Is there a monster in your child's closet? A mysterious shadow that lurks in the darkest corners? Is there any substance to these fears, or do they exist solely in the depths of your wee one's imagination? Hopefully the latter, but telling your child that doesn't always seem to quell their anxiety. Our daughter in particular has been a sensitive child with a vivid imagination from little on. At age 7, she's old enough to realize that sometimes bad things really do happen to good people - witness my (mom's) car accident this past fall, from which my back is still recovering, or her dad's news that he's being laid off from his job. Yes, our family has been coping with uncertainty and stress. Unfortunately, so has our society - in the wake of school shootings, our children's school has been doing lock down drills three times a month, and our daughter is bright enough to realize what they're preparing for. This has led to increasing anxiety for her at bedtime, running the gamut from creepy cartoon characters to the idea that someone will break in through her bedroom window and take her from us.
So how are we dealing? Well, I did a bit of Internet research. talked to family and friends, and also consulted our daughter's schoolteacher. I've put together a list of bedtime strategies for Helena to try, hopefully before she comes out of her room crying to us. Some have been more successful for her than others. Here's the list; I hope you will also find some useful ideas to comfort your little one. If you have other ideas I haven't tried, I'd love to hear from you, too! Together may we banish the boogie men and send our kids into dreamland feeling brave and safe.
1. Talk to a parent or friend.
2. Do something to distract your mind (for our daughter, this has included reading books that make her smile or looking at her photo album or doing a puzzle - all in her bed).
3. Listen to music - try soothing lullaby CDs, a music box - our kids really like Sleep Sound in Jesus by Michael Card.
4. Write or draw a picture of what you're afraid of - then tear it up!
5. Remind yourself when something is pretend and therefore not worthy of your fear. (at this age, many kids are still learning to distinguish between reality and fantasy).
6. Take a deep breath (count to 5), then slowly let it out.
7. Take steps to feel more safe or prevent what you're afraid of (i.e. check that the window is locked).
8. Have mom or dad spray a nice-smelling air freshener or body spray into the air to soothe you (lavender and vanilla are calming).
9. Cuddle with a stuffed animal.
11. Read your book mom made for you (see below). Reminding kids to meditate on the truth when they're afraid can be comforting, as God speaks to us through His Word.
I put together a little notebook for Helena of some Bible passages that I thought she might find comforting, and dressed it up with Christian stickers like crosses and angels. Here are a few of the passages I used:
- Luke 12:6-7, Philippiians 4:5, John 14:27, Deuteronomy 31:8, Psalm 56:3, Psalm 4:8, Psalm 16:1, Psalm 23:1,4, Isaiah 58:11, Psalm 28:7, 1 Peter 5:7, Romans 8:37-39, John 3:16, Psalm 134:3