“Mommy, adults are so silly. They say things like ‘monsters don’t exist…’ How would they know? Just because they can’t see the monsters doesn’t mean they don’t exist in my head! I have monsters in my head. For real life!”
How insightful and how true! How can I tell my son that monsters don’t exist, that they aren’t real when he’s the one who has to deal with the realities of said monster in this head. The fear is real, the heart-pounding is real, the stress and the pain… it’s all real.
So what next? The monster may not be a real, physical being that I can handcuff and throw in jail to make my son feel safer. But… telling him that the monster is not real is not helpful. What I need to do is to listen, lean in and help him deal with his truth. What he needs from me is not judgment, but the guidance to figure out how to deal with his realities, his challenges.
So this is what we do:
- Identify the problem. There is a monster in my head. I’m too scared to fall asleep.
- Explore our options. Would it help to keep the lights on? the door open? Mommy lying next to me?
- Evaluate the pros and cons of the options. My brother can’t sleep with the lights on or the door open. But he would love to have Mommy stay for a bit too.
- Pick a plan of action. Mommy will lie down with boys for a few minutes.
- Implement it. Together. There will be days when Mommy can do this, but not every night. Will we be okay on the nights Mommy can’t do this?
- Assess the outcome. This seems to work…
- Apply any lessons. Even though it feels better when Mommy stays with us, we seem to be okay on the nights Mommy can’t do it. Sometimes my brother has to compromise and allow the night light or the door to be open.
- Celebrate the win! Hey, we can compromise and there may be more than one solution!
- Show the love. Mommy loves you, no matter what, and we will figure it out, no matter what.
That last one seems to be super important to my monster-fearing little one.