“What if My 3 year old tells me he saw a ghost or monster? How should I respond?

Should I ask him more about what he saw? Or should I divert his attention?”

When your child is afraid of monsters, sometimes, you are not sure what the best response would be. You might wonder whether asking the child more would make him/her recollect what he saw and feel scared. On the other hand, will it help him talk it out and feel better?

Well, as therapists, we would vouch for letting him express himself. The reasons for this are many:-


When your child is afraid of monsters, he feels better when he tells you about it. He knows that mom and dad know about this, and that they will protect him if needed.

An entry point to resolving his fears:

In order to help him with his fears, you have to first get to know them. When you listen to your child, you are likely to understand more about what is bothering him, and are in a better position to help him.

Suppression is a silent pain you would rather avoid:

Sometimes, you could momentarily distract the child, but he/she remains haunted by the memory of the monster in moments where he is alone. To add to that, he also knows that he cannot talk to you about it, because you do not approve of his being afraid of mere imagination; or, he knows that you will encourage him to pay attention elsewhere. He might try to do this himself. If he succeeds, he will probably cope in that way. However, if he fails, he is likely to move around with an unspoken fear that raises its head every now and then, and that is a painful feeling to have. It only makes him feel more afraid because he has to deal with this scary phenomenon all alone.

You know you will not tease your child about it:

Your child’s friends are his age. They might pull his leg about being afraid of monsters. Sensitive children feel worse if this happens to them. On the other hand, if he speaks with you first about it, he gets a mature, caring response from an adult. This helps him feel reassured.

Your reality is different than that of your child’s:

Your idea of a monster is that of an imaginary thing, hardly scary, maybe even laughable. But your child does not see monsters or ghosts in the same faraway manner. For him/her, they are scary. Your child is probably worried about the possibility of them being real, and about how powerful they are.  Because they are genuinely scared, they wish to talk it out.

However, what if my child is repeatedly expressing a fear of monsters? Should I not try and divert his attention?

If your child is very afraid of monsters, or speaks about it often, try and gently work on the fear. Speak to him about how even if monsters are powerful, they cannot necessarily out do humans. Talk to them about how ghosts are made to look scary on TV, because otherwise nobody would go watch them! Talk about your own fears as a child, and how you managed. This is likely to slowly lessen his/her fears.

In sum, listening to your child and keeping in mind that their fears are very real for them will help you, irrespective of how you explain to your child that monsters and ghosts are not real, and will not hurt him/her.

We hope this piece has helped some of you with questions you might have had. Feel free to tell us what you think, and what more you would like us to write about.

Post Contributed By: Malini Krishnan