I think that my DH and I made a big mistake in letting our DD watch programs. We do not have a TV in the house but from the age of about 2 we have let our DD watch the occasional Dora episode or Disney movie on the laptop. She watches perhaps 2 or 3 programs a week. Last night, DD (after about 30 minutes of crying at bedtime) had an especially lucid conversation with me. She said, " I don't like bedtime. It's not fun." After more discussion she explained that she was frightened of "witches and monsters". She said, "... but the witches and monsters will find me by myself...are Daddy and Mama and (our dog) protecting me from witches and monsters?"
I tried to explain to her that witches and monsters are not real but obviously she thinks that they are.
How can I make her feel safe?
I feel badly that we let her watch media, thinking that that is a large contributer to these fears. Some of those Disney witches ARE pretty darn scary come to think of it. How can I undo damage that has been caused by programs we let her watch? Or are these normal fears for a toddler and she would have had them anyway even if she had not watched any programs? Should we stop her from watching all media?
Another factor at play is that we have a new baby in the house so my DD is in the process of adjusting to that.
It's pretty normal at this age to be scared of the 'bad guys'. Before my ds watched shows with witches/monsters in them, he had general anxiety over 'bad guys' coming. Also, with a new baby, your daughter feels the reduction in attention (natural and normal!) and her increasing independence from growing older. It's similar to babies getting separation anxiety when they start crawling. The ability to be more independent gets them scared of being, well, independent. :)
In the meantime, tell her she is protected, screen the programs for now and let her watch those that don't have scary elements (witches/monsters). There are some Dora episodes where she is rescuing animals who got stuck/lost. Much less scary. Caillou is also a very low key show--no scary elements at all. Diego doesn't have bad guys either--he's rescuing baby animals and bringing them back to their parents.
Also, I've heard of parents giving their child a spray bottle filled with water & some glitter as anti-monster/witch spray. Whenever she feels scared/thinks monsters are nearby, she can spray them away. I did give ds a small flashlight he could have at night to make him feel better too.
Wife to dh, Mommy to my heavenly angel, J (06), and my earthly angels, S (07) and E (10)
First off medmom, don't beat yourself up over the media thing.. our 27 month old doesn't watch any tv, and we're having a very similar problem!
About 3 weeks ago DD started talking about a "creature" next to her bed in the morning. She'd wake up and play with the creature, on different days it'd be a different color, and throughout the day there would be others, and not ever a hint of fear. This has been only one example of her imagination blooming, and in all other ways it's been beyond wonderful.
2 nights ago about 5 minutes after she went down for the night (after stories and nursing and reaching on her own to lay down in her crib), she started screaming. Daddy went in to check on her, worried about the never-before-heard terror in her scream, and she kept repeating that she didn't want to sleep in her bed, that there were creatures. We took turns trying to soothe her, but as soon as talk turned to her getting back in her bed it all started again. Finally, I nursed her to sleep, but as you might imagine when she woke up in the night it all started again.
The 2nd time she woke up, she begged to come to our bed with us. Now, I'm not opposed to this at all, but really really want her to not be afraid, and that doesn't seem like a good long term solution. We co-slept until about 14 months and she sleeps so much more soundly in her own bed. So, after a quick calculation on the likelihood of catastrophic failure I climbed into the crib with her and she eventually fell back asleep.
The next morning we talked about her bed (she likes), her room (she likes), and how to turn scary creatures into friendly ones. All good. But come naptime, the exact same thing happened. Again, we tried soothing ("you're safe"), reassurances ("you're brave"), shooing all the creatures out, and turning scary ones good. And again, we resorting to nursing her to sleep.
In between naptime and bedtime we told stories starring her as a brave princess (that princess thing appears to be genetic.. no mass media needed!), practicing turning the bad creatures good, hanging out in her room having fun, and at the moment in the bedtime ritual that she would normally reach for her bed, the hysteric screaming started again.
