When Children See Ghosts
By Linda Cassada
You’re fast asleep, when you’re suddenly awakened by a little voice.
Your eyes flutter open to find your child standing just a few feet away.
“The man in my room won’t let me sleep.”
A flurry of emotions rush through you over the next few minutes as you search the home for an intruder or for signs that someone has broken in. But then a profound confusion sets in as you realize that the doors and windows are still locked, and that no one but your family is in the home.
You might’ve experienced a situation like this. It can happen to the most unsuspecting of parents. One minute your life is normal. Your child is playing with toys, singing, and laughing. The next minute, you’re both confronted with something that is beyond the comprehension of even the most intelligent among us.
Your world is turned upside down.
The next logical course of action is to question what happened. Is this an imaginary friend? Kids do have imaginary friends. Is this an isolated incident? Or will it happen again and again? And if it does keep happening, what should you do about it?
As a parent, the most important job you have is to keep your child safe and healthy. When an inexplicable event like this occurs, though, you no longer feel like you can fulfill this parental requirement. You may feel helpless. But rest assured, there are answers to your questions, though you may have to do a little digging to find them.
Imaginary Friend or Spirit?
According to developmental psychologist Marjorie Taylor, and other researchers at the University of Oregon, as much as 65% of children have an imaginary friend by the age of seven. The nature of the imaginary friend depends on the needs of the child. Some children assign human characteristics to inanimate objects like stuffed animals, and others create a friend purely from imagination. These imaginary friends often have varied characteristics and appearances. And they don’t always comply with the child’s wishes and desires, either.
This makes it very difficult to decide whether your child has created an imaginary friend or is being visited by a spirit. However, there are a few things to look for that will help you to decide.
When a child has an imaginary friend, he or she must conjure up details about the friend. As you ask a series of questions, pay close attention to how your child answers. Does the child have to think for a few moments about the answer before blurting it out? Or does he or she have an immediate answer? Ask questions that the child will not have already thought up answers to, such as, “What type of clothes does your imaginary friend like to wear?” A direct and immediate answer to this question will tell you a lot, especially if the child describes his or her imaginary friend as wearing old fashioned clothing.
Another telling question is, “Does your imaginary friend talk like you and I? Or does he or she sound different?” Most imaginary friends will speak just like the child or like an adult that the child has encountered. The child will not assign an accent or even a different language to an imaginary friend.
It’s also important to pay close attention to what your child says about his or her invisible friend during day-to-day activities. Does the imaginary friend follow the child everywhere? Does the imaginary friend tell the child to do things that the child knows are wrong?
Keeping a log of what the child says about the invisible friend, and when he or she mentions the friend, will help you to evaluate whether this friend is an innocent product of the child’s imagination, or a spirit that may or may not have good intentions.
Isolated Incident? A Kid Thing? Or Spiritual Gift?
If, after reading the section above, you believe that your child may actually be seeing a spirit instead of conjuring an imaginary friend, then the next logical step is to why the child is seeing a spirit and how often this is going to occur.
Considering the frequency of ghostly visions, there are three possibilities:
1. Children, like adults, can see a spirit once and never see one again.
Caron B. Goode, author of “Kids Who See Ghosts: How to Guide Them Through Fear,” believes that there are reasons why a child might have a chance encounter with a spirit. Certain environmental and dietary factors may cause this. Among these are stress at home or at school, tragic events, overactive emotions, food allergies, and too much diet soda.
The reason for this, Goode states, is that stressful situations can cause the adrenal gland to produce an abundance of the hormone cortisol, which affects the temporal lobe—the part of the brain that is associated with psychic activity.
Thus, it might be beneficial for you to evaluate your child’s mental and emotional state. Try to reduce stressors. Help your child to find ways to deal with stress, since life is full of stress. It’s the ability to cope with stress that dictates emotional stability.
Also, consider your child’s diet. Is he or she eating right? Too much fast food? Too much soda? Perhaps a change in his or her diet will solve the problem.
2. The second possibility is that the ability to see spirits is isolated to youth and the child will grow out of it.
In a blog article called We Women, writer Carla Cain Walther outlines the theories as to why children may see spirits. The first and most commonly professed theory is that children have not yet been conditioned by parents and society to believe that spirits aren’t real. A child that sees spirits may become Another theory is that, due to the child’s relatively short period of time spent on earth, that the child is still somewhat rooted in the spiritual realm from which we all originate. Of course, your willingness to believe this theory also depends on your own spiritual beliefs about the origin of the spirit. The last theory, and perhaps the most interesting, involves sight. Adults can see between 400 and 700nm on the electromagnetic spectrum, while children are capable of seeing at 380nm, which is in the ultraviolet range.
All of these theories are based on the idea that children are able to see spirits, but will slowly grow out of this ability. Therefore, if you make a few changes, as outlined in number one above, and the child continues to see spirits, then help the child to deal with these incidents as they occur, and give it some time. These incidents may slowly start to decline in frequency until they no longer occur.
3. The third possibility is that the child has a spiritual gift (and I use this term loosely because anyone who has it can tell you that it seems more like a curse than a gift).
Some children are born with the ability to see and sense spirits, and will have this ability for a lifetime. You may not realize that your child has this ability until he or she complains about the “man in my room at night” or motions toward someone that you cannot see. If the child is seeing spirits that he or she doesn’t consider scary, it may be years before you realize the child is seeing spirits, because to the child, the presence of these odd looking people is considered normal.
Children who have this gift will often see a change in their abilities around puberty, when the brain is in a constant state of flux. However, the gifts may get easier to deal with as the child becomes an adult. It’s very important, though, no matter what stage of psychic development your child is in, that you are not critical or negative in any way with the child, or the child will form a negative attitude about the gift. Try to be understanding or sympathetic, even if you don’t understand and do not know quite how to handle the situation.
When to seek help
There are some instances when a child is experiencing things that seem paranormal, but which are signs of a psychological disorder. It’s extremely difficult for parents to consider that their child needs psychological intervention, and some may even bring in psychics or paranormal investigators to help validate their beliefs that the child has a psychic gift. However, parents usually want what’s best for their children, and it’s important to try to recognize if a child needs psychological help. The sooner the child is
Athena Drewes is a licensed child psychologist and parapsychologist who acts as a consultant for the Rhine Research Center at Duke University and the Parapsychology Foundation. She is the author of several books dealing with the subject of children who see ghosts or who exhibit other traits of intuitive intelligence. Concerning the difference between a psychic gift and a mental disorder, Drewes states, “I would encourage the parent to consider a psychiatric or psychological problem and referral to a mental health (e.g., psychologist, social worker) when I hear the parent or the child report that the spirits are telling them to hurt themselves or to hurt others, when the spirits’ communication may have a very bizarre feel to it, or when their children’s thought processes are not very logical or coherent when they explain their experience.”
In other words, the nature of the interaction between the child and the possible spirit is important, and should be evaluated. Until the child’s mental health is evaluated, no one can say for certain that the child is experiencing psychic phenomena.
With all of the interest in paranormal activity, both in reality and in the media, it’s easy for a parent to assume that a child is experiencing psychic episodes. However, it’s imperative that the parent considers all of the possibilities and eliminates those possibilities before coming to the conclusion that the child is psychic.
If a parent jumps to the conclusion that the child is psychic, and starts to treat the child as such, then the parent may put undue pressure on the child. Likewise, if the child is experiencing a short term psychic episode and the parent concludes that the child is gifted, then the child may feel as if he or she is letting the parent down when the psychic episode suddenly goes away.
Thus, it’s important to pay attention to the child’s actions and behaviors, but not to formulate assumptions until every other logical possibility has been eliminated.