The simple act of putting your child to bed can become a major challenge when the response to “good night sweetie” is “but, mommy, there are monsters over there!”
A mom recently sought online advice for her 3 year old who was so terrified of monsters that he either couldn’t go to sleep or he would wake up frightened several times during the night.
There are many ways to help your child manage his “big monster feelings” depending on who they are, what age they are, and what you think to do to soothe them in the heat of the moment. Whatever method you do try, however, the main thing is to make sure that your child sees you as his “safe haven”. Here is how the conversation might go…
There are some things in this world – like mean people, loud noises, big machines – that may scare you, and that’s okay. It’s a big world out there. You can always tell me stories about the things that scare you and we will make it better – we can talk about these things, we can draw pictures about these things, or I can just hold you tight till the scary feelings go away.
Monsters are pretend creatures that can be really scary to imagine when you think they might be hiding in a corner of your room, but you know, at other times when you aren’t going to sleep, they can even be fun to think about or to draw. Now it is bedtime, when it’s best to have quiet, happy thoughts so here are some ideas: We can play your favorite music, we can sing together, we can read a book, we can hug, or we can tell stories with happy endings. In taking this approach you are neither denying their feelings “there are no monsters” nor indulging their fantasies “let’s sweep those monsters outside” but rather staying with the “big feelings”, talking about what’s going on honestly and earnestly, and offering loving comfort to help him “make friends with his monster feelings”.
AskDrDeborah recommends reading these monster-themed books to help your child make friends with his monsters –
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
peek-a-boo Monsters by Charles Reasoner
Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
Do you have a parenting questions of your own? Post to “Askdrdeborah” in our Mama Tent Private Facebook Group and make sure to bookmark www.AskDrDeborah.com for when the parenting website and parenting advice chat room becomes available (this free service is currently in progress – but coming soon).
Deborah and the Well Baby Center Family
Deborah Groening is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), and Certified Infant-Mental Health Specialist. She is also the Clinic Director of Well Baby Center.