Nighttime Fears

A young girl is hiding her face beneath a blanket.
Ali Kerem YÃ'cel/iStock/Thinkstock

At bedtime, you may need to deal with some childhood fears. Monsters in the closet, under the bed, or outside the window may need to be banished.

Be sure to ask what your child has in mind — is the creature something from a book or video, or perhaps a tall tale spun by an insensitive adolescent next door? Are we talking about space aliens, Brothers Grimm concoctions, or something from the nightly news that is in fact a reality somewhere in the world or the community? Are there tensions at home creating a need for reassurance?

Be decisive

Very often the beast in question doesn't exist except in someone's imagination. In this case it can be tempting to give a lighthearted, direct inspection ("I don't see any monsters in your closet — just a lot of junk!"), but you may leave the impression that there are monsters or aliens running around somewhere — they just don't happen to be here at the moment. For these fears, more decisive reality checks are important ("Bigfoot isn't under your bed or anywhere else").

When the issue is burglars or other villains who actually do exist out there, you will need to be more specific about the safeguards in your home: You are present (or if you are going out, someone you trust will be there), the doors are locked, and perhaps you have a dog or an alarm system that adds to your home's security.

Explore the problem

In addition, remind your child that God is keeping watch over her twenty-four hours a day. What your child really wants is reassurance and confidence that things are under control.

If a fearful bedtime resistance persists or escalates, take time to find out if something else is bothering her. Did your child see a disturbing image on TV or a video? Did she hear an argument the other night? Did something else frighten her?

Once you have spent time exploring the problem, it's okay to make some minor adjustments to reduce the anxiety level: leaving a light on in the hallway or the door open a little wider, for example.

But don't get pulled into more elaborate or manipulative routines, such as her insisting on falling asleep in your bed or on the living-room floor when she claims that she's afraid of something. She needs to know that she will be just as safe and sound in her own bed as anywhere else.

 

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