Indigo children and parenting styles

The term “Indigo children” is commonly used to refer to children born in the past 30 years who are considered to be uniquely gifted, especially in a spiritual sense. While the use of the term has gained great momentum in recent years, some in this field claim that the first Indigo children were born in the late 60s and early 70s and that the Flower children of that era are the precursors to the Indigo child of today.

The term was first described by colour therapist, parapsychologist and psychic Nancy Tappe in the late 1960s. Nancy pioneered new ideas and theories linking personality types to colour and energy fields. Through the late 60s, Nancy began to notice a new colour in the aura, or energy field, around some newborns. As time progressed, more and more children seemed to be incarnating with this new aura colour: indigo. Nancy collectively named these children Indigos, thus beginning an enduring philosophy around children and evolution.

What is an Indigo child?

Indigo children are said to have huge resources of compassion and sensitivity, making them more aware of and in tune with the moods and emotions of both people and animals around them than previous generations. While they are said to have higher levels of intelligence, they can be disruptive and generally struggle with authority. Typically, Indigos are highly intuitive, with some said to have psychic powers and vivid recall of past-life experiences.

In conducting an informal poll of friends and acquaintances as part of my research for this piece, I heard from a handful of mums who believed one or more of their children to be Indigo. This was confirmed for them by a variety of alternative practitioners, including astrologers and energy therapists. Many of the mothers who commented began looking into Indigo child research after noticing their children seemed to be more energetically aware, intuitive and curious compared with their peers.

Indigo children and education

While much of the published literature on Indigo children suggests home schooling for the Indigo child, all the women who responded to my informal requests have or had their children in regular schools. Their approach to their Indigo child/ren was to adopt a slightly different parenting style.

In an interview published in The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived, Nancy Ann Tappe suggests the Waldorf style of education is the best fit for Indigo children. Lee Carroll and Jan Tober state, “What can we say about education? In a nutshell, it must change to accommodate the Indigo children.” This suggests some form of alternative education model such as Waldorf or Steiner may better align with the Indigo child mindset.

Indigo children and astrology

I first heard about Indigo children while studying astrology in the late 90s. At that time, we were just starting to see the birth charts of children born under an unusual planetary alignment between Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, which occurred between November 1988 and April 1995. Some of the classic Indigo qualities are linked to the energy of these planets.

For instance, high energy, high focus, advanced intelligence and a short attention span are qualities of innovative Uranus. Exceptional creativity, insight, compassion and intuition are linked to soulful Neptune. The combination of traits linked to both planets was becoming apparent in children born under this rare alignment.

Four types of Indigos

Nancy Ann Tappe describes four strands or types of Indigos — Humanists, Artists, Conceptualists and Catalysts — with Humanists said to be the most common and Catalysts a rare subset of Indigo child. According to her research, just a trickle of Indigo babies were born around 40 years ago; now, almost all children born are Indigos.


The Humanist Indigo child wants to work with large groups of people. They are typically talkative, friendly and sociable. They can be uncomfortable in their physical body and may not be as aware of walls, doors and edges. Easily distracted, their attention is all too quickly caught up by whatever is right in front of them. Concentrating can be a challenge, but their love of reading helps them learn. They are impulsive and at times naïve, so music is an excellent calming tool for these Indigos.


The Artist Indigo is sensitive and generally has a number of creative talents. Interested in learning and the creative process, they’re expected to grow into the teachers and performers of tomorrow. While some Indigo Artists will still end up in the mainstream, their preference is to veer to the creative side of their field of choice. Because they are capable of playing more than one instrument, performing in different mediums or developing skills in a variety of the arts, it pays to give them broad musical and creative choices, especially between the ages of four and 10. As they head into their teens, it’s likely they’ll specialise in one area. Generally born with great raw talent, they need help developing the discipline to perfect it. They can be dramatic, but when the focus is on them, their natural hard-working tendencies emerge.


The Conceptualist Indigo is project-oriented and is said to be tomorrow’s engineers, architects, designers, astronauts, pilots and military officers. Generally athletic in childhood, they can be controlling, especially with the opposite-sex parent. Indigo Conceptualists are prone to drug or other addictive behaviours as teens, so it pays to be wary of unusual behaviour through these years. Typically methodical, they can be loners as they prefer processes to people. Comfortable in their own company, Conceptualists are best nurtured in reasonably structured environments, as they are said to benefit from discipline and routine. They are quite analytical and it can be greatly beneficial to support them in developing healthy or functional obsessions.

