If your children are very small, you won't want to tell them everything, of course, but do encourage them to share their stories with you. This not only builds trust between you and your child, but also gives the child an opportunity to talk to you about other things that may be going on in his or her life.
If your child is experiencing nightmares, ask what he or she dreamed about and pay close attention to the response. The nightmare may not be a dream at all, but a way of telling you what happened.
While many children have imaginary friends, in a home with paranormal activity that friend may not be so imaginary at all. If your child has an imaginary friend, ask questions about the friend in a gentle manner so as to not alarm your child.
In particular, take note if your child's imaginary friend is telling your child to do something your child knows is wrong, or something you know your son or daughter is incapable of coming up with independently.
If your child comes to you and says, "I saw a ghost," you may not know how to handle this situation in a way that will not frighten your child. Below are some of the do's and don'ts of talking to children about ghosts.
Gently talk to your child about what he or she experienced, saw, or heard. By taking the time to get the whole story, you won't jump to any conclusions and you will have all the facts as your child perceived them. Having this knowledge will help you understand what your child experienced and will give you a better idea of how to handle the situation. It will also help you to figure out if your child really encountered a spirit, or if your son or daughter just has an imaginary friend.
While your child is telling you about the experience, give your full attention. This will make your son or daughter feel more comfortable as well as convey that what you are hearing is important. It will also encourage your child to tell you the entire story and not just parts of it. Sometimes if children don't think they have our attention, or feel we are distracted and not really paying attention to what they are saying, they will not tell us everything that happened.
If your child seems to be upset or afraid, take the time to snuggle up together in a chair or on the sofa. Wait for your child to calm down and feel safe and comfortable, and then ask that he or she tell you what caused the upset or fear. The odds are that your child thinks that ghosts are bad and is worried about getting hurt in some way. Once you take away this fear, your son or daughter will be more likely to open up to you and share what happened.
As a parent, your child looks to you for protection. Make sure you tell your children that you will help them understand their experience and that they are not alone. Always be sure to thank them for telling you what happened, and assure them that you will do everything you can to make this problem go away so they won't be scared or upset anymore.
Ask how the experience made your child feel. It's vitally important to get an idea about how your son or daughter feels about this new friend. Children may tell you that they are happy to have someone new to play with, but make sure you keep an eye on the situation and ask them every couple of days how they feel about their new playmate. If you notice that your child is becoming stressed out, afraid, or nervous, or starting to withdraw from family and friends, immediately talk to him or her and try to figure out what the new friend did or is doing to provoke this behavioral change.
To monitor the situation between your child and this new friend, ask to be told what your child and the friend do together. What kind of games do they play? What do they talk about? Don't pressure your child; instead, use gentle but probing questions to try to figure out if your son or daughter's friend has been asking or telling him or her to do certain things that your child knows are wrong, or if your child's friend has been telling your kid things that you know aren't true.
Be on the lookout for any shifts in the behavior of your child. If children begin to act in ways they normally wouldn't or become withdrawn and moody, you should immediately have a talk with them to find out what their friend has been doing to them or telling them.
You don't want to confuse children by telling them that ghosts don't exist or that they made up the whole story. If your child really did have a paranormal experience and yet you say that ghosts don't exist, it could be very confusing. Moreover, your kids might not tell you about any other paranormal experiences they have because they feel you don't believe them.
Our children mimic our behavior. If you become upset, frustrated, or hysterical because of what your children tell you, you could scare them tremendously and put them under an undue amount of unnecessary stress. As a parent, you need to remain calm and really listen to what your child is telling you about any experience.
If your children are older, do not encourage them to use a Ouija board, hold a seance, or engage in any other activity that could cause more problems. Most of the time a Ouija board and/or se?ance will only make matters worse.
Behind the Ouija board is the theory that its users are opening a door or portal to the other side. Anything, good or evil, can come through that open door, and there is no way to stop it or control it. The same is true with seances. A seance can get out of control very easily, because it is impossible for an inexperienced medium to control what or who comes through that open doorway.
In many cases, it takes a lot of courage for children, especially older children, to confide in their parents. When they are telling you about their experience, remain objective and don't express any doubt about how they perceived the events they are describing. Don't tell them that they just have an overactive imagination or otherwise dismiss what they are telling you. If your kids think that you don't believe them, you have shut the door of communication, and they may not tell you about something worse that happens to them later on.
If you decide to share what your child told you with family members, friends, or co-workers, you will probably get a ton of advice on how to handle the situation. While these people mean well and are only trying to help, follow your instincts and only do what you feel comfortable with. There is a ton of information on the Internet about ghosts and hauntings, and not all of it is accurate. If you are uncomfortable about what exactly to do when your child comes to you saying he or she has seen a ghost, you can contact a legitimate paranormal researcher in the area where you live. Don't be afraid to ask for help in dealing with this situation.
Many paranormal researchers believe that children from a very young age through their early teenage years are more likely to experience some type of paranormal phenomenon because they haven't developed the prejudices that many adults have against such things as ghosts.
They also haven't created their own way of filtering feelings and experiences that society may consider abnormal, irrational, or illogical. Some researchers believe that it could just be that children's brains are physically more receptive to paranormal experiences, because they are young and their brains are still developing.
Children seem to have encounters with the paranormal more often than adults do. Paranormal researchers generally believe that this is due to the fact that children haven't become as jaded and as programmed by society as adults, and that they are more open to the paranormal. For these reasons it is so important that your children feel that they can come and talk to you about what they are experiencing.
Excerpted from Is Your House Haunted? by Debi Chestnut.