Many children have experiences that would be considered unusual or psychotic in adults, such as imaginary friends or unusual beliefs. Sometimes kids can be frightened by their experiences, or adults around them can become concerned by the type or extent of them. It can be difficult at times to tell the difference between ‘normal’ childhood behaviour and something that could be a problem. If a child is struggling and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia or another psychotic condition, it can be difficult to find peers and parents who understand what you’re going through! Families can be very distressed, confused, and isolated.
Please be assured that you are not alone! Many families are navigating these situations. Some children have experiences such as voice hearing from as young as two and may grow up thinking this is quite normal. Others may struggle with voices, visions and so on quite suddenly. Sometimes this may be following a trauma, loss, or change, othertimes there doesn’t seem to be anything particular that triggered the change. For many children these experiences are short term, just like imaginary friends or pets that seem to go away as the child grows older. Some kids are particularly frightened or overwhelmed by their experiences and need extra support. Sometimes it’s not the experiences that cause problems so much as the meaning other people attach to them – such as peers who think the child is crazy, or other parents who are frightened there is something ‘wrong’ with them. Some kids will grow up and have a long term relationship to voices or psychosis, although this is not always a destructive thing. Many adults hear voices and live very well with them. Sometimes it can help for you or your child to meet other children or adults who have similar experiences.
Trauma and psychosis has a strong relationship, for example, kids who are bullied at school are up to four times more likely to experience psychosis. This can be a real downward spiral when people are frightened of psychosis because children already struggling may be further rejected, bullied, or isolated by their peers. Loneliness and misery are tough companions to have when you’re already experiencing some unusual or frightening things! Some of the most important things kids need is friendship, a sense of belonging and being accepted by many people and in several places (home, school, relatives).
There are some great resources specifically for or about kids!
We Hear W.A. is an online peer-support and information space for young voice hearers. They have forums, chat, and many other resources.
Voice Collective is a UK Network for children & young people who hear voices. Here are some of their free resources:
- Youtube animation – if the above clip doesn’t work for you go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB9_Zy0I3VU
- Booklet: A straight talking introduction for parents, carers and family members of young people who hear voices or see visions
- Booklet: A guide to coping and recovery for parents, carers and family members of young people who hear voices or see visions
There’s also a book called Children Hearing Voices by Dr Sandra Escher and Dr Marius Romme. It has two sections, one for children, and one for parents/caregivers. You can purchase it online, or borrow it from our library. Dr Escher has also written a couple of free guides for parents you might find helpful:
From Intervoice Online, the international hearing voices network, is this brief, useful checklist:
- A 10 Point Check-list: What you can do if your child tells you they are hearing voices for a printer friendly version, click here.
If you are in South Australia and would like to talk to someone, please contact Sarah @di.org.au or check out our page of ‘Useful Links‘. If there is interest locally we would like to start a hearing voices group for children and young people.