Lions, tigers and bears, oh my

Lil' Miss threw us a curve ball last night. She has suddenly developed a fear of mysterious animals under the bed. I actually think it started the night before, but we didn't quite understand what was going on. Everytime we turned off the lights and closed the door, she began crying for us to come back. The night before, we thought she was just giving us a hard time. Last night, she actually told me that she hears "animal sounds" under the bed after we close the door. I was required to check under the bed with the light on, and then again with the light off. Those safety checks did not make her feel any better. I asked her what kind of animals are under the bed. She told me there were lions under the bed. I patiently explained that lions do not live under beds, they live in the jungle. Then she told me maybe it's a bear. I explained that bears cannot fit under her little bed. She then asks, "Can jaguars fit under there?" I could see that this conversation could go on for a very long time. I explained to her that no animals can fit under our bed, not even our dog. No animals can get into our house because all the doors are locked.

I thought about telling her that the only person in the room with her (besides her brother who sleeps in the bunk below) is God. But she has not been quite clear on who God is. I think she understands that God made the heavens and the earth and all of us, and controls all things, but she quite often asks what God looks like, where does God live, can we take a plane to visit God, can we spend the night at God's house, you get the picture. I thought that if I mentioned that God is in the room, she might spend the rest of the night looking for a mysterious person instead of mysterious animals. She was already in tears and in an unstable frame of mind.

I did a bit of research after she finally went to sleep. It turns out that a sudden development of nighttime fears is normal for children her age. Here is some of what I discovered:
  • It's fairly common for young children to experience bedtime fears. Their little imaginations are developing like wildfire, and they don't have the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality. In her mind, there really IS an animal under the bed.
  • She could simply be going through a "scared of the dark" phase, and she will outgrow it in time.
  • She might be reacting to some kind of stress in her environment. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are upcoming changes in her life that could be stressful to her.
  • Ask her if she's been feeling worried or scared about anything lately. We could encourage her to draw some pictures of anything that's been bothering her.
  • Make sure the night light in their room doesn't cast any scary shadows on the wall.
  • Though she sleeps with several of her dolls, we could also pick out a stuffed animal that can be her special "bedtime friend," providing her with comfort when we're not there.
  • We could pick out some special kids worship songs to play in the little CD player in their room - right now they just listen to lullabies and classical music.
  • Most importantly, remind her that God loves her and promises to always be with us and take care of us. Teach her to pray simple prayers if she wakes up in the night, asking God to help her to not be afraid.

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