I Tried Healing Crystals in My Family Home, Here's What Happened

It may sound woo-woo, but I found out that adding rocks and gems to your life is a seductively simple way to ease stress, harness the power of nature, and connect with your kids.

assorted crystals surrounding hand holding healing crystal
Photo: Ted + Chelsea Cavanaugh

It was the first day of preschool, and my 3-year-old daughter was going from a homey day care around the corner to a big-kid school across town. Lucy's lunch was packed, her nap sheets were folded, her adorable blue-and-khaki uniform was pressed, and she was ready to start riding the school bus. Still, I felt that something was missing.

"Here's a tourmaline for bravery," I said, plucking a smooth, shiny black gemstone from our bookshelf and sliding it into Lucy's pocket, aware that handing her a crystal instead of, say, a stuffed animal would firmly label me as a "woo-woo parent" if her teacher saw it.

Or maybe it wouldn't. Crystals—rocks and gems imbued with various spiritual characteristics—have gone mainstream over the past few years, and the wellness trend is now trickling into the parenting space. Even skeptical, rational, sleep-logging parents seem to be intrigued by their potential impact.

"I consider myself to be pretty down-to-earth, but so much about parenting is a mystery," says Melissa Stewart, a mom of two in Centennial, Colorado. "You have no idea how or why kids behave the way they do, so if I think that a rose quartz helps calm our family down, why wouldn't I keep it near the dining-room table to ward off a temper tantrum?"

I feel the same way. During pregnancy and into my daughter's first year of life, I must have read more than 100 books about pregnancy, parenting, and child development. I have joined over 30 Facebook parenting groups. I've set alerts for certain keywords so that I'm always up-to-date on the latest research. But sometimes I'm not actually looking for facts—I'm looking for something that can't be proven.

The force is with you.

Although crystals are really just rocks, many kinds of rocks have powerful properties. One of the best examples is quartz, the mineral used in many watches and timekeeping devices because it maintains a precise frequency standard. When a battery in a watch sends a tiny electric charge to a quartz crystal, the crystal will vibrate 32,768 times a second whether you're underwater, on land, or late to pick up your kid from a playdate.

"Everything on the planet is energy, and different types of crystals have different vibrational frequencies that can be used as tools to help you achieve your goals," explains Heather Askinosie, cofounder of Energy Muse, an online crystal shop, and coauthor of Crystal Muse. Throughout history, civilizations have turned to gemstones to serve as religious symbols, good luck charms, and talismans to ward off evil.

"I tell people that crystals are like music," says Emelie Collet, a certified crystal-therapy practitioner and a mom of four. "The way you feel when you're listening to hip-hop is very different from how you feel when listening to classical music, and that's related to the rhythms and vibrations of each genre. Broadly speaking, crystals act in the same way. You may not be able to see the way they work, but that doesn't mean they're not doing anything."

still life of gold dish containing jewelry glasses and healing crystals
Ted + Chelsea Cavanaugh

But can they be natural cures?

Proponents believe that stones allow positive, healing energy to flow into the body and negative, disease-causing energy to flow out. Certain crystals are thought to have properties that benefit specific parts of the body, and a healer might place various stones on your forehead, chest, or stomach.

There have been few conventional studies done with crystals, but research from Goldsmiths, University of London, suggests the placebo effect could be at work. The study participants completed a questionnaire to assess their level of belief in the paranormal; then they were asked to meditate while holding either a real quartz crystal or a fake one that they thought was real. Both groups reported feeling warmth in their hands and overall well-being, and those who had a higher belief in the paranormal said they felt more intense sensations, regardless of whether they were holding the real or fake quartz. In other words, it seemed to be the power of suggestion ("This crystal has powers") and not the actual crystal that had an impact.

However, that doesn't mean those feelings weren't real. "The placebo effect is not insignificant," says Parents advisor Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, in Waltham, Massachusetts. "Thousands of studies have shown the beneficial impact of the placebo effect when compared to active pharmaceutical agents. And research has shown that patients can improve even when they know they're taking a placebo."

While crystals may act as a protective buffer for you and your kids, they're no replacement for the pediatrician, adds Dr. Domar. Keep in mind, too, that small crystals are choking hazards, and healing jewelry, like amber necklaces and bracelets designed to help teething pain in infants, can pose a strangulation risk to babies and children.

Collet, who practices crystal healing, agrees that it shouldn't stand in the way of a pediatrician's advice or regular medical care—and that supervising young kids with small or fragile crystals is essential. But she understands why other parents are turning to the natural approach for themselves and their children. "Although we're connected to other people and machines all the time, we've lost ways to connect to the earth. Crystals can be a means to reconnect with that vital part of ourselves."

Use mineral magic in your parenting.

Crystals can help you discuss emotions and have deeper conversations with your kids. For example, if you have a bowl of crystals at home, you could ask your child to choose one and talk about its shape or what it reminds him of. If he chooses a purple amethyst because it looks like a lollipop, you could ask him how lollipops make him feel and then have a discussion about happiness, or why today seemed like an amethyst day. (Just don't let him eat it!)

Crystals can also help young kids tap into their own agency. "Crystals are tools," says Askinosie. "They won't grant your wishes, but they can connect you to your power and help you make your dreams a reality." Let's say your child is skittish about heading into ballet class. Giving her a blue lace agate to hold in the car and then reminding her what a brave and strong girl she is can become a grounding ritual between the two of you. You could pass a rose quartz, which is known to amplify love, around the dinner table so everyone gets a turn to talk about the best part of their day, or use crystals as part of pretend play. (At my house, a tigereye has captured Lucy's imagination as the stone that turns her into a mermaid.) And, of course, since they're from the earth, crystals are a great intro into discussing the natural world and encouraging kids to look for stones or "crystals" they love in their own backyard.

At the end of the day, I know that the crystal collection my daughter and I have gathered is a little woo-woo. But it's not as if crystal healing is overtaking toothbrushing or book reading in our daily to-dos. I love how crystals have become a powerful shorthand for Lucy and me to communicate about emotions. I also want her to look beyond the crystals for the big lesson: You're never too old or too busy for just a little bit of magic.

This article originally appeared in Parents Magazine's November 2019 issue as 'Keep Calm and Crystal On.'

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