Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Children: Imaginary Friend or Spirit?

(Me imitating the monkeys at the Washington Zoo)

We might not recall our imaginary friends, but most of us had them, even if they came in the form of the doll that we commanded a voice for and had act out a scenario in an army battle or riding in a Barbie Corvette. 

A majority of us had a make-believe friend we named and who never got angry and took their toys home with them, gave us someone to talk to when no one was there, and made us imagine perhaps the person we hoped to become, an example of our ideal.

Some of us imagined monsters under the bed and in the closet and it was difficult to shake the image once implanted in our minds.  As adults, it would behoove us to remember that our imagination is the birth place of our fears even today.

And, a few of us actually had an open doorway with the dead as if they were as real to us as what our dog was thinking or feeling, which we were also privy to.

So, when is it an imaginary friend and when is it spirit communication? And, if it seems harmful, how do we stop it?

Let's start with an explanation of the cognitive experience, or in other words, our interpretation of what is happening. 

Whether the "invisible friend" is truly the unexplained or something the child has imagined or misinterpreted, this provides a lesson in learning to evaluate the world logically and soothe oneself when confused. Those self-soothing, self-evaluation tools start early and they will help that child for life to be a healthy functioning adult. So, paranormal or imaginary, this is a learning opportunity. 

As a parent, it's vital to remember we teach children to run and be scared or we teach them to evaluate true threat and take charge.

For parents, the most concerning thing is determining if a child just has an imaginary friend or something more "exotic" like encounters with ghosts.

Here's some things to compare - 

Imaginary Friend

The child has a name for this person. The child often bosses it around. The child likes their friend all the time, doesn't have fights or break ups. The child facilitates the friend, i.e. pouring tea for the friend, utilizing a toy or doll as representing the friend, attributes the friend with always sitting in the chair in the room, teaches the friend by playing school, makes accommodations for the friend such as saving a seat or plate for them.  

Imaginary friends are likely to show up when a child has either lost a family member, someone has moved out of the home, they have lost a friend, or started school and are shy. Their timing is usually very appropriate to what is going on in the child's life. 

Imaginary friends are the way a child mimics parenting and bossing someone else around, learning to communicate, and feeling less lonely.

Ghostly Friend

This friend tends to tell the child what they want, bosses the child around, and the child speaks for the needs of the ghostly friend in ways that make the parent suspicious, such as the child saying the "friend" doesn't like chocolate cake (out of character for the child). The child uses words or knows things about cultures or time periods or even ways of dying that the child should not know about at that age. The child has a love/hate relationship where the friend is good, or they feel sorry for the friend, or they are angry at or scared of the friend suddenly. They only speak to the friend when you are not present (most often).  

Deceased Family Member 

The most likely ghostly visitor (majority of the encounters) is deceased family members. It helps to ask the child to describe the visitor and how they feel about them. Sometimes they will describe a silver-haired lady in a blue dress and she makes him/her feel happy. It is often a member the child had never even met, so understanding the relationship might be vague for the child, only that they feel loved and happy near them. 

Children are naturally sensitive and still have one foot placed in the other realm until just around school age when it fades off for most children except those who will go on to remain sensitive. The connections with family are very deep and some might say DNA and spirit are intertwined. 


Know that these are generalizations and some children will react differently to a ghostly friend than others, but as a body of behaviors, this should help guide you to get a reasonable conclusion.

Seeing people and hearing things
At some point, all children get afraid of the room and going to bed alone at night. If the only time your child gets upset is bedtime, then we may not be talking about spirit issues, but the fact is that the time we are most often able to perceive the dead is in shifting brain cycles in an alpha state. 

So, how do you differentiate?

A child who is having an imaginative mind and separation issues already has problems going to bed alone, they might be watching too mature-themed TV before bed that frightens them, or know that you will take them into your room. The fear of the dark isn't a sudden one, but has been a consistent battle.

When my son was little, I didn't realize it, but leaving the door partially opened left a shadow on the ceiling. He called me in to get rid of the alligator. When I sat back on his bed and looked up, sure enough there was a triangle-shaped shadow but his mind imagined an alligator's mouth opening up. I could have told him it was a shadow, but dismissing such images in a child's mind can be rough. Once the alligator is planted in his imagination, it doesn't want to leave! 

So, it was up to me to replace the image. 

What I did in my son's case was to contemplate the shadow and then tilt my head, hum a bit, and then announce, "you know, alligators have teeth. I see no teeth. What else is shaped like this?" My son squinted and thought real hard and then burst out with, "triangle peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!" I clapped. "Oh yes, that is it! You figured it out, Alex!" He was quite pleased when I tucked him back in. I grabbed the door to close it a bit, but he begged me not to, I'd make the sandwich go away. 

If your child repeatedly wants to go in your room and then once there is just fine and settles in, then he/she probably did not encounter something truly frightening in his/her room. Your child might ask everyone to leave the house if that is the case. He/she might also have a hard time settling down once in your room and repeatedly checks the open doorway.

