Have you been here? My daughter Natalie had a few weeks of bad dreams that led to her being afraid at bedtime. She cried, stalled, and was truly anxious when it came to going to sleep at night. As her mom, all I wanted to do was to hold her and make her understand that she was safe. However, as you may know, convincing your little that they are safe and there is nothing to fear is easier said than done.
“It is estimated that 10 to 50 percent of children ages 3-6 experience significant enough nightmares to disturb their parents,” (Cleveland Clinic) aka wake you up in the middle of the night, extend bedtime, and cause your heart to break trying to comfort them. And most children experience nighttime fears at some point during childhood (Cincinnati Children’s). But as a parent, you probably don’t need to be informed of the statics. If studies are correct, you have probably lived through this with your little at some point. So, from one parent who loves her little to another, here are some things that I found through experience and, more importantly, through the Word of God, to impact bedtime fears:
The first and maybe most obvious thing to is PRAY. I didn’t have to scour my Bible for this answer; although of course, there are many different verses about prayer and praying in every situation (Eph 6:18). However, we cannot overlook the importance of turning the situation to God, asking for His help, and thanking Him for the help that He will bring. Philippians 4:6 NLT says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” It sounds so simple, but it is so vital. Since we are often in silent prayer, it is tempting to continue praying in our hearts and minds, but our child needs to hear us turning it over to God. For my daughter, it acted as end to the bad dream/fear and a starting point for God taking over. Also by seeing our example and practicing it themselves, it builds in our children the habit of continually asking God for help and trusting Him to do it.
Claim and pray BIBLE VERSES. Isaiah 55: 11 in the MSG God says His Words will, “not come back empty-handed.They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.” Deuteronomy 7:9 tells us that God always keeps His promises. Matthew 24:35 TPT says, “The earth and sky will wear out and fade away before one word I speak loses its power or fails to accomplish its purpose.” The Word of God is the only weapon that is described in our armor of God, and Ephesians 6:17 calls it the “sword of the Spirit.” It is a weapon to fight and cut through any plans the enemy has to bring or exploit the fears our children experience. Praying out loud, claiming and even writing Bible verses down for your little to hear and read are all powerful ways to banish fear from your little’s thoughts and dreams. Looking for some ideas for bedtime verses? Here are a few of our favorites: (Looking for more? Check out our book Tonight: A Book of Bedtime Promises ).
The last tip is to CHANGE THEIR THOUGHTS. This may sound impossible, but Romans 12:2 NLT tells us, “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” We have found that having a plan for when the “scary thoughts” come has helped a lot. 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV says to, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” How do we do this? Philippians 4:8 MSG tells us, “I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Before bedtime and before the thoughts start coming, talk through a game plan. For my daughter and I, it sounds something like this, “When that thought or picture comes into your head what should we think about instead? How about: when we went to the beach last week or going to church tomorrow to see our friends or how Jesus is laying right next to you in bed?” This not only is an effective strategy to get their minds away off of fearful things, but also begins training our children that they can control their thoughts and minds. God’s Word and principals are amazing, “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16)!
Obviously, this list is not all inclusive; there could be and have been many books written about children and sleep. I pray and believe that God will give you the revelation and knowledge for your little and your specific situation. However, these are the top few things that we have found helpful and, most importantly, Biblical in our situation. And, I can joyfully report that my daughter no longer fears going to bed at night. We continue to use all of these things that have been laid out in God’s Word and are diligent to apply them when a rare bad dream does come. In writing, “Tonight,” my heart, and my daughter’s, was to share God’s promises and Word with others who may need it. We are praying that the Lord will use this to bring comfort and victory to you and your little.
Through His Grace,