Preserving the Psychic Child, by Ingo Swann

Reviewed by Athena A. Drewes.

The recently uncovered manuscript of Ingo Swann’s Preserving the Psychic Child offers readers a unique view into the inner experience of a child growing up psychic. This gem offers parental advice on how best to understand their child’s experiences. Ingo’s advice is true now as it was back when he was a child growing up in the 1930’s.

Ingo writes in his introduction how the psychic qualities of an infant or child was not valued by society and his parents. “Nothing in their education had prepared them to understand my basic psychic nature, or deal with a child who became psychically active at a very early age" (p.viii). Ingo’s experiences are still true today for children with psychic gifts. Society and parents often do not know what to do with their child’s psychic abilities or experiences. Luckily today, there are more books available describing psychic children and how to raise them (e.g., Tanous & Donnelly, 2009). Eileen Garrett (2006) gives us a retrospective personal account of the difficulties experienced in dealing with her psychic abilities as she grew up. There is even some parapsychological research on children as well as information on children’s experiences (Drewes, 2002; Drewes & Drucker, 1991; Feather & Schmicker, 2005). And for a period of time there were even several popular television shows that focused on child and adult psychic experiences and abilities (Medium; Paranormal State; Children of the Paranormal) which helped to normalize psychic gifts.

Ingo describes how his telepathic experiences with his mother first began in the womb and subsequently after birth. His experiences are validated in research and anecdotal reports that abound with mother-child telepathic interactions. However, as one can imagine, the road to growing up psychic was rough for Ingo, and upon entering grade school he states that “my psychic abilities had been forced to introvert. These abilities did not reemerge until forty years later" (p. viii) when he began to participate in formal parapsychological experiments. Anecdotal material on children’s psychic experiences, seems to echo that of Ingo’s with psychic experiences going ‘underground’ when children enter school. Perhaps because psychic children get teased, along with negative and even fearful reactions from peers and teachers. Or perhaps developmental energy is put into learning and adjusting to the social world such that psychic abilities take a back seat.

What is intriguing and poignant about Preserving the Psychic Child are the insights that glimmer throughout the book about the painful dichotomy that the psychic child has in “living in two distinct universes; the objective universe of the senses; and the invisible universe of the psychic state" (p.4). Indeed, living with psychic abilities can be a challenge to navigate and to find harmony in balancing the psychic nature along with living in the world with non-psychic peers and developing one’s other abilities. Having had my own psychic experiences since age 10 and throughout life, I often felt that I had to keep my psychic experiences private or shared with only those who could be trusted. For much of my professional career, it was a matter of juggling my professional life as a child psychologist separately and parallel to my career as a parapsychologist and helping children and families understand psychic experiences and abilities. It is only much later in life I have been able to merge the two paths more openly.

Ingo astutely and accurately states “if the child’s environment is dramatically anti-psychic, the emotional strain on the child will be quite severe" (p.42). He further shares how “their psychic giftedness is, as a result, generally neither understood nor appreciated by parents and teachers, and among their peers they are likely to be targets of ridicule and antagonism. When this is the case - as, unfortunately, it often is – the child will almost be forced to introvert, with disastrous consequences, and much despair and despondency" (p.42). And that “the reactions of the parents are of primary importance (p.69)”. This is especially true and important even now when a child wants to share their experiences in seeing ghosts or apparitions with peers and teachers, and then risking being thought ‘crazy’ or needing to be seen by a psychiatrist for therapy or medication. And as is also true today, Ingo fittingly warns that some adults, after recognizing the child’s special gifts “may force its cultivation with the aim of producing a child psychic prodigy (p. 43)” which results in negative consequences for the child. Such parental pressure can even lead to cheating and fabrication of abilities by the child in order to please the adult and cover for abilities that naturally wax or wan throughout the day. Therefore, parents need to be neutral in their responses to their child, neither overly excited nor negative in responding. Openly listening to their comments, observations and experiences in a matter-of-fact manner, showing interest in wanting to hear what their child has to report. Parents need to see the child’s psychic abilities as gifts, much like child prodigy’s musical, artistic, gymnastic, or sports abilities. And parents need to strive to develop other areas of interests and development in their child’s life to offer balance without excessively focusing on this one gifted area. And indeed “no parapsychological or psychic sensitivities the child might demonstrate should be ridiculed or denied. They should be explained as far as possible, in terms the child can understand, within the limits of their attention span" (p. 85).

Ingo closes this small but important book with a valuable gift of guideposts on how to respond to a psychic child (p. 99-101). He bullet-points twenty critical components to follow while raising a psychically gifted child. Among them are to always ask the child what their drawings mean to them and to draw out what their experience is, especially if the child uses gibberish or a personal vocabulary to describe their experience. And, to “be prepared for surprises and be able to share in the child’s joy as the child reaches each new level of understanding" (p. 101).

What I most missed in this compact guide, for understanding and raising a psychic child, were personal anecdotes from Ingo Swann’s life. While there are a few personalized comments and events peppered throughout the book, it lacks the depth it could have been achieved by having his voice retelling his own experiences. Ingo also does not write about any of his personal experiences in being tested as a psychic or his adult life and psychic experiences which could have further enriched this book. But luckily, we can turn to his many other published volumes for these later insights and experiences.

Nonetheless, Preserving the Psychic Child is a compact gem of insight into the world of psychic children and their needs, while assisting parents in understanding and fostering their development. It is a book worthy of inclusion in your library and sharing with others.

Drewes, A. A. (2002). Dr. Louisa Rhine’s Letters Revisited: The Children. Journal of Parapsychology,
4), 343-370.
Drewes, A. A., & Drucker, S. A. (1991). Parapsychological Research with Children. Metuchen, NJ:
   Scarecrow Press.
Feather, S. R., & Schmicker, M. (2005). The Gift: ESP. The Extraordinary Experiences of Ordinary
. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Garrett, E. J. (2006). Adventures in the Supernormal. New York: Parapsychology Foundation. 
   Original work published 1949.
Tanous, A., & Donnelly, K. F. (2009). Is Your Child Psychic? New York: Jeremy P Tarcher. Original
   work published 1979.

Dr. Athena A. Drewes is a Licensed Child Psychologist and Parapsychologist. 
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