Say you're a teenager dealing with the typical issues of growing up such as acne, learning to drive, sexuality and cliques. What do you do when 'learning to use your psychic abilities' is also added to your list of teen angst? That's one of the appeals of A&E's reality series "Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal," which is currently airing its second season on A&E. In each episode, the kids are paired with renowned psychic Chip Coffee, 'sensitive' Chris Fleming and medium Kim Russo to better understand their abilities and also learn how they can use them to help others. Our Jim Halterman talked with the show's Executive Producer Betsy Schechter about the makings of the show and how what may have once been a negative for the kids can become a positive.
Jim Halterman: The show not only focuses on the paranormal cases but you also get to know the kids involved. Was that a goal when creating the show?
Betsy Schechter: Yeah, definitely. It was really about helping the kids and helping them overcome what was making them feel not normal and their issues with what they were seeing and doing. They're kids and some are cheerleaders, some are into video games...
JH: Being a teenager is tough enough, how do you work with them to get them on television to tell their stories? How do you prepare them for the experience?
BS: We actually meet a lot of kids and we're really careful and they have to really want to do it. We don't want to push anyone and we don't do any kind of coaching. It's really them wanting to be a part of this and what happens is meeting other kids their ages and identifying with older people who have been through what they've been through. It actually helps them feel better about themselves.
JH: The kids are kind of a minority and they do get connected to other people.
BS: The weekend is really a very careful weekend. It's amazing that everyone from the crew to everyone who experiences it you can feel a lightness at the end of the weekend. We've had kids spend two to three weeks together over the summer. It becomes like a support group, too. Also the parents keep in touch and we get tremendous letters and we also get thousands of emails from other parents, kids, even teachers and other people after seeing this show and so I think it's opened up a community to help each other.
JH: From what you've seen with the kids you've dealt with, are their abilities often genetic or hereditary?
BS: It depends. We've done stories where the parents had it but had to keep it secret because they were told by their parents to keep it private and then in the process they've opened up to their kids because they were so ashamed and that someone would think something about them. Then we've had families where the kid is the only one and they obviously didn't know what to do and they're distraught and the fact that we have a therapist and a psychic is very helpful to them. It's not only about what they're abilities are but just dealing with being different and approaching other people in that way. It's not only for the kids but also for the parents.
JH: The paranormal is so big in reality television. What's the appeal with the audience with this genre of shows?
BS: I think for psychic kids it's also the emotional connection with these people and I think just the paranormal in general is big because there's no definitive answer to what it is. There are so many people that we hear from that have had experiences but they can't explain it so they can identify. The bottom line is also depending on what show it is it's showing a story of how to deal with it whether it is 'Paranormal State' and people need help and want answers and whether it's a definitive answer they ultimately feel a little more at peace. I think everybody is curious and wants to find out and seek the unknown themselves. A lot of people get involved because of the shows. I think everyone has a story whether it's someone passed away and they had a dream or they saw something or felt something. Most people if you tell them what you've experienced then you hear their stories.
JH: From the production standpoint, what these kids are feeling and seeing on the show, we can't see and the cameras don't see but how do you approach that?
BS: We don't know. We try to help them and through those things just happen. From a production standpoint you don't know what's going to happen but in terms of their experiences, as in the case of the first show, they picked up things that helped the professionals in what they were doing for the missing persons. I think it's kind of like being a fly on the wall. The purpose of this is not to put these kids through a test to prove themselves. We said from the beginning that it's their experience and as they go through with it and it always surprises us what happens over the course of the weekend.
JH: For the adults who have had these abilities and are guiding the kids, is it emotional for them since they can relate to what these kids are going through?
BS: It's very emotional. I think because of all the paranormal shows and the things that are out today which is probably very different from when they were probably children. They just feel happy that things have changed and the outlook has changed in some people's eyes and these kids don't have to feel so different or negative. For these teenagers, being able to use what may have normally been traumatic for them and turn it into a positive is a big deal and we help them see it.
"Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal" airs every Tuesday on A&E at 9:00/8:00c.