I am one of those people whose imagination can run away with itself very easily. This seems to amplify itself tenfold at night time. And it doesn’t just have to be a monster under the bed, it can be other things too.
What’s that banging noise?
Oh my gosh, it must be a burglar coming to kidnap my child.
The reality is that it’s the wind blowing a tree branch against the house.
Or the other classic that I fall prey to in the middle of the night is…
*Gasp* It’s 4am and Miss 4 has not come in to my bed to put her cold feet on me! Clearly something must have happened to her, I must get up immediately to check on her. In the process, I will freeze and wake her up from her peaceful sleep!
Then I thought about it. If my imagination is this overactive at night when I am old enough to know better, then what must our children’s imaginations be like. We encourage pretend play in the daytime as it is such a great learning experience for our little ones. But when it comes to night time, we assume they shut their imaginations off for sleep. That is not always the case.
Like me, some children have a hard time shutting it down. The most common outcomes of this are bad dreams and imagining things that aren’t really there – a monster under the bed.
It is very common for a child to have the odd bad dream. It can be caused by getting hyped up before bedtime, hearing a scary story or watching a scary movie, or being anxious about something that happened that day.
If your child has a bad dream, go to them. Comfort them and allow them to talk about it if they wish. If your little one begins to have a number of bad dreams, then it is a great idea to sit down and talk about what is going on in their daily life. They may be stressed or anxious about something that you can work through.
If you are concerned about the frequency of the bad dreams your child is having, then it may be worth speaking with your doctor about it. Your child may be experiencing night terrors or anxiety issues.
A Monster Under the Bed
This is where the over-active imagination takes hold. Children convince themselves that something is there when it really isn’t. Unexplained noises, unfamiliar shadows or shapes they cannot recognise can all spell a monster under the bed. Luckily there are lots of things you can do to help your little ones in this situation.
Under the Bed
Under the bed can be a scary place to look at night time as you can’t always see what’s at the back or behind things stored there. Make it part of your nightly routine to check under the bed for monsters if this is something that really worries your child. Maybe keep a torch next to the bed for checking purposes!
Show Them What It Actually Is
If they think they can see a monster under a blanket or behind a curtain, then move the item and show your little one what it actually is. It might be the cat having a snuggle at the end of the bed, or some toys under a blanket. When they see that it is nothing scary, it will put their mind at ease.
A nightlight is a great idea for children who are anxious of the dark. It will cast a dim glow around the room so that they do not have to sleep in the pitch black. They can see all the things in their room and be able to see where they are going if they need to get up in the night. Being able to see everything removes the fear of the unknown.
Be mindful that having a nightlight will make shadows in the room. Try not to put any items near the nightlight that might make a strange shadow on the wall. Also explain away any furniture items that might cast an unfamiliar shadow.
Why do monsters have to be scary? Perhaps there are friendly monsters who are looking over your child as they sleep. Think Monsters Inc or Where the Wild Things Are. Just because something looks different doesn’t mean it is scary or bad!
There are heaps of versions of this idea doing the rounds on the internet. The basic premise is that you fill a spray bottle with water (it can be scented, coloured or plain) and you spray the room before bedtime to prevent monsters from being able to get into the room.
Turn Their Pillow Over
If your child has had a nightmare and is having trouble going back to sleep, then get them to turn their pillow over. Tell them this squashes the bad dreams and lets the good dreams out.
You are never going to stamp out nightmares completely, but you can try to minimise them happening by making sure your child is getting enough sleep.
- Having a regular bedtime routine will help them settle into a peaceful sleep
- Try not to give them sugary treats too close to bedtime
- Have quiet and relaxing activities leading up to bedtime. Don’t get them hyped up and full of energy right before they are expected to go to sleep.
- Talk about any concerns they have in the daytime to prevent things playing on their minds at night.
How do you deal with nightmares or a monster under the bed in your household? We would love to hear about it in the comments below or over on our Facebook page!
Gemma is a kiwi Mum of one and is the Editor for The Baby View. She also works with preschool children, loves cooking, loves sunshine, loves chocolate and loses countless hours at a time looking at cute baby pictures on Instagram!