Catalysts (sometimes called Interdimensional)

The Catalyst Indigos can be physically large or stocky and often have a know-it-all attitude. Their role is said to be directly about supporting the emergence of new philosophies, paradigms and religions. Possibly because they are way ahead of the mainstream, they are often misunderstood and can appear to be simply waiting for those around them to catch up to their thoughts and philosophies. They can be disruptive in class settings and generally struggle to maintain harmonious relationships with their siblings. The outdoors is soothing for Catalysts, as is any form of physical exercise.

While Nancy has identified these four types, she says, “There are no Indigo blends of all types. In order to determine your type, find those characteristics you exemplify most strongly. There are dual Indigos: Humanist/Artist, Artist/Conceptual etc. But there are no Indigos who have all four types.”

Indigo, Crystal and Rainbow children

In her article, Indigo, Crystal and Rainbow Children, Doreen Virtue refines the term Indigo children into three different kinds of new children , Indigo, Crystal and Rainbow, each having a different age bracket. These three terms are based on the colour of the aura of each generation.

Indigo children

Based on her research, Indigo children are around 10–28 years old and are “highly sensitive and psychic”. (An alternative online reference suggests that children born between 1978 and 1989 are Indigos.) The Indigo colour correlates with the third-eye chakra and is said to bless this generation with exceptional powers of observation and the “ability to see energy, visions and spirits”. They have a warrior spirit and are here to quash old systems.

Their fiery temperament is what Doreen Virtue suggests has led to many Indigo children being misdiagnosed with psychiatric disorders such as ADD and ADHD. In these instances, the resulting medication can interfere with the Indigo child’s ability to remain in touch with their true purpose. Indigo children are sensitive to dishonesty and dysfunction, at home and in their educational environment.

Crystal children

Crystal children are typified by their large and wise-looking eyes. Aged between two and 10, they are considered “lightworkers” and have a happy, forgiving nature, especially in contrast to Indigos. Many Crystal children appear to benefit from the trailblazing nature of the Indigos and have an affinity with crystals and rocks. They are said to be quite telepathic; Doreen Virtue notes that “many Crystal children have delayed speech patterns” (when compared with medical norms), even though parents comment on their ability to maintain non-verbal forms of communication with their child as toddlers.

Rainbow children

Virtue describes the Rainbow children (approximately newborns to three years old), as the children being born to Indigo children now that they have become adults. Having never incarnated on Earth before, these children are fearless and focused on service, according to Doreen. Their giving nature is able to more fully manifest now that the Indigos have cleared the way and the Crystals have helped create new stability. The nature of their rainbow aura indicates their purpose being to “instil within us health and balance”.

Critics and the Indigo Child

Some of the defining criteria of Indigo children – that of high energy, resistance to authority, above average intelligence, concentration problems, hyperactivity (often typified by a preference to be impulsive rather than establish habits), strong intuition or self confidence – are also common traits of children with ADD and ADHD.

To get a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD a registered medical health professional needs to be involved, and once diagnosed treatment (often including medication) can begin. The mainstream medical profession has been quick to dismiss the Indigo child concept as pseudoscience and an easy out for parents of difficult children, especially as the origin of the Indigo child phenomenon traces back to an energy worker and colour therapist.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM IV), one of a handful of widely used manuals for diagnosing mental disorders, considers ADD, ADHD and autism spectrum disorders as Axis 1 disorders. The Axis 1 group includes learning, clinical and major medical disorders. The medical industry clearly defines ADD, ADHD and related disorders as a medical concern which requires treatment.

The medical profession is held to a higher standard than those working within the alternative healing field, and their concern is that parents are opting out of mainstream diagnoses to avoid having their child labelled with a disorder which they fear may bring negative consequences. Russell Barkley, a research professor at State University New York Upstate Medical University, is a renowned ADHD expert who has published numerous articles and books on the subject. He questions the Indigo child phenomenon based on a lack of empirical evidence, stating that Indigo qualities are so general they could apply to most children at some point throughout childhood. Robert Todd Carroll, in his book ‘A Skeptic’s Dictionary’ makes the point that for some parents, the Indigo child label is easier to swallow than that of ADD or ADHD, which implies a medically recognised mental problem for the child, that parents may interpret as an ‘imperfection’.

It’s important to note that even within the medical profession, there are disagreements about how children or adults presenting with ADD or ADHD like symptoms should be treated. As with many problems in life, there is no one way forward. A mainstream medical diagnosis may give you a fuller set of options in terms of treatment and managing symptoms, but for some families it leaves them with a label they have trouble accepting. For other parents, their personal beliefs are such that their preferred health professional is someone under the alternative umbrella, who may not have access to research and scientific information available to those in recognised medical professions.

