18 Aug 2023
Psychedelics and Parenting:
Finding Connection in a Disconnected World
Psychedelics and Parenting: Finding Connection in a Disconnected World
By Rebecca Kronman, L.C.S.W, and Ashleigh Young, Psy.D
MAPS Bulletin: Volume XXXIII Number 2 • 2023
Anywhere parents gather the same polite conversations recur: managing screen time, updates on summer break plans, and the latest classroom viral outbreak. These topics create fleeting moments of connection through shared experiences. Beneath the surface, many parents hunger for deeper connections.
Becoming a parent is an opportunity to cultivate many kinds of connections. While providing care and developing emotional bonds with children, parents tend to relationships with themselves, partners, family, and the community. History, culture, and systems all influence these widening circles of relationships. Modern parents face a multitude of realities that jeopardize connection such as pandemic isolation, screen addiction, political polarization, the continued legacy of racial injustice, insufficient or absent family leave policies, and the global existential crisis of climate change. To facilitate connections and navigate these challenges, a growing number are finding support by working with psychedelics and plant medicine.
We have been privy to eye-opening, stigma-reducing conversations among these parents as organizers of Plant Parenthood, a community that focuses on the intersection between psychedelics and family. Our aim is to destigmatize this topic by offering education as well as opportunities for connection and support with our recurring integration circles. Parents share ways in which psychedelic experiences have dramatically and positively changed their relationships with their children and partners. They wrestle with whether to disclose their use to their children and wonder when to bring up the topic of drugs. They agonize over the lack of adequate treatment options in Western medicine, pondering whether to step outside the allopathic system altogether and support psychedelic experiences for their children.
We provide a safe space for parents to share in the delights, challenges, and questions inherent in parenting and psychedelics. We believe these conversations can lead to safer, more fulfilling psychedelic experiences. We will share our perspective on aspects of connection within the intra-psychic, familial, and community realms while considering the ways in which these layers interconnect with each other and with the broader social systems in which they exist.
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It Begins in the Mind
Parents often find our community after their own psychedelic experience, where they may seek to heal from familial and intergenerational traumas. Gaining a fresh perspective on old wounds can foster a more generous and kind internal narrative; a reparenting of sorts. In the wake of this healing, they may find their approach to parenting shifts and becomes more compassionate, mirroring a more loving inner voice. This shift can facilitate deeper bonds with children, as well as healing for the inner child. In this way, psychedelic experiences can foster a symbiotic relationship between parent and child. The positive effects of this shift have the potential to carry forward generationally, perhaps transforming an ancestral lineage of trauma.
It Expands in the Family
While psychedelic experiences can have a positive effect on individual and family relationships, they may also inspire questions and concerns. Parents in our community often ask when and how to discuss psychedelics with children. We recommend weaving in conversations about substance use as early as possible as a natural part of family life and as an opportunity to reflect a values system. According to Rhana Hashemi, founder of Know Drugs, it is better to have sixty one-minute conversations than one sixty-minute conversation on the topic of substance use. While the content of these conversations will vary based on a child’s developmental stage, we view the process as an opportunity for connection.
For older children who may already be experimenting with substances in their peer group, establishing a safe connection lays the groundwork for open dialogue. Hashemi recommends respecting teens’ perspectives on the topic of substance use while working together to create clear and sensible boundaries. In our conversation with Dr. Julie Holland, she relayed a conversation with her children in which she explicitly stated, “no white powders” due to their higher chance of adulteration.
Within the Western paradigm, there is a strong stigma against the concept of children using psychedelics. There is a dearth of research to inform decision-making, which can lead parents to seek wisdom from indigenous cultures whose traditions include psychedelic experiences within childhood and family life.
