Okay, parents, here's the problem: You think your house may be haunted. From strange cold spots, to hearing voices, maybe even seeing the apparition of a person you know doesn't belong in your home. To compound the problem, you have children… and there's no such thing as ghosts… is there?
So how do we talk to our children when we feel the house they live in may have an unseen extra tenant or two? Many of us were raised being told that ghosts aren't real… but as adults we've learned we're not so sure (trust us… kids aren't so sure ghosts aren't real either). The good news is that popular culture has already started the discussion for us. The notion of ghosts being real is presented on many television shows, on countless Web sites, in hundreds of books, on radio programs, and in magazines.
From a young age, we're intrigued with the notion of ghosts because the supernatural has been a part of our culture, part of our collective psyche, and an archetype across cultures for many millennia. Ghosts are a way for all of us, especially children, to ponder the inevitable fact that all of us will die one day, and we have to deal with what may come after that. We can ignore ghosts, but the subject will not go away. If you feel you may be living with a spirit or specter, talking to your children about what is happening is a touchy and uncomfortable subject.
In years of talking with families who believe their house is haunted, in discussions with countless other paranormal investigators who have helped families through similar situations, and in consulting with psychology experts, one conclusion is indisputable: those who openly discuss their situation among family members are much better off than the families who don't speak about the odd things happening in their home.
For example, often in a haunting, the witness believes that maybe the phenomenon is only happening to them and them alone. Maybe they're losing their minds, maybe the "entity" is singling them out. When one family member finally confides in another, "I think I've been seeing a ghost in our house," there is often a great moment of relief that comes over both people. "You've seen it too?" is sometimes the reply. Once the discussion is out in the open, then you have group support which helps immensely.
Remember, fear comes from the unknown. Most hauntings are benign, but we're afraid because seeing a ghost is not something we encounter every day. Some understanding will help lower the fear factor.
To open the discussion with children, you do need to be careful. Your home is your castle, and is a place where you and your children should always feel safe. Young children believe that their parents are both perfect and invincible. As a parent, you know you're far from it, but it's important that you remain in charge of the situation in the eyes of your children.
You will need to base your discussion on the maturity level of your own child/children, but here are some guidelines:
Ages 3-4: Young children will be less scared than older children because almost everything in their environment is "normal" to them. At this age, parents don't need to say anything more than, "We may have someone else living in our house with us. You can't see this person, but it's okay. You're safe, and mom and dad are taking care of everything." Your child will believe you because you've taken care of almost all of their needs up to this point in life. They have complete faith in your abilities.
Ages 5-7: At this age you want to state the facts, but be ready for a question or two because children this age are becoming more independent and have questions regarding the world around them. Just like with your 3-4-year-old, assure the child they're safe, and you're monitoring the situation. Answer only the questions your child asks, and be brief. Going on and on with theories, ideas, or possibilities of "why" won't sink in with a child this age and may lead to further confusion.
Ages 8-12: At this age, you want to announce the issue, reassure the child, and offer a few details as to how you're working the issue. For example: "We believe we may have a ghost in our house. Everything is okay, no one is going to get hurt. To get some help, we've called in some investigators who deal with things like this. Do you have any questions?" Again, answer only the questions you're asked, and don't go on and on.
Ages 13 and up: At this age you should be as open about the subject as you would with another adult friend or neighbor.
Your objective during these discussions is to reassure your child that you're in charge and have the situation under control, and you want to create a context where the child feels safe and secure and can ask questions if they have them.
If you do bring in a paranormal investigation team to check out your situation, Kids.Ghostvillage.com recommends that you not allow the investigators to explain the situation to your young children. You should always be the filter for information that goes to your children. Though your investigators may be professional and sincere, they don't know your child as well as you do, and they have their own beliefs and agenda.
An analogy we like to use is: What if there have been burglaries in your neighborhood? Or what if one of the parents has a stalker? Keeping your child safe and secure is your highest priority. You tell the child what is happening, not the police.
In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow established a pyramid of human needs. At the base is physiological needs such as food and water, and the next tier up is safety: protection and security. Without safety and security, the child can't move into the higher developmental tiers like social needs/love, self-esteem, and self-actualization, and without security and safety, no one can function very well as a person.
Your child's safety and security is your priority.
What if We Believe There's Danger?
In more rare haunting cases, people in the location are afraid for their safety. This requires immediate attention. In these more extreme cases, you need a solution to the problem. If you lived in a neighborhood with a rash of crime, in some cases, your best plan (if it's possible) is to remove the child from the situation.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs also applies to adults. If you don't feel safe, you are going to become an emotionally-charged individual. The more emotionally-charged a situation, the more perceptions matter with family members. Because of the constant fear, you're not thinking straight, nor acting in your best interest. You need help and need it fast.
Every situation is unique. There is no magic pill you can take, and no silver bullet cure to these kinds of situations. The more extreme your haunting, the more of the following steps you should incorporate into your help plan.
Work the issue from every angle, and you will see improvement.
- Call in a reputable paranormal investigation team. Find a group that can verify or dispute some of the phenomena you're experiencing.
- Get a psychologist involved. You're going through a stressful situation and you will need some help in dealing with it. Family therapy is a wonderful addition to your help plan.
- Keep your spiritual advisor apprised of the situation. Whether your priest, rabbi, minister, Imam, monk, or other clergy, tell them what you're going through, ask for their prayers, and ask for a blessing, clearing, or any other religious procedure they feel might help.
- See your medical doctor. Make sure the medications you're taking aren't causing hallucinations. Make sure you're in good physical health. You'll need all your faculties to deal with this situation.
Do's and don'ts:
It's important to remember that you're not alone. Other families have gone through what you're experiencing. There are ways to get help, to understand what is happening, and to move forward. One place to start is our special forum on Ghostvillage.com's main site. There you can share your stories and network with other families who are going through something similar.
- Don't take illegal drugs or drink excessive amounts of alcohol if you believe your haunting may be dangerous.
- Do talk walks, exercise, and get out of the house regularly to clear your head.
- Do eat well. Take care of your body: you'll need it.
- Do attend religious services.
- Get some sleep. If your sleep is affected, you're not functioning properly. See if your family can spend a few nights with relatives or in a hotel if that's what it takes.