Image Source: The Maverick Life.
There's a long-standing assumption that children are more psychic than adults. This talent apparently extends to their (happy) belief in elves, fairies and Santa Claus and their (unhappy) ability to see dead people. There are loads of sites and chat on the Web devoted to this topic; for just a few examples, go here, here, here, here, here, here and here. You would think that children seeing ghosts would give rise to an unexpected corner from which sceptics would arise, namely, parents and the people who advise them.
However, the belief that children have imaginary friends, see strange things and have vivid imaginations is pretty much tolerated across the board. Psychics see these cases as instances of a child's heightened abilities, and mostly celebrate and encourage them. Staunch atheists seem to take a live and let live attitude about their children's belief in the spiritual world; this may seem surprising, but as hard core rationalists, their conviction remains that a child will figure out these issues, including ghosts, for him- or herself. They basically advocate using the Socratic method with children on all matters related to death and the afterlife. If there is scepticism from parents and the people who give advice on good parenting, it may weirdly arise from those who are very religious (as here).
But most people who advise parents tell them not to deny the child's belief in ghosts because it will damage the child's self-esteem. Ghosts, despite their dark glamour, are quickly sidelined in favour of a bigger priorities. The main concern becomes the parents' relationship with the child as it relates to the development of the child's independent personality; advice doesn't directly address whether or not the ghosts exist and the child is actually seeing them. In other words, the focus is on the growth of the child's healthy subjectivity and consciousness. But, except for staunch Christians, no one seems to care much if those lines are drawn in the child's personality in response to ghosts (whatever they may or may not be). The question of what ghosts are is relegated to the parents' degree of mature belief. In short, people who advise parents tend to tell them to withhold their own beliefs in these instances and allow the child some room to draw the line between reality and imagination.
From Bright Hub:
Always consult with a family doctor or pediatrician first and foremost. There are many sleep disorders that can cause hallucinations as well as night terrors. But if an object moves in mid air or things start to manifest that are in the shape of people you all happen to see, I don’t think your doctor will do much but give you 30 days at the happy farm with a “Thorazine drip.”
From Raising Small Souls, an article on the main book on the subject, Kids Who See Ghosts by Caron B. Goode (Um, is that her real name? A reviewer of this book commented acerbically: "Recommended for large collections with dedicated paranormal or parapsychology readerships."):Always talk to your children about fantasy and reality especially if you are watching, reading or playing about something that is not real. The more they understand about the difference the more you are to believe them when they tell you something that is out of the ordinary.
The Foundation for Research and Exploration of Mind Motivation:When a child sees a ghost, he or she turns to mom or dad for support, problem solving, or a fix to the situation. How a parent responds will influence the child for the rest of his or her life. Yes, that is true for all life events, but how a parent handles kids seeing ghosts is especially critical because a child’s integrity is in question, and the parent’s integrity may be questioned by the child. Both parent and child deserve respect, not brush-offs.
Many parents wonder whether or not their child is imagining the ghost, implying the ghost must not be real. And many parents ask if they “have to” or are “supposed to” believe in ghosts for the sake of their child.
The answers are not black or white because every parent’s culture, values, religions, views about spiritual life, and thinking styles influence those answers. For a one-time ghost event, it probably is not necessary that parents believe in ghosts. However, when the child has imaginary friends and continues to communicate with these friends in puberty and into the teen years, then a parent and child need to make discussion time about realities, worldviews, agreements and disagreements.
The four steps of responses to kids seeing ghosts follow…
1. Listen to their stories.
2. Don’t dismiss them or put them down.
3. Ask questions.
4.Observe how the child interacts with the ghost, and understand any stressful life circumstances that might be influencing the child’s perceptions.
When parents have the information they need, they feel more confident in helping a child overcome fear and put any event into perspective. Those four steps help the child stay connected to the parent’s heart and allow him or her the time and opportunity for further exploration and understanding. Don’t think that you can shield children from fear or feel that you have to take care of all their fears. Kids learn resilience just like parents learned it by gaining life experience with confidence in knowing mom or dad support them.
The minimum attitude a parent could offer for a child who sees ghosts would be one of possibility: “Maybe you do see something.” The moderate attitude would be, “Let’s explore and learn together.”
