PSICAN - Paranormal Studies and Inquiry Canada

Ghosts, Hauntings & Related Phenomena

A frightened child


Every person has fears to some level no matter what their age. Children can have many fears whether it is ghosts, UFOs, monsters, dogs or cats. Some fears are a good thing, like being afraid of strangers or being afraid to cross a busy road. A child must learn to be able to cope with their fears in order to live a healthy life. It is only then, that they will learn to take on life's challenges as they grow. When fear becomes too much for a child to handle anxiety can happen and the spiral of effects begins. When a child has fear that is overpowering and disabling them that is when it is time to seek help.

Desensitizing Vs. Empowering

There are a two different ways parents and caregivers try to approach the situation of a child having fears. One way is by trying to desensitize them, introducing them to T.V shows, books and the internet to name a very few. There are problems that may occur when you try to desensitize a child from ghosts, UFO's and other "scary" things. When you subject a child to television shows like who's afraid of the dark, ghost whisperer, Ghost Busters, the problems are that these shows are not true and are very inaccurate. They all create false daunting images in their minds, it fuels the fire so to speak, especially in toddlers when they are already trying to make sense of the world, and they are not yet able to make a distinction between fantasy and reality. Children rely on adults to help them calm their fears and make them feel safe. When you subject a child to these images, you are rendering them powerless against their fear. You might think Casper the friendly ghost is an excellent family flick but your toddler might be terrified of the big belly loud mouth uncles in the film out to haunt and terrify the little girl in the movie. Why wouldn't they, after all it is on T.V. so it must have happened... right? Be aware of the way you react to a situation. If when your child goes to bed and you are watching that adult scary movie and they can hear the woos and screams it can be just as damaging hearing things as seeing them.

Sometimes a child's worst nightmare is their imagination.

The other way of helping your child is by empowering them. Giving them the ammo for not being afraid, making them have power over of their fears, helping them cope. Most fears tend to diminish when they learn to cope. Your child must feel safe in his/ her bedroom and house at night. Younger children can empower themselves by creating recipes for ghosts to stay away from houses. Making up your own way of helping a younger child can empower them and help them to grow to the next stage of life. If you have an older child who wants answers, than the truth always helps. No one really knows what ghosts are. Take the age of your child into consideration and only tell them what they need to know. It does not happen like on television. Ghosts do not pop out of nowhere just to frighten you. Answer to the best of your ability and if you do not know an answer than say you do not know. It is okay! Sheltering a child from scary movies, television and the internet is an impossible task. When they do see a scary movie, it would be very helpful to explain it in great details. Talk about the camera tricks, the use of computers, make-up artists, special effects and if there is a making of the movie on a DVD then show them this part. I know of many parents... including myself who show their child only this part of a DVD. Let them know that being afraid is normal reaction and that they can learn not to be scared anymore. Keeping a regular routine will help a child know what to expect next. Talking about fears empowers children. It makes them in control of their situation. Ask them what the scariest thought in their head is. If the scariest thought is the ghost they saw on Scooby Doo then you may be able to explain the way movies work. Talk about how their bodies feel when they are scared.

Anxiety defined is the "apprehension without apparent cause". Usually there is no immediate threat to the child but they feel fearful and they may feel as if they want to get away from the situation or place. Let your child know that when their heart races and their tummy feels upset that these are normal reactions to feeling scared and panicked. It is extremely important to address your child's issues of anxiety with a mental health professional because as they grow up they will lack the coping skills to handle the everyday stresses in the adult world. Phobias occur when anxieties are persistent and fear becomes so severe that it controls your child's everyday functioning. This is when intervention by a doctor, psychiatrist, mental health professional or social worker could prove to be helpful.

How can you help your child?

Empower them by letting them know that they are normal and other kids experience these things too. Talk to them about fear and phobias. Never tell them their acting silly, these kinds of comments will not make the fear go away. Draw and play out their fears with them. Let them know you were scared once too. It does not make you a weak parent it actually helps them to know that you felt the same way and you can relate to them when you tell them these fears will go away... you are living proof.

Tips for Parents of younger children


  • Ghost away powder is made from baby powder... ghosts sneeze and they will not come near it.
  • Ghost Spray water bottle... A light mist and it keeps them away for 24 hours
  • Signs with light bulbs drawn on it... all ghosts hate the thought of lights
  • Draw pictures of their ghosts and then tear them up and crush them.
  • Always take your child's fears seriously and let them know you are there for them to help and listen.
  • Seek medical help for a child who is fearful to the point of anxiety


Tips for parents of older children


  • Tell them that no one has proof that ghosts do exist.
  • Movies and shows are for the most part elaborated or false.
  • Ghosts do not pop out of the woodwork to scare you.
  • Remember a lot of movies that have ghostly events happening are usually rated PG or PG13. If you allow your children to view these movies then be prepared of the after effects.
  • Remember a lot of night time television shows are geared as family viewing but are not as appropriate for the oversensitive child
  • Always take your child's fears seriously and let them know you are there for them to help and listen.
  • Seek medical help for a child who is fearful to the point of anxiety


This is in no way a substitute for medical or mental health professionals. If you feel that your child is suffering from fears or phobias then do not hesitate to phone a doctor.


NYU Child Study Center
Article: Fears
Robin F. Goodman, PH.D. and Anita Gurian, PH.D

Purdue University
Article: Helping Children Overcome Fears
Giselle Goetz, Extension Graduate Research Assistant
Judith A. Myers-Walls, PH.D.,CFLE, Extension Specialist

Kids Health
Article: Anxiety, Fears, Phobias

Mental Health Association
1-800-969-NMHA (6642)

Tele-Health (Ontario)
After hours help from nurses
Weekdays 5pm-9am
Weekends and recognized holidays: 24 hours

By: Laura Gervais



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