I am not sure if you have had an experience in the past of watching a scary movie and then feel so scared to go to bed? Well, imagine this scenario but with a child? This feeling can be intensified ten times more. But what I would like to discuss here is what to do when your child is scared to go to sleep if they have watched a scary story from a documentary or a friend of your child has told your child a scary story that is true, so the facts are real.
In this scenario, you cannot say “This story is not true”, “This story is just fiction” or “Nothing will happen to you”, etc. These words of comfort are not helpful. This is what happened to my eldest daughter.
One Friday afternoon, she came back from school and told me that a friend was telling her and a group of her friends about Madeline McCann. It seems that her friend had watched the documentary on Netflix and she was explaining to them exactly what happened.
This is a story that has touched us all and affected so many parents and it is not something I want my 10-year-old to know too much about. It seems that her friend’s words got stuck in her head and she couldn’t stop thinking about this little girl. She remembered briefly seeing her face on the news as well as knowing briefly about her story but she never knew all the details in such a thorough telling.
So it got my daughter frightened to go to sleep as she was scared someone would come through the window or door to take her away! She didn’t want to go to sleep by herself at all and couldn’t stop crying. I must add that she normally has a lot of anxiety so her feelings were even higher.
This problem lasted for 7 nights but the first 4 nights were the worst. So I wanted to share with you the things that we did to calm her down.
7 Things To Do To Help Your Child With Anxiety Over Bedtime Fears
1. Double lock doors and windows
I know this sounds obvious but we made sure every night she was able to see that we were double locking the front door as well as locking her bedroom windows so nobody could get in as this was her main concern.
2. Rescue Remedy
My daughter had a severe anxiety phase last year between November to February. And one of the things that helped her was taking rescue remedy. It did calm her down so this time we tried it again.
She sprayed a few drops on her tongue before she went to bed and had it next to her during the night if she needed it again. This was one of the best results that helped her during these panic attacks before bedtime.
3. Leave a night lamp on
She normally has a night lamp which helps her during the night but this time we increased the intensity so she had a brighter light during the night so her room was not as dark anymore.
4. Cuddles and comforting
This, of course, sounds obvious but you really should do this as your child needs you. You need to remain calm and transfer this sense of calm to your child, let them feel safe and reassure them that everything is fine and you are there to make sure nothing will happen. Keep a low and calm voice to help with the panic attack and anxiety.
4. Calm Audio
I am not sure if you have heard of Calm before. It is an amazing app that comes with so many resources to help adults and kids suffering from anxiety. They have meditation audios, sleep time stories and of course, audios to calm anxious feelings. I use this a lot for me when I feel anxious too and we love the bedtime stories. My youngest loves listening to them too, it sends her straight to bed.
We chose audio that was specifically designed to calm the mind and body when you are going through feelings of high anxiety. She put her headphones on and listened to it while lying in her bed. We also programmed it to play nature noises after the audio which will calm her down through the night. It has a timer so it will eventually turn off when she is completely calm and asleep. I highly recommend this app. It is brilliant.
6. Breathing exercise
When your child is in the middle of a panic attack it is so important to encourage them to breathe in and out to let the air get inside their lungs. Having deep breaths sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.
It is so effective. I do it a lot when I feel anxious and stressed. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body.
7. Sleep with them the first night
I know this could be controversial as they might want you to do this every night but I think the first night that they start with these feelings if they really need you, it won’t hurt staying with them. I did this the first night and it really helped. We had a chat the following morning and explained that I did this to comfort her as it was her first experience with this feeling about this story but it wouldn’t happen again.
The following nights we did the whole routine and I only stayed until she fell asleep. She likes to have either me or Nick stay in the room for a little bit until she is asleep. We don’t mind doing this. Soon she will be begging us to get out of her room, LOL, so it is okay to enjoy the little time we have left before she is officially a teenager!
We followed all the above steps every night for the first 4 days. The remaining nights we were able to miss a few things like rescue remedy, she didn’t need to see the windows double locked anymore, etc. She still likes to listen to the Calm app audio. She finds them very relaxing so she does that every night still.
These are all the things that we did to keep her calm and eventually, she forgot about this story and she was back to normal. And the most important factor was giving her extra love and being understanding. It can be traumatic for them so it is important to be patient. It will go away, some kids would take longer than others but it will eventually go away.
I hope this list is useful for you if you experience something similar with your child. I guess some of them can be used by an adult to calm down anxiety feelings too.
Have you had a similar experience before? If yes, what did you do? What else can you add to this list?
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