I wrote this post several years ago, but my friend recently told me that his son couldn’t fall asleep at night and all of these ideas came flooding back….
I can remember as a kid being terrified to stay out at my Grandparents’ house. In the daytime, it was the greatest place on Earth… to me, it was better than Disney World. My Grandpap worked in the coal mine for many years and did OK for himself.
He was always buying my brother and me the coolest things, and we were spoiled rotten from it. We each had our own Go-cart (which I learned to drive before I could ride a bike), mini-bikes, pool, pool table, BB guns, etc. It really was a little boy’s paradise.
However, as the sun started to set, I could not wait to get in our car and go home. I didn’t mention that they lived on a 70-acre farm in rural Western PA. The roads were quiet and strange noises were always coming from the fields and the woods. Not really my cup of tea! As much as I liked spending the day there, I hated staying the night there even more. Still, to this day, when we go back to visit, I feel the same way.
One of our children used to have trouble falling asleep at night; when we would ask, “What’s wrong?” the answer was always, “I’m scared.” As an adult, it is easy to get upset because of the lack of sleep and say, “Just go to sleep!”
However… as someone who can remember being a child, afraid of the dark, I have sympathy… because I know remember how it feels.
So, how do you keep your kids from being scared at night? There are several things we did to help.
- We added an extra night light and put one in the hall next to their bedroom door. We found that he fell asleep faster when he saw the light coming into his room from the hall. It also adds the “Yellow Brick Road” effect in the middle of the night. Just follow the light to a “safer” place… Mommy and Daddy’s room.
- We replaced one of his night lights with a color-changing and dimming light bulb, like the ilumi bulb. The calming red tones help soothe and relax at night and it turns into a great play toy in the day. Our kids love to have dance parties. Since this light changes to a bazillion colors, he is able to host the dance parties in his room. With this light, we can control the color with our phones. (Did you know that blue stimulates alertness?) So it’s a win-win for everyone.
- We opened his closet instead of closing it. I can remember, as a child myself, lying in bed, staring at my closet door, hoping nothing would come out. I think this was partly due to the movie “Poltergeist,” Thanks, Mom and Dad! ha!
With the closet being opened, there is nothing to worry about- he can see right in, so he can see that there is nothing in there.
- Let them pick out a “special” flash light and keep it near their bed. I will say at first, you will burn through some batteries because they will love playing with it, but this will only last a week or so. It makes them feel safe.
- Pray for them. As soon as you tuck them in, pray for them (before you do the rest). Talk about how God will keep them safe and ask him to send his guardian angels to watch over our family and house. Becky tells the kids that their prayers put an invisible bubble around them to keep him safe.
- Add a little bit of white noise to the mix. All of our kids have small fan or a noise machine in their room. The background noise will help relax them and help keep them asleep for longer periods. It also will help hide the unexpected noises of car alarms, sirens, thunder, fireworks, etc. I still like to sleep with a fan next to the bed (Becky says that I use it to quiet the sound of the kids if they wake up in the middle of the night, calling for us. She still hears them. Another win-win for the Dads. …just kidding)
- Spend a little more time at night lying with them and talking to them before they go to sleep. It will help reduce the stress and pressure they feel to fall asleep. Becky and I have found that if we spend a few extra minutes with the kids, they actually fall asleep faster. Also, you will find it is time they will “open up” to you more!
- Talk about ONLY happy things before they go to sleep. An upcoming trip. Something fun that you are doing tomorrow. A funny thing that happened the past week.
- Hang up pictures near their bed. Our kids have pictures of happy things hanging in their bedrooms. This gives them something to look at when they are falling asleep.
- Be patient with them. This is the hardest one, but I had to throw it in there. If you get upset, it only makes the going to sleep part MUCH harder after their adrenaline is rushing. This is a phase. This, too, shall pass.