I have been blessed with a daughter who has a vivid imagination. We keep a bathroom light on all night, and we have night lights in every room of the lights (I have a husband who thinks lights are cool). Still, on occasion she wakes us up because she has had a nightmare.
Last night she came in, heart beating fast and voice all shaky, because she had a bad dream. It was too terrible to talk about, she said, but it did have an earthquake in it. I let her lie beside me for a few minutes, and then I started to help her put the dream behind her so she could go back to sleep.
I didn’t tell her anything new, but I did categorize it differently. I explained that God made us in such a way that when we fill our minds with good thoughts, the bad thoughts go away. She asked how, and I told her she could think of three things:
- She could imagine something pleasant. Since Bethel likes horses, I asked her what she would name a horse if she had one. I gave her a few things to think about along those lines.
- She could also think about how God has blessed her in the past. I asked her what happy things have happened to her lately. We went on a happy rain walk yesterday, and Bethel merrily splashed in every puddle along the way. I helped her remember how much fun she had. Remembering what God has done for us is another good thing we can think about.
- She could also think about God. I told her that remembering how God takes care of his people can help us trust him too. I reminded her that God gave the children of Israel manna. She added that God gave them meat as well. I asked her how God led them, and she remembered the pillar of fire and the cloud.
Then she went back to sleep (after asking if she could sleep on the couch and get the ladybug flashlight– I said no and yes).
I do know that, in addition to these things, a knowledge of the things that frighten children can also diffuse their fears. A science book on thunder and lightning has been helpful, as was the knowledge that hurricanes travel relatively slowly. That’s something we can talk about in the daytime. I want to help them understand that knowledge often helps us not to be afraid. They have friends who are afraid of bats and bugs more because they don’t know anything about them than because bats and bugs are inherently creepy. At the same time, since we can never eliminate 100% danger, we have to accept that life is full of risks and live our lives in spite of those risks.
Those three categories are pretty nifty. If she can learn that she is not at the mercy of her thoughts, she’ll be ahead of most grownup women who struggle with fear, anger, and depression. It’s a good reminder for me, how important it is to discipline my mind to think on good things.
I think today we’re going to talk about “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.”
Good verse! My fearful/emotional child told me the other night, “But I don’t believe that God can protect me and take my fear away.” Explaining the decision to trust to a four-year-old was something I was not sure how to do. I am going to use that verse soon too.
Tell me how she responds! I would add a caveat that for a child who doesn’t yet know much about God, keeping her thoughts stayed on him may not make a bit of a difference if she doesn’t know what to think about. I’d feel comfortable telling her that as she learns more about God, she will believe that God can protect her and help her with her fear. Praying for you as you teach!
good point. Now that she has made a profession of faith, it changes the way I approach things, BUT, she still knows very little about God’s character. Very good point and a place I should focus teaching, perhaps. We are reading the Sammy and the Sheep book you reviewed a while back – I am not sure how well she will get the correlation between the shepherd and God, but I am trying to draw it and use questions. We shall see how much she “gets.” She’s young, but she’s a deep thinker.
well, I used the verse last night when she told me she was afraid to dream and wanted to keep her eyes open all night. I’ll blog about it over the weekend. With this child, it usually comes back several days later that she understood and was thinking about it, but it was rather humerous.
Sounds like you’re on the right track, Nicole. I’ve found as well that my teaching is time-released. I want to push and lecture until I get a positive response, but my kids often respond better when I talk a little, then leave it alone until later.