or I can widen my perspective.” That last suggestion is something which brings light to a different side of things than that of the depression. Small exercises which gently relax, may also help. The only definitive solution is a release of the ‘I’-concentration. Parents who themselves have released their own ‘I’-centrality can be helpful.

I recently heard a young man say to his mother: “I never got designer clothes from you, and because of that I was excluded at school and I’ll carry that with me for the rest of my life.”
No rule is absolutely important or true. Clothes are imposed by the age group and marketing. You can let them see that you don’t have to agree on everything. When there are other considerations, such as being excluded, then you can be lenient temporarily. You see that there are greater interests at play, such as being included in a group. That can remain in the foreground for a limited period of time. By discussing this openly the child will later be able to react to alternatives flexibly from a stable self-being.

Insight, openness and love

They call the youth now the MSN generation. They watch TV on an average of four hours a day, following three different soaps. They sit for hours behind the computer and listen to music simultaneously. They surf and zap, and “you can do it all at the same time.”  Many parents have a problem with that. How far should you interfere?
As a parent, hopefully you have a broader insight. When you have a clear understanding into yourself, into the children and the forces behind the phenomena that you’ve spoken of, then the insight will work itself through in what you say and do. It will be adapted to the situation. Primarily there is the overall situation of yourself. Is there understanding, openness and love? And do you have a perspective into what is happening with your children?

Should you ban?
On the one hand you’ll weigh your own perspective and on the other you’ll take the situation of the children into account.

Parenting is adaptation?
Yes, there is adaptation to the child, but your include own insight, too. With understanding and love everything goes by itself in the best, correct way. Then there is a natural adaptation to the situation.
It’s inevitable that with the growth of a young child an ‘I’- person is created through its small scope of consciousness. There is an incarnation of self-being and it runs through the web of the physical body in the world. Through the hardness of the world an individual consciousness is created which can then become aware of its original nature. That is the positive point of incarnation. The parents can assist by not making the limited individuality too hard, by not pinning an identity too firmly onto the child, so that becoming aware has a greater chance. That’s the kind of adaptation that we’re talking about here.

The importance of giving lessons in relaxation in schools has been generally proven.  How can you get schools to include it as a respected activity like sports?
There is so much stress, even in school with examinations and tests, and the unrest that teachers complain about, that it should be a sufficient reason for including relaxation and insight into the curriculum. Also separately from that, the recognition of the value of a relaxed and clear atmosphere should be sufficient reason unto itself.

In practical terms, there is a need for informing parents who want to approach things in a non-dualistic way.
The situation of the parents themselves is critical to the nature of the upbringing. The more the parents are present in an atmosphere of non-duality, the better. So everything that contributes to that is positive. They do well to always look to themselves to see if their mood is the most ideal for the children.

You have children, but you haven’t studied parenting. Even if you are completely open, you still have to deal with it all.
The more spacious and aware it is with the parents, the better it is overall. Of course you can’t expect that of the majority of parents. That’s also how it went with me. You’re at a certain level of development and there is your own pressure at work and then you still have family. But the more that you’ve found yourself, the more open you are, the better it is. It would be good if more attention was given to this fact.

Vital basis

Many children live in the virtual world of the internet. Some become addicted to it and have no real friends anymore. They live in a virtual world as though it is the real one.
When they live in the virtual world, they are separated from their primary vitality to a large extent. For a child it’s normal to move, to be playing soccer with others, to scream and to run. That belongs to a child. Now they sit before a computer where physical vitality has no place, except in the virtual world, while they are still sitting on a chair. Then there are fears and the tension of the “I want to achieve that; I want to reach the next level.”  There is no relationship with the primary life, because it’s a very artificial world that exists only in the head. Physical movements are minimal, which at this point should form the very basis of a normal life. When that vital basis isn’t reinforced, it’s understandable that the life is disturbed.

Our youngest son said recently: “Freedom also exists in limitation. When I constantly stay hanging  out in front of the TV, you say again and again: “Go out and play with a friend.”  I’ve learned a tremendous amount from you. So I have learned partly to be with people but also to be alone, to amuse myself and to take the initiative.”
If a child just hangs out and then he is sent outside, he feels constrained by the command of the parents. Nevertheless, it offers him a greater freedom. You definitely shouldn’t see it on the same level. There is a restriction somewhere in relation to a certain behavior and there is also the desire to do everything without limitation. But that desire remains at the level where there is a major limitation, namely the level of staying stuck and having no meaning. That is a situation of limited vitality and understanding for the child.  That the child is addressed at that level by saying “You go out” is good, because the parent looks to a greater freedom. There are always limitations. So use restrictions that lead to greater freedom. Then the restriction that occurs to the child is a pathway towards freedom. From the higher level, ”You go out” isn’t a limitation. It’s the normal state of affairs for a child to spread its wings. If that doesn’t happen, then major limitations remain.

It was quite difficult to do then, but intuitively I knew that it was for the best. I said that I loved him, but that that’s how it must be. Actually, as a parent you know what’s best.
It always comes down to that. The return to your own knowledge of the situation. That’s also the good sphere of loving openness. Love and clarity are the most important elements in parenting.

Do you have a concrete example from your own upbringing?
That you, even if it’s retrospective, know that your parents love you. This is such an important element in life. It brings peace to the child. When you talk about a good nest, than that is what you mean. That a child experiences “my parents love me.” It is an excellent basis for the child later to relax without limits.

As a parent, should you then above all be yourSelf, preceding all those learned concepts. Is that the punch line of the whole story?
Yes, awareness and loving openness.

Should we at this time care for children any differently?
No, because it’s about the main things that have always existed and so everyone already knows: Clarity, Openness, Love. And that will always remain so.


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