If your child repeatedly sees things every night for nights in a row, he/she might be abusing the privilege of sharing your room (always look for the reward the child might be seeking). If your child plays just fine in the daytime in the room, but freaks out when put to bed, then likely this is a ruse to sleep in mom and dad's room. 

If your child is experiencing things and only in his/her bedroom at night, especially in places that are dark in the room, it might be a fear of the dark. 

When children are having genuine encounters in their rooms, day or nighttime doesn't seem to matter. They also often see people in the hallway or living room and other areas of the house, not just the bedroom at nighttime. Children might avoid that area they saw something all together. If they can describe the person in great detail and the details are unusual, that might be a sign of a real encounter. 

Most children who are sensitive to the other side don't necessarily fear it or think it's weird. They might be a bit baffled others aren't seeing these things or hearing them, but they show a fair deal of compassion for the visitors. There are also times the visitors might be dark and scary, startling the child or even appearing threatening. 

Is your child psychic?

Some children can communicate with many on the other side, a kind of budding medium, but that skill doesn’t always last as they get older and do not tap into that realm, but spend more time focusing on the living here and communicating with them, which is much more rewarding. 

This can be compared a bit to losing a loved one. Over time, you don't forget them, but you don't think about them every day, their memory and image in your head becomes foggier. You don't feel like you're missing a limb any longer, but feel that you have rested them in a place and time.

Children have a lot of influences these days, between TV and computers, so a child saying something precocious or with a knowledge you don't think they had, can be hard to determine if it's from a source from the other realm. However, psychic children show it in ways other than just realizing the dead are around. 

When I was a child, I lived in an historic estate and used a metal detector to uncover items for our display case filled with Revolutionary and Civil War items. I would rush to my mom and tell her all about the person who the item was handled by before. I would even give names, unusual names that were not common, and told of other cities, professions, and details such as their family members. My mother assumed I was very creative, but those kind of plugging details without being prompted for them can be a sign of a psychic child. You do not want to lead your child for more information because they do want to perform and will provide anything to accommodate, but if they offer it without guidance, then give it a good listen.

There was a time when I was home alone as a kid of about 7 and I was very unsettled. My mom had gone next door, so she wasn't far away, but I had lots of siblings and to have the house to myself was a new thing.

The music room in our house was also the TV room and I sat to watch TV, but that room always had an ever presence in it. It was one of the rooms people died in during the Civil War. One man in particular I could picture in my mind's eye. He was always in the same spot near the sofa, wound tightly, and staring with penetrating eyes. I could sense it quite clearly. 

I had a choice to run and hide or stand my ground. I wanted to watch my show, so I told him out loud, "I know you're standing there. You can watch the show too, but stay where you are. You don't scare me, but I don't know if I like you either." 

It was a first for me, as a shy child, to speak out like and show some spit and vinegar, but I felt immediate relief. In fact, it felt as if he had just disappeared from that spot and the room felt empty again. 

I then knew a secret - child easily dispatch spirits because they have a line of communication that is still active with them.

Children's powers to dispatch
Children are open and pure conduits in that their minds run in alpha state readily and easily, especially while playing pretend, and they are not into absolute thinking that we develop as we age to protect us in the "real world." 

A child has more power to attract and to dispatch the other side than the average adult does. How they feel about a situation is an easy read and their ability to set boundaries is a new exercise that will get even more powerful as they age. This is an important time for a child to decide what they will put up with or not.

If your child is afraid or uncomfortable with the ability to perceive "others," then telling them to set firm boundaries and showing them how to dispatch others is important. You can do this by a simple talk about boundaries and assertion. Teach them young and they will be able to use this tool with the living or the dead. Call it a "superpower skill" and they will delight in mastering it.

Parent: "Sam, if you don't like the way someone is acting and it's making you angry or scared, just tell them. `You are not being nice and when you do that, it makes me mad. I want you to leave.'" 

Rules of assertion
Tell the person what they are doing. 
Tell them how that makes you feel. 
Tell them what you expect them to do. 

The key in all of these experiences is that our children can learn some life skills in the intimate situation at home with the unseen world and this is a learning opportunity. It is not a tragedy to be able to sense the other side and the majority of people who continue with this ability do so with a very healthy perspective on it, as they have had to live with it, kind of like being born with a handicap and compensating. 

There is no need to apply this just to ghosts. Tell your child the rules of assertion, and have him/her practice with a doll or stuffed animal. Let him/her know that this skill can be used for anyone who comes into their room, uses their toys, bothers them at school, or any other situation. If they are particularly shy about it, give them a mask to wear or a hat and that sometimes helps a child to be someone else they admire who is stronger and more brave.

The upside of communicating with the dead
Your child can learn compassion in a level others never experience because they get insight into how others feel, many different others, with a vast variety of experiences on earth. They come to understand that life has another level and that all that they do while here affects the entire world by its interconnectedness.

Ways to handle the situation
First of all, you don't want to drive sensitivity into hiding, but you also don't want to encourage and praise it. 

