Hypothetically speaking, how would you help a child who grew up with some New Age indoctrination.  This is just an example, but say you adopted an older child and it turned out they had a significant amount of indoctrination that was causing them a lot of fear.  In this example, the child has a fear of "ghosts" and "spirits" in the house and thinks they can "sense" them.  They are afraid these imagined "spirits" are going to harm them, because that's what they had been taught before they met you.  How would you explain to the child the rational and logical reason they think they sense something?  What would you do if the child hadn't learned to trust their critical thinking because they'd been taught they "ask too many questions" and thus their indoctrination was stronger than their ability to rationalize.  Is there any way to help a child in this situation?  A child who thinks all their worst imaginings are very real and can really hurt them.

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I think the #1 goal would be to encourage them to start thinking critically. Help them trust their instincts again. The only way to fight indoctrination is to help them work through it on their own. Encourage questions and instead of giving immediate answers, encourage them to try to reason through their own conclusion. Don't give them definitives, just point them in the right direction. Ask them why they think ghosts and spirits exist. Where so they come from? Teach them how the brain functions and let them decide if the concept of the spirit is compatible. The process may take a while, but they need to reach the conclusion on their own.

I think it depends on the age of the child too.  Younger children live in a world filled with magic, so a lot of times, you help them find good magic to counter the bad magic. Either way, you have to work with them within the framework they understand to move them away from the fear into something better, and then from that better spot into using more reason and less magical thinking.

 

I think the worst thing you can do is not respect their beliefs. Even though you don't believe them, they are real to the child and saying they are nonsense doesn't make the child feel respected. Without feeling that their feelings are respected, they won't allow you to help them with, well, anything.

This hypothetical child no longer trusts their own senses and intelligence. They have been trained that to ask questions is wrong because it undermines the authority's control of the child. Hypothetically speaking I would guess that this has interfered in decision making throughout the child's life. So I would start by helping the child re-learn that they are capable of making informed decisions and choices. THe end goal would be to allow them to be the authority over their own life (particularly an older child) to the extent that it is safe, while working with the child to help them find solutions and make decisions of their own that are also agreeable to the rest of the family unit.

I would treat the child's fear as real because in fact to the child the fear is real even if there is no basis for the fear. I wouldn't do anything that would undermine the work above because it would make it harder to reach the end goal of the child trusting in themselves to think using reason and logic. So in the short term at least I would give whatever comfort the child needed to get through the days and night with the least amount of fear even if it meant indulging in things I believe to be imaginary. So for example, if there is a technique that the child has been taught will make the bad spirits go away, I would continue to use this technique until such time as I thought the child was ready to confront the notion of ghosts and spirits being imaginary. To a degree this depends on the age of the child because I think a younger child younger will have an easier time leaving these superstitions behind with the right love and encouragement while an older child might need more time to leave it behind.

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