Helping My Child with Nighttime Fears

Helping you Child Overcome Nightmares

It’s 2 a.m. You roll over to the edge of your bed, and you feel a presence. You slowly open your eyes and not 2 inches from your face is another set of eyes staring at you. If you aren’t a parent, this would be cause for alarm or the beginning of a true crime documentary. If you are a parent, you already know those eyes belong to your beautiful child and they either wet the bed, need a drink of water, are scared of a storm, or have had a nightmare. We’ll save the bed-wetting and drink requests for another post and focus on nighttime fears; it is October after all…the month of spooky.

Everyone’s kids respond differently, and only you know your child best, but I can tell you what we do about nighttime fears in my family and why.

What we do:

1. We prepare.

A lot of times, we can predict when we might have a night visitor or if our kids are going to have trouble falling asleep from the get-go. Both of our children are scared of storms, especially our oldest. So, if the weather is already bad or if the forecast shows something’s coming, we get ready. Planning for it allows us to have that extra grace, because 2 a.m. Sheena isn’t naturally full of good will, but if I already assume I’m going to be woken up then it’s much less jarring and I can immediately be in the headspace to comfort.

Nightmares can be less predictable, but sometimes our kids will have seen something or ask questions before bed about a scary topic; on those nights, we don’t plan on uninterrupted sleep. We also prepare in a logistical sense when weather is concerned. We’ll get the sleeping bags out of the closet and ready to go, so if they do end up sleeping in our room, they’re A) not in our bed and B) it’s a quicker transition.

2. We give hugs and listen to our kids’ feelings before we try to be rational with them.

They’re scared. That is true. What they’re scared of may not be grounded in reality, but their feelings about it are very real. We hug them, listen, let them know we’re here for them, and express that we’re sorry they’re scared. Whether kids or adults, we all just want someone to acknowledge what we’re feeling.

3. We talk in practical terms about what they’re afraid of.

We might look at the radar to see where the storm is, where it’s heading, and the severity. We’ll talk about how storms are common in our area, that we have a safe home, that we would always get our kids from their rooms if we needed to take cover from a tornado, etc. We talk about what we have control of and what we don’t.

If they’re having nightmares about something fictional, like something from a scary movie, we’ll talk about movie magic. There’s a fun Bluey episode called Puppets where they show how they illustrate Bluey at the very end of the episode. We’ll talk to our kids about how this applies to scary imagery, too–there’s a person who looks at a script and they either illustrate, design costumes and sets, add special effects, etc. It’s just people playing make believe. And then we diffuse it by imagining what other things they could illustrate. (Farting is a popular artistic choice for our kids. Once a monster farts, they aren’t so scary.)

If it’s something real, like a robber, we go back to discussing what we have control over and what we don’t. We talk about our security system, how we live in a safe place, how we have amazing police who work hard to protect us, and how we would do anything to protect our babies.

4. We pray that God will comfort us, bring us peace, and keep us safe.

We remind them that God is with us. That doesn’t mean bad things don’t happen, but that He is with us, and we can lean on Him completely. We don’t say that God would never let anything bad happen. They know bad things happen, and they’ve already experienced loss in this life; we don’t want our kids to think God doesn’t care, that God does the bad things, or that He isn’t real. We want them to know, without a doubt, that He is with us and loves us through all things. We can share all our fears, and He will never laugh, be condescending, tell us to toughen up, or walk away. This is the part that sticks with our kids and will cover them in more ways than they can even imagine when they’re still little and fear monsters under the bed. This is the comfort they’ll lean on when they’re scared of losing friends and family, when they experience grief, when they experience their first heartbreak, when they feel alone, etc. This is the blanket that will keep them warm.

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.”

Psalm 46:1-2

“For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God. And I say to you ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.’”

Isaiah 41:13

After all that, we’ll see whether our kids are ready to be tucked back into their beds, or if they’re going to bunk in our room. We try to have grace either way. Again, you know your child and family. You know whether they’re milking it, whether they’re making it a habit, or whether it would be good for them to go to their room and see that everything is okay and that they’re brave. You also know whether they just need their mom and dad, whether they’re exhausted and just need to sleep, whether they’ve had a hard time lately, etc.

I hope this helped and at the very least gave you confidence in your choices and your knowledge of the precious child/children God entrusted to you. It’s such an honor and privilege to be theirs and for them to be ours. We aren’t going to do everything right as parents, and parenting can be exhausting, but loving our children comes naturally, and love is the thing that never fails. So you’ve got this…also, there’s coffee for the morning.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

You can read more about calming fears here on Parenting Pathway

Where to Find Jesus in a Spooky Season


  • Sheena Creek

    Greg and Sheena Creek are high school sweethearts and just celebrated their 10-year wedding anniversary this past December. They both attended The University of Texas at Dallas before getting married. Greg is a cyber security engineer, and Sheena is a stay at home mom. They have two wonderful and crazy children, Colleen and Jensen, and one dog, Mr. J. They have been attending Stonebriar Community Church since 2008 and are connected with the body of Christ through their Sunday Fellowship group, The Journey. Greg and Sheena actively serve in both Early Childhood and High School Ministries, where they are happy to walk through life with people who need to see, feel, and fall in love with Jesus.

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