The lights are out. Something moves on the wall. There is a sudden, unexpected sound. A scary image flashes on the screen of your child’s mind. Next comes the familiar cry, “Mommy, I’m scared.” You enter your child’s room and ask what’s wrong. The weepy answer that you have heard many times before comes once again, “I don’t know. I’m just afraid. Don’t leave.” What do you do?
The first thing to recognize is that there usually is not a response you can make at this moment that will magically make everything okay for your child. So, in the moment you comfort your child, pray with her and offer your assurances that she is safe. Often this means staying with your child until sleep comes. However, the goal of this post is to help you avoid repeat performances of this scenario.
Often, as in the scenario above, young children can’t remember exactly why they are scared. Yes, sometimes there are scary images from a book, a video or a story the child remembers. But often, just the darkness is enough to bring fear. Leaving the lights on may work for some children but by itself this doesn’t address the underlying reasons for the fear.
First, check out the room for things that may appear during the night that are not obvious in daylight. One of my children was frightened by the shadow of a tree limb on the wall that moved in the wind but was only visible when there was moon light. During the day, or when there was no moon or wind this was not observable. Situations like these are correctable once you know they exist.