Bed time. It can be quite a challenge with little ones. We’ve got one in our bed, one that sleep walks and one that thinks he’s old enough to stay up late on school nights, despite what we say. But every night, I get excited when it’s “that time”. The bathed and clean little boys with freshly brushed teeth, all snug in their beds, makes a mom’s heart happy. And I know soon there will be silence across the whole house. The peace, the quiet…and then you hear the tiny voice chirping, “I’m scared!”
Over the years I’ve checked for monsters under the bed, dinosaurs in the closet, aliens outside the window and Ninjas behind every corner. Even my best detective skills have never turned up anything more than a couple dust bunnies or a missing sock. But that doesn’t always convince my boys.
Fears aren’t limited to nighttime, though—many kids are afraid of everything from swimming pools (what if there’s a shark?!?) to thunderstorms (what if the lightening gets me?!?) to spiders (can you blame him?). Some fears may be more legitimate than others, but all are very real to your child, whether they’re two or twelve.
Validate the feelings, but not the creepies. Childhood fears are very normal, and it’s important to be respectful of your child’s feelings. Going overboard, though, by checking in every drawer for monsters or calling the swimming pool to ask if any sharks have been sighted, will only backfire by spinning the qualm out of proportion. Avoid playing into the anxiety by briefly empathizing, then telling her you have confidence she can overcome it. Then, help her do so with the next tip.
Conquer the fear. Whether your child has had a frightful experience with a neighbor’s dog or can’t stomach escalators, he can conquer it with a little guidance from you. First, in a calm moment, ask him for his ideas. Say, “I’ve noticed that dogs make you nervous—can you think of some things that would help you get used to them?” Maybe he’s okay with dogs in kennels or on leashes, or maybe little dogs aren’t as scary. Start with your child’s suggestions, and gradually work your way up until he’s confronting his fear—and getting over it. Recognize that especially if he’s had a bad experience in the past, this could take some time, but his new found confidence will pay off.
Say “boo” to ghost stories. While you or your older kids might enjoy spooky stories and shows, they might be keeping your four-year-old up at night. (or 8 and 12, like mine.) And while children may think they can handle creepy characters, sometimes their vivid imaginations get the better of them when the lights are off. Know what your kids are reading and watching—even cartoons can have scary parts that are best avoided until the children are older and better able to differentiate fact from fiction. Set appropriate limits, and when you feel like your child can handle a bit more, take it slowly and talk about what’s real and what’s not.
Pray with your kiddos. Teaching our kids to give their fears to the Lord helps them now and teaches them to form that same habit in the future. Explain that God is in control. That it says in the Bible that He will never leave you or forsake you. That even now, when it is dark and scary, He is right here, protecting you.
A few years ago, my then 6 year old, Benjamin, came to me one morning and said, “I had a really bad dream last night.” I said, “Oh no, buddy. Why didn’t you come and wake me up?” And he said, “Because I prayed Jesus would take my scaredness away, and He did!” I wanted to start jumping up and down with joy!!! There is NOTHING like the moment you see your child rely on God alone and get what he prayed for! Hallelujah!
Happy parenting and have a very blessed weekend, friends!!!
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