Perception 9, a paranormal site, advises parents as follows:When children say they see spirits, they do. To deny that they do is to guarantee the child will suffer from insecurities and self-doubt. It’s much better to acknowledge to the child that spirits are often seen by children. Ask if the spirit(s) is an adult or a child, a male or female. Then add, if you want: "Many people, like myself, have been taught how not to see spirits." Or: "Many people, like myself, have forgotten how to see spirits." If you want your child to continue being able to see spirits, say this instead: "It’s great you can see spirits. Of course, you have to tell them to obey your personal rules and house rules, just like people who aren’t spirits do." When A Child Sees Frightening Spirits Say: "This (man, woman, child) you see does not belong here even if (he/she) thinks otherwise. Maybe he/she is frightened and doesn’t know any place better to go. Or maybe he/she likes to frighten children. Either way, I’m going to send this one on his/her way by pointing out where he/she can go to get what he/she wants and needs." You can offer your child to help you do this, or to sit with you while you do it, or you can tell your child you will take care of it and explain how you did it when he/she (your child) is older.
From Dawn Colclasure at Shadowlands:Note: This taboo is passed from generation to generation - the parent's parents instilled it in them, only for it to be passed on to their offspring ... We are not claiming that you, as a parent, should agree that ghosts exist; that is a matter of personal belief - but what we are asking is that dealing with those questions from the next generation is done objectively, not dismissively. Although we are a website that is based on the paranormal / supernatural, we would far rather a child is reassured that a particular imagined ghost did not exist but that the subject is not closed forever in the child's mind. Allowing children to continue to seek reassurance and speak openly on paranormal / supernatural subjects would not suddenly make the world full of ghosts but would allow the child - adolescent - adult - future parent to reach their own conclusions, objectively and in an open and positive way.
The 'presence' might be solely in the child's mind. The idea could have come into their mind for a host of reasons. It might be 'imagination' but it is very real to the child. To all intents and purposes it is as real to the child as if there is a 'presence' there in reality. So perhaps it is best to approach the situation as if there IS a ghost present.
Just dismissing what a child says is so easy to do but the repercussions can be very difficult to undo. Whether you, as a parent, believe that ghosts do or don't exist is not initially important and shouldn't influence how you respond - because the child believes that ghosts and spirits really exist. If you don't believe in ghosts, simply asserting that view can be damaging, as the child is torn between believing you and what it is experiencing as real.
Parents everywhere often hear this from their children: “I saw a ghost.” For the parent unaware of exactly how to handle such a delicate situation, the following do’s and don’ts might come in handy.
DO ask the child to explain what he is seeing/hearing.
Getting the whole story will help you understand the situation better and how to approach it. Odds are your child is about to unravel a story or reveal an imaginary friend. Never try to pressure your child for details, however; he might clam up instead of telling you what he feels comfortable in sharing.
DO sit down and listen attentively.
Giving your child your complete attention says you think this is important and are willing to take the time to listen.
DO calm your child's fears and anxieties.
Chances are your child thinks all ghosts are "bad" or that he/she is afraid the ghost will hurt them. Before you can help your child out with this matter, it's important to spend a few minutes trying to calm him down. Offer him some water or sit in a favorite chair. Cuddle up, get comfortable and ask him if he feels okay talking about it.
DON'T tell the child ghosts are make-believe or that they don't exist.
This only tells the child he can't believe what he sees and will confuse him. It will also be confusing if he hears ghost stories or if he starts to witness strange things happening (voices in a closet, furniture moving, etc.)
DON'T get nervous, frustrated, upset or hysterical over your child's confiding in you.
Children are very sensitive to what their parents are feeling and can pick up on anxiety, fear and doubt. Try to remain calm and only listen to what your child has to say.
DON'T encourage improper activity like séances or Ouija board sessions.
These things can only make a situation worst and they foster improper habits. Some activities require an experienced host and your child may see these things as a "cure-all" to the situation then lose hope when they don't work.
DO tell the child that you will help him/her deal with the situation.
Parents are a child's first defense. Thank your child for sharing this with you and assure them that you will help them out. Let them know they aren't alone and that you will do what you can to make the problem go away.
DO ask the child how the situation makes them feel.
It's important to understand how the child feels about their new "friend." Even if a child is not afraid and feels even happy to have a "friend" to "play" with, keep a close eye on the situation and stay apprised on how your child feels about it. Talk to them the minute they start to feel stressed, anxious or afraid.
DON'T put down or discourage your child for telling you this.
Kids take a big leap of faith when it comes to confiding in their parents. Be sure to remain objective about the situation and never express doubt of your child's perceptions or tell them they have an overactive imagination. If they feel you don't believe them, they'll start to clam up and you could miss out on learning of something worse happening later on.
DON'T rely on everything people tell you about ghosts and hauntings or things you read on the Internet.
Family members suggesting you get rid of a TV in your child's room because ghosts are coming out of it or friends encouraging you to move away are only trying to help in whatever way they know how. Trust your instincts and do only what you feel comfortable with. An expert group or investigator can offer more experienced advice on what to do.
If you’re still not sure of how to handle this situation, contact a legitimate paranormal research organization or a local minister for advice.
See all my posts on Horror themes.
See all my posts on Ghosts.
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