Some parents are curious about introducing their children to psychedelics to help heal from trauma, address the challenges of neurodivergence, or navigate health concerns. Some are interested in engaging in a family psychedelic trip. When parents share these ideas we often invite more questions: What are the potential risks and benefits? What supports, or lack thereof, might one consider in the preparation, experience, and ongoing integration of the trip? In our conversation with Dr. Monnica Williams and her daughter Zoe, they discussed some of the challenges of seeing each other in an altered state. Zoe described the difficulty of seeing her mother in distress, and how they had to be separated briefly. When they came back together, they had a beautiful experience. Conversations preparing for these challenges are specific elements of preparation for parent-child psychedelic experiences.
Within the Western paradigm, there is a strong stigma against the concept of children using psychedelics. There is a dearth of research to inform decision-making, which can lead parents to seek wisdom from indigenous cultures whose traditions include psychedelic experiences within childhood and family life. We believe this must be considered with abundant care and caution, as decontextualized plant medicine wisdom may be appropriative and harmful. When we borrow from other cultures we risk taking parts of sacred traditions without consent or reciprocity, adding to a legacy of colonial harm. We also bring elements of traditional wisdom into a context that likely does not include systems of community support inherent in these traditions.
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It Blossoms in Community
In the United States, most parents exist within a cultural context that isn’t informed about psychedelic healing and also stigmatizes it. Therefore many parents access these modalities underground or in secret. The legacy of the failed War on Drugs carries on in the stigma associated with substance use, and parents – particularly those whose actions are over policed or monitored disproportionately by the education system, healthcare system, or child welfare system due to their skin color or socioeconomic status – may feel especially cautious about accessing and disclosing experiences.
As the psychedelic movement expands, we hope to be a part of the collaborations and connections that will further the movement and make it safer, more accessible, and more inclusive.
Meanwhile, a gradual shift toward acceptance and normalization of psychedelics is beginning as the movement expands and gains more attention. As research grows to support psychedelic-assisted healing and states consider legislation to support the legal use of psilocybin, psychedelics are receiving growing attention. Alongside this growth is a growing need for connection to systems that support equitable access to psychedelic-assisted healing, as well as support in preparation and integration. We believe these connections must be based both in a shared interest in these healing modalities as well as shared life experience.
Plant Parenthood is a start, but our group has shortcomings. We exist mainly in a virtual space, where connecting can be challenging. Since our groups are open, we can’t offer the continuity of community needed to strengthen bonds. We also operate within the current legal structures that govern substance use, so all activities are conversational only (not experiential). We have witnessed the need for spaces where families can gather for safe, supportive experiences and a non-appropriative structure to create meaningful ceremonies. We have also seen the need for even more niche communities, such as BIPOC parents who use psychedelics, to facilitate even safer spaces. As the psychedelic movement expands, we hope to be a part of the collaborations and connections that will further the movement and make it safer, more accessible, and more inclusive.
Rebecca Kronman, L.C.S.W
Rebecca Kronman, LCSW is a Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy practitioner and founder of Plant Parenthood, a community exploring the intersection of psychedelics and family. She is a trainer with Fluence, teaching harm reduction informed psychedelic preparation and integration. She serves on the board of the Psychedelic Medicine Association and works with new ketamine clinicians at Journey Clinical, a virtual ketamine prescriber. At her private practice in Brooklyn, she works with clients using mindfulness, experiential techniques and ketamine assisted psychotherapy to address depression, anxiety and life transitions. She also helps clients prepare for psychedelic experiences, incorporate insights or cope with challenges post-experience. Her work has been featured in GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, NBC News, Double Blind, Chacruna, Romper, and The Psychedelic Medicine Podcast. Outside of work, she is a mother of two boys ages 6 and 9.
Ashleigh Young, Psy.D
Ashleigh Young has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Indiana State University. She works in private practice in Portland, Oregon, and co-facilitates Plant Parenthood integration circles in partnership with the Portland Psychedelic Society. Dr. Young completed the Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies and Research at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in 2023. She is a mother to two children ages 5 and 2, and has a special interest in the role of psychedelic experiences as support for the transition to motherhood. She created the Nourished Consciousness Project to explore the intersection between psychedelics and the concept of ‘Mother.’ For more information see: https://www.nourishedconsciousness.com