When I was little I swore something lived under my bed. I remember my parents telling me there was nothing under there, but I still needed to have it checked before the lights were turned off each night.
At certain ages, the imagination of children runs wild. The expansion of the imagination is important and one of the pillars of creativity, but in certain developmental stages it can haunt children and create fears that we adults have a hard time understanding and helping them with. We can tell them that monsters don’t exist and that there is nothing in the closet, but until they truly understand and believe these things, our words are meaningless.
As with many developmental milestones and life changes, books can help us deal with fear, nightmares and imagination. How? By demystifying and giving different perspectives on fear.
Here are some titles I like to help with the bad dream / nightmare / monster under the bed stage:
1) There’s Something There by Mercer Mayer This is a collection of three stories: There’s Something In My Attic, There’s a Monster in my Closet and There’s an Alligator Under My Bed. All stories are simple and empower the main character, which may provide some ideas on helping your child. I do have one hesitation recommending There’s a Monster in my Closet. The main character sleeps with a pop gun to scare the monster away. While I despise the use and thought of any gun, I do think that having some sort of item that helps a child protect themselves can be a great strategy in dealing with nightmares. My choice of an item would be a teddy bear who can speak Monster…a peaceful negotiator.
2) Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere This book is great for the 3-6 year old with monster fears. It not only has great illustrations, but will make you and your child giggle. Turns out that the monster who is supposedly coming to eat you only wants kisses. Love that guy.
3) The Dark by Lemony Snicket This story is for the older child, but the idea is that once you get used to the dark it is easy to see everything.
I am not a child counselor nor child whisperer, but helping your child differentiate between real and pretend while reading books will help them process the world around them. (This is easy to do and also introduces the idea of fiction and non-fiction literature.) We don’t want to destroy our children’s imaginations, but aim to help them understand what is and what is not real. They will and can continue to use their imagination, but will hopefully also slowly learn the reality and control of these thoughts.
If you have further interest in this subject, here is a great talk on fear. I am still pondering the speaker’s point; maybe you will find something helpful.