Bedtime Fears

I am afraid of the dark.

I could tell you the origin of this fear. But I know, in my head, that it is ridiculous. Or, at least, running from my living room to the safety of under-my-covers is ridiculous.

Even more, I fear I will pass fear on to my daughter.

I hope she is brave and finds ways to defeat all of her fears. Dealing with fear is a part of life that begins so young. In response to a comment from my friend and reader Szilivia, I've tried to tap the picture book market for bedtime fear-fighting strategies. She asked, "Is there any book you could recommend for a little girl who is afraid of going to bed at night and has night terrors?"

First, a note on night terrors vs. nightmares. As far as I can understand, night terrors occur in very deep sleep, and the sleeper should be monitored against accidental injury (if they are flailing or sleepwalking) but no intervention should take place, as this could agitate them further. Supposedly, people who have night terrors do not remember them when they wake up in the morning. Perhaps a psychologist could help determine if there was a trauma that started them, and develop a treatment for them. Nightmares are more common, and occur in a lighter sleep. I'm not pretending to be an expert, I just thought that was interesting, and forgot to record the citation for the book that explained that. My former English professors would weep.

Surprisingly little is written about night terrors, and children's books deal lightly with bad dreams, and more likely focus on fear of the dark at bedtime.

But, in case it is helpful, I found:

The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Dream (1988) by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Sister Bear has a bad dream about Brother Bear's favorite trend in toys and theaters, "Space Grizzlies". Mama and Papa Bear explain that dreams are just our imagination putting together things we've seen or thought about. When Brother Bear also has a vivid "Space Grizzlies" nightmare, Sister Bear passes on the explanation. This book is a great tool for teaching children to understand dreams, and think through their fears. Ages 4 and up would be most likely to grasp the message. Anyone born before 2000 certainly already knows that the Berenstain Bears are always fun and realistic.

Scary Night Visitors: A Story for Children with Bedtime Fears (1993) by Irene Wineman Marcus and Paul Marcus, PhD.; illustrated by Susan Jeschke
The best part of this book is the "Introduction for Parents, Teachers, and Librarians", which explains the importance teaching children to validate their feelings and learn control over their fear. The black-and-white pencil illustrations are actually a bit frightening, and the story includes complex ideas crammed into an story not dynamic enough to demonstrate them. It is well-intentioned, with more information on resources for teaching children about nightmares, but I would not read it to a child.

There's A Nightmare in My Closet (1968) by Mercer Mayer. 
My librarian suggested this "classic", in which a young boy confronts the monster in his closet and discovers that the monster fears him. The language is clever and cute, and while the red-white-green drawings are not as engaging as modern illustrations, they still capture action and emotion well. Its practicality in helping with nightmares seems unlikely. Also, I personally would not endorse a boy shooting a toy gun at a monster (as the narrator does), but that is a soap box for a different day.

Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go to Sleep (1998) by Joyce Dunbar and Debi Gliori
Willa can't sleep, so her sweet brother Willoughby comforts her by pointing out all the things that are waiting for Willa tomorrow. The jumpsuit is "longing" to be worn by Willa, the basket of toys are "dreaming" of the games they will play, and so on. The end feels sweet and resolved. While this does not address bad dreams, specifically, I thought it suggested an excellent relaxation and security practice for toddlers at bedtime. Read this book at the bedside of children ages 18 months and up, as a platform for discussing their days.

Did you notice I didn't find anything published in the last twelve years? Comment about what has worked for your children's bedtime fears, and if you know of any newer picture books and/or resources that would help.

P.S. There are a lot more books I love dealing with other fears, so I'll bring those up in the future.

1 comment:

  1. I remember that Berenstain Bears book. Good one.


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