My middle child is afraid of the dark. You wouldn’t know it because she’s so stinkin’ fearless during the day. Yet once her PJs zip up and the lights go out, it’s as though all of her confidence fades away and is replaced by the “what ifs”:
“What if you die tonight mama?”
“What if I die?”
“What if a giant eats me?”
“What if a police officer comes to take me away.” (???)
“What if the mustache baby gets me?” (true story)
And so on.
Her curiosity and creativity are beautiful during the day, but at night they create a perfect storm for anxiety to brew. We’ve therefore had to be more creative than she is in order to beat those nighttime fears. Here’s what we’ve tried successfully:
- We talk about what IS real.
- We pray.
- We laugh. A LOT!!!
Talking about what’s real is important, but we don’t spend too much time there. This is because explaining things gives us comfort, but it often overwhelms our kids. It’s better, then, to move quickly from instruction into ACTION, which is where prayer comes in.
Memorize a scripture verse with your kids and tell them to recite it every time they feel afraid. Our favorite is James 1:9 but there are hundreds to choose from. After you’ve done that, you can move on to laughing, which I would argue is equally as important as praying. And here’s why.
Laughing decreases stress hormones and increases endorphins, improving your overall health and well-being. It also tricks your brain into thinking about JOY instead of fear. You know why? Our brains can’t think of two things at the same time! It’s true.
As sophisticated as they are, they are NOT able to process two things simultaneously. This is why if you’re anxious or scared or irritated and you start singing or telling jokes, you will NOT be able to focus on your worries anymore. It’s a brilliant self-defense mechanism, if you ask me, so I suggest you try it and then show your kids how to do it too.
Here are some funny things we’ve done to combat our child’s fears:
When she was afraid of The Mustache Baby book (seriously, the worst book ever!), we made mustaches out of scotch tape and danced around our house declaring VICTORY over mustaches everywhere. This, of course, made us all laugh and feel ridiculous so her fears melted away. (Seriously. How creepy is that guy??!).
When she became afraid of giants eating her like Cheerios, I introduced glow-in-the-dark stars — one for each night she stayed in bed. I told her that after she stayed in bed for five nights, she would get a GIANT mommy star.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“It’s a GREAT BIG glow-in-the-dark star with mommy’s face ALL over it. That way you can look up at night and see me!”
And here’s how it turned out. (Look how happy she is in that picture too??!).
When she started becoming afraid of scorpions crawling into her bed at night, we made glow in the dark angels. All you need are three small paper plates and some glow-in-the-dark paint. Do a little cutting, and voila! Your little one has some comfort for bedtime.
We hung at least 10 angels all around her room. And then at bedtime I would say, “See? Your angels are surrounding you!” And she would smile…because she could actually see them!
Now, I’m not saying that this will solve all of your little’s fears (because even mine STILL gets up from time to time), but it WILL bring light to the situation, which is really what all of us mamas want to do, right?
Simple, but so good. And at the very least, you can say you didn’t die trying, you went down laughing instead.
(Always laugh people, even when it seems like they’re the ones winning.)