Finding the right path for your child may involve trial and error through exploring a variety of treatment options, some of which may include medicine and others which may include dietary or lifestyle changes. What’s right for you or your family, may be different from what’s right for another family with a child expressing similar symptoms.

Parenting your Indigo child

Much of the research on Indigo children highlights the importance of mutual respect. Indigo children are said to thrive in an environment in which they are given a say, especially relating to discipline. Your Indigo child will generally respond better to a discussion about actions and consequences, especially where their input about appropriate consequences for their actions is invited, rather than a firm, authoritarian stand.

Indigo children prefer being presented with choices. Let them choose which play opportunity or discipline consequence they feel best fits a given situation. Blanket rules seem to have less impact on Indigo children and many rebel when expected to conform. Ask for their input. Relate situations from your own childhood and enquire as to how they might act in a similar situation.

Indigo children are often intelligent and articulate, and taking the time to talk to them, and really hear what they have to say, can make a big difference. Yes, your Indigo child may have some alternative ideas or unconventional perspectives, but just because they are different doesn’t mean they aren’t valid!

Your Indigo child is growing up in a world vastly different from the one in which you were raised and their new way of approaching life is a reflection of this radically and rapidly changing environment. They are also not afraid to ask “why?” or “why not?” and have no hesitation in questioning established or entrenched routines and regulations, especially regarding education or the environment and within creative fields.

Many Indigos are said to be born with more refined communication skills, helping them fast-track some key stages in development. This means it may sometimes feel like you are talking to an adult in a child’s body. This is exactly how many Indigos say they feel. Always remember, though, while your Indigo may be advanced in some areas, they are still learning other necessary street smarts. Finding a balance between their higher needs for freedom of choice and expression on the one hand and their intrinsic need to be protected on the other can be one of the most difficult aspects of parenting an Indigo child.

Best parenting styles

In her article Parenting an Indigo Child, Virtue suggests adopting a flexible and open mindset. It may be that your Indigo child challenges some of your preconceptions about success and happiness. Kathy McCloskey suggests Indigo children are aware of inconsistencies and are more able to easily see through deception than other children.

Be prepared for your Indigo child to require you to be more consistent and transparent in your role as a parent. Robert Gerard, in his article Disciplining the Indigo Child, notes the vital importance of discipline for the Indigo child and suggests the following tips:


  • Keep the child informed and involved.
  • Prevent potential misunderstandings by offering simple explanations.
  • Don’t react to your child.
  • Avoid issuing orders.
  • Keep your word.
  • Deal with each situation in the moment.
  • Don’t hit or use abusive language.
  • Let your emotion show love.
  • If a reprimand is given, make it a time-out event.
  • Talk the situation over after the reprimand.
  • Afterwards, always join together and ascertain that all is smoothed out.

(Extracted from The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived, by Lee Carroll and Jan Tober)

The influence of a child’s peers

If trying to be the perfect parent for your Indigo child is causing you great angst, it might be worthwhile keeping the research and ideas presented in The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris in mind. It states that peer influence rather than parenting style has a greater effect on a child’s development. Harris suggests that the view that parents have the dominant effect on child development was first postulated by Freud and hasn’t been re-examined since. Harris’s research was detailed and comprehensive enough that her article, The Nurture Assumption, was published in the prestigious Psychological Review in 1995.

Harris suggests that one of the greatest influences parents have on their offspring is via biology. In relation to ADD and ADHD, Russell Barkley’s research seems to indicate similar, with some of his work pointing to genetics as a key factor in ADD and ADHD. According to Harris, parenting style and influence seem to have a big impact on family relationships and experiences within the home, but once the child leaves the home and enters the world outside, it’s their peers that have the greatest impact on shaping personality. Harris suggests that one of the most important things you can do as a parent is to help shape your child’s choices of peers. When parenting Indigo children, helping them create a community of like-minded peers may provide the intrinsic support and acceptance your child needs to help fully access and manifest their unique gifts and abilities.

The Indigo, Crystal and Rainbow children reflect a new stage in the evolutionary process. Our children are our future, and nurturing and supporting them in the ways they are most sensitive to may be the best way we can ensure tomorrow is brighter than today.


Kelly Surtees

Kelly Surtees

With more than 14 years in private practice, Kelly Surtees is experienced, warm and insightful. She loves exploring astrology’s history as well as escaping into the ocean. Kelly’s passion for astrology is infectious, and her specialty areas include career and life direction, health and fertility, love, health and happiness. Kelly is an expat Aussie who lives in Canada most of the year.

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