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10 May 2004

Worried about 4 year old
Hello

I am really worried about my almost 4 year old. She will turn 4 in August. Is it possible for children to see things, like people.

She claims she sees people, and it is not imaginary friends as she is not imagining playing with them. She just tells me "look at the woman sitting on the chair, doen't she look funny" or "please bring food for this man next to daddy as well"

She also gets night terrors and struggles to sleep at night. This have been going on since she was about 2 years old. Just when she started talking and could tell me what she sees.

Is this normal?

We are a very normal family and no one in the family has ever been like this.
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Expert
CyberShrink
cybershrink

01 Jan 0001

Hello SS,
Night terrors are, like nightmares, very unpleasant, but unlike nightmares, the child usually has no memory of them, so they are much more frightening for the family than for the child herself. They're more common than most folks think, and usually arrive for no clear reason, and go away again, after a while, similarly mysteriously.
Children with a vivid imagination ( and almost all children are far better at imagining and "picturing" things than any adult ) can be frightened by things they've seen on TV or in a film, even something their parents and others didn't consider could have been frightening, or by stories they've been told, even by other kids. As Liza says, a night-light often helps, not only by being re-assuring, and enabling the child to see that there's nothing wrong in the room, but also because, like adults, things half-seen in a gloomy room can be imagined into something unpleasant, or just plain mistaken ( the dresing-gown on the foot of the bed can look like a dog, eg).
What you're describing as her seeing other people, apart from a more supernatural explanation, could be a variant of the imaginary playmate normal phenomenon, and she seems to pick adults rather than another child, for these constructions --- but asking you to "feed" the playmate at "tea", or discussing them, isn't in itself particularly uncommon.
I wonder whether she seems aware that you don't see these people she talks about. Children with their imaginary friends seem to welcome us playing along with it, but also seem quite philosophical when an adult gently makes it clear that you don't see them. You could, again gently, explore a little, asking her about the lady on the sofa, to describe what she looks like, how she is dressed, what she wants.
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