If you’ve ever been around kids, you’ve probably noticed that, aside from being adorable and unintentionally hilarious, they can also be extremely creepy. Sometimes, while they’re sitting there, it seems like they’re seeing something no one else can. Some of them also have invisible friends (which is slightly terrifying when you really think about it). They might even talk about seeing ghosts, which you might kind of believe. And don’t even get us started on creepy kids in scary movies.

So, why do so many kids claim they see ghosts?

Little boy covering his face with a blanket is about to cry being scared of nightmares, ghosts or monsters in his bedroom.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Aleta G. Angelosante spoke to Refinery29 about how kids can sometimes make you feel like you’re stuck in a horror movie. Her explanations for why kids can be so creepy make a lot of sense.

Here’s the deal: because kids are kids, they can have a tough time figuring out what’s real and what isn’t — unlike most adults. Dr. Angelosante said, “Children are hard-wired to learn through imaginative and pretend play, and therefore they can slip between reality and fantasy much more easily than adults.” So if their stories of ghost encounters sound very real, it’s probably because they genuinely believe they are real!

Similarly, kids have trouble interpreting little things they see in a realistic way. Dr. Angelosante gives an example, stating that if a child sees something out of the corner of their eye, there’s a big chance they’ll misinterpret what it is, allowing their imagination to take over. Dr. Angelosante further explained, “While an adult might dismiss something they see quickly out of the corner of their eye as ‘nothing’ or have a reality-based explanation, children might insist they saw a ghost or a fairy or some other creature.” What should you do about that? She recommends validating their concerns, but also helping them understand the difference between real life and fantasy by explaining the reality of what they saw.

If your kid continues to tell you creepy things, try not to panic.

Kids are making scary faces with flashlights at home on Halloween

Dr. Angelosante reminds us that kids like to get attention. If they’re saying something creepy, and you and everyone else starts freaking out about it, they’re getting the attention they wanted and they’ll probably say something similar in the future to get it again. To keep that cycle from continuing, answer their statements with a brief acknowledgment and then change the subject.

Basically, the moral of the story is that your kid isn’t actually seeing creepy things — they’re just dealing with an overactive imagination, and also potentially trying to get some kind of reaction out of you.

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