Monsters In The Closet
Closets can be scary places. I’m not going to lie: there are a number of closets in our house that terrify me. I just want to slam the door shut and be glad I made it out alive. What keeps me awake at night is the mess and sheer volume of stuff jammed into those darn closets. But for many kids, closets (along with their colleagues basements and under-the-beds) can be the home of monsters. This can make it pretty tough for some imaginative children to fall asleep.
I’ve heard that some people have had great success with things like “monster spray”, a water mister that you spray in the closet to keep the monsters away. I’m not a huge fan. You know there are no monsters in Junior’s closet, and I know that, but how will he understand that if you’re only keeping them at bay by using this special spray? Lots of people swear they’ve had great success and no problems with it, but you never know which child is going to be soothed by it, and which is going to be even more anxious and worried about seeing proof that there really are monsters in his closet. I don’t think this is the best way to gain personal mastery over a fear.
If you have a young insomniac on your hands, acknowledge your child’s fears and let him know you get it. Dismissing them or giving them too much weight both send a contrary message to the we hope he picks up: that it’s ok to be scared but there are things he can do to help himself overcome that fear.
During daylight hours, peek through the closet with him, and let him reassure himself that there really is nothing there. Ask him how realistic it seems for something to just appear there at night. If there’s something in there that bothers him, take it out and put it somewhere else. It’s also ok to want to sleep with your closet door closed if that gives you one less thing to worry about.
Give your little guy a few tools that he can use on his own in bed, too. Before he closes his eyes, teach him to make a conscious decision to not think about things that worry him, but to focus on something good or happy that’s coming up. Help him to practice telling himself that he has nothing to worry about, that he’s safe, that there’s nothing in his closet or under his bed. He can even picture himself going to his “happy place”, wherever that might be – the cottage, on the rink, at Grandma’s house. A few deep breaths can offset the adrenaline brought on by anxieties, and help him relax his body and mind, so teach him to take five or 10 deep breaths if he starts to feel his mind drift to somewhere scary.
Of course, it’s probably also a good idea to limit the kinds of stories and movies he’s exposed to, so that he can grow into scarier themes gradually. But if none of this seems to help, and his worries just seem to be getting worse or expanding into other areas of his life, it’s probably time for him to meet with an expert.