The problem with adult psychics is often times the ego becomes eager to provide more and more info on demand. It ends up, in the long run, harming the talent and making it a product rather than an aptitude. The child sees that too much attention and praise to their skills means that they found an aspect that will draw attention. This has a way of corrupting the talent. So, you may not want to praise them excitedly for bringing info about the other side, nor do you want to shame them. 

Child: I saw the man with the hat again yesterday and he was with a lady this time.

You: It sounds like he likes your room. As long as you don't mind him being there, he can visit. If you want him to go away, just tell him. (not questioning the man visited, but remaining a good parent by saying he doesn't have to play with anyone he doesn't want to, reminding him he has control)

Child: They weren't there very long. (goes off and plays)

Keys to treating this properly
1. You did not shame the child for being sensitive. 
2. You did not encourage elaboration and attention by praising or asking all about it, thereby making it seem like it's "normal" to experience such things. 
3. You redirected the child back to recalling he has control of the situation if he wants it to come or go, supporting healthy boundaries.

Ways to support and keep your child's skills alive

1. Keep an open dialogue where the child is not shamed, but feels he or she can come to you and speak. 

2. Make the bedroom comfortable and magical so that it's not too dark or scary where imagination can run wild or visitations can be associated with the dark. Mason jars with firefly lights, salt lamp, or an ocean wave light can be magical lighting that allows the child to be diverted by attention to something else in the room and find the nighttime a soothing and magical time. 

3. In the case of a child who is particularly fearful, consider hanging pictures of elder family members, such as parents, grandparents, or even superheroes who will watch over the room. Give the child a special "powerful" stuffed animal such as an ape or lion to sleep with. The child can say goodnight to each photo or stuffed animal, being reminded they will keep watch until the morning. When I was a child, I had the middle bedroom upstairs and it was where the booted footsteps went to rest each night. I used to line my stuffed animals up around the bed and I slept quite easily knowing they were facing out and guarding me. I didn't necessarily feel threatened by the footsteps, but I felt weird going to sleep while they were in the room. Eventually, I felt compassion for the lonely soldier and would salute him each night. 

4. If you are fine with your child continuing his or her talents of sensitivity, let them express it through art, drawing whatever influences they run into without guiding or directing they particularly draw what they see. Allow your child to live around and handle heirlooms and antiques to have exposure to items with history. Keep connection with dead relatives alive with photos of them with living relatives that the child can reflect on and compare with experiences and gain an understanding of "here" and "there."

A nightly song can be something very primitive and magical, allowing the child to dispatch in a ritual and comforting way. In fact, the child might come to be excited to go to bed and turn out the light as he sings a little song...

I'm turning out the light.
I'm calling it a night.

I need to get some rest.
So I can be my best.
Goodnight to you all.
Please move out to the hall. 
This room is for my sleep.
And so I can count sheep. 
Good night. Good night. Good night.

Ultimately, the majority of children become redirected automatically to interaction with the living, as it becomes more and more important when they enter school age. Children who are particularly lonely, shy or isolated can often times create "pseudo" psychic skills in terms of imaginary friends and also children who are fearful can have them visit only when it's dark and bedtime. But, true psychic kids don't just pull the "ghost" friend up when they are lonely, but can interact with them at any time in their day or night, happy or sad, when friends are around or not. 

If you wish your child to continue their psychic capabilities and to not feel ashamed of them, do not question or bother the child about their interactions with "others," or they will feel odd and different. What the child needs to learn is that everyone has a different experience. Even though we all have different personal experiences and interpretations, skills and abilities, we still are all part of the human race. One child can be great at drawing, another great at shooting baskets, and yet another can see things and sense things others don't. Each is quite precious, but all are worthy kids. 

Show your child that it's normal to perceive things that others might not see. Take your child outside, lie back in the grass and study the clouds. Point out the shapes and ask what they see, tell them what you see. Let them know that every cloud looks like something different to each person, no one is right or wrong, simply seeing something the other one is not. You can also ask if they are warm or cold and say that you do not feel the same temperature and isn't it cool how you can both feel different things in the same place? You can also mix paints and put on paper and say "what do you know that is this color?" When your child says "our cat" and you say "tree bark," neither of you is right or wrong. This is a great building skill for your child's cognitive process. It is something important for handling all things in life and being quite fine with being different and not the same as everyone else.

When my son was young, we used to play "why?" We would see someone do something strange, like yelling at someone in a store, and we'd say "why did he do that?" My son would name a reason and then I would name one and we'd keep naming reasons back and forth until we had no more creative ideas. Sometimes, they could get very creative because neither of us wanted to be the first to run out of ideas. The lesson there was that we never really know why someone does something.

Keeping the world open and not absolute is critical for a psychic child. Their life involves a lot of open and not so much absolute. 

Your instincts as a parent, helping your child handle a bully kid or a bothersome friend is applied to the situation of ghostly visitors, as well. Just keep the guidelines in mind; teach assertion and boundaries, don't encourage and praise the skills, redirect, keep them safe, encourage their individuality, and allow them to speak without ridicule. 

There are likely to be more questions and please feel free to post them here or contact me personally at 

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