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.