I know this is normal, but what can we do to help her conquer this fear?!
JTA Mom, I'm going to give her a flashlight tonight.. although the nightlight didn't seem to help her much she actually really loves flashlights so the novelty of getting one of her own might help.
I don't mean to hijack this thread, but I think we're looking for the same advice.
I may be in the (insane?) minority here, but I think they really see things that we have forgotten how to see. I try to honor my daughter's experience as much as possible without feeding her fears. The thing that finally worked for us was to add to our bedtime routine a candle. I lit the candle at bath time and then when it was time to go to bed she and I would walk around the bedrooms together with the candle sending everyone home. Maybe something like that would help? I also do visualization (without talking to my lo about it) where I meditate on a circle surrounding my home and family within which we are safe and protected. I also do a meditation/prayer where I send any entities that do not belong out of our home and repeat that no one is to visit my children at bedtime. I don't generally perceive anything myself, but I know that when I do these things daily the disturbances stop. For whatever reason it works for us.
I think like everything - every kid is different in how they respond. If we had used "monster spray," with our older DD she would have looked at us like we were nuts. She's extremely literal and would have been more freaked out to see us responding that monsters were possibly real and that the spray was keeping them away. (I think it's a brilliant idea, btw. It would have worked for me as a kid!)
For her we did/do a guided mediation that gets her calmed down - we call it her "happy place." We talk about relaxing her body, we go to a worry tree where she can leave her worries behind on the branches (or just visit, depending on how she feels) - I describe things - the colors, the sounds, the sensations (cool, wet grass,) - we also invented a spirit animal that takes care of her at night.
I do think it is something that all kids go thru - I also think that there is often something else going on - I know that when DD was about 3 she hit the understanding of death phase and that led to a lot of sleepless nights.
Me (40) DH (49) daring DD (9) and darling DS - almost THREE! (born June 25, 2010 in an amazing, unplanned
I don't have advice because I've never experienced this. DS (4) loves witches and monsters but only has exposure from books (no media) and none of them were scarey. Maybe you can present other more positive or at least neutral images as well.
Some books we like with pretty gentle story lines:
Go Away Big Green Monster http://www.amazon.com/Go-Away-Big-Green-Monster/dp/0316236535
The Big Pumpkin http://www.amazon.com/Big-Pumpkin-Erica-Silverman/dp/0689801297/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311278800&sr=1-1 the audio version is supposed to be very good too
Does she like to draw? Maybe one of these tiny little sticker books http://www.amazon.com/Create-Monsters-Sticker-Activity-Little/dp/0486475158/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311278881&sr=1-1 DS likes to take the stickers and combine them with his own drawings. Might give her control over the monsters in her life.
We got these books as gifts and although I probably wouldn't argue they were actually appropriate for a 3y my son LOVES these books with a girl heroine who both makes and conquers monsters with her mad scientist skills http://www.amazon.com/Lunch-Walks-Among-Franny-Scientist/dp/0689862954/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2
I think it's common, too. I remember as a kid being afraid and just laying in the middle of the bed because the monsters were over the edges. My dh remembers these sorts of things, too. Now that our son is going through this we are also dumb founded on how to handle it. So, I started doing what I do for myself when I have a bad dream. I refocus on happy things. So, I do not mention the dream/monsters again (it only seems to rile him up) and we start talking about all the happy things in life. We let this conversation go on for awhile and then I get up to go to the bathroom with the assurances that I'll be right back. I come back and we talk some more and then I try to get away with further assurances that I'll check on him (I do) and then more assurances that I'll check on him throughout the night and I'll make sure it's safe.
That's all I've been able to think of doing, but it seems to be working so far.
Married to one of the last good guys left Jim
Mom to AJ 4/07 and Genevieve 5/09
And then: I'm really, really tired of making angels.
But wait, could it really be true?
The whole story at: www.xerxella.blogspot.com
We also took it one step further - added a nightlight, and, used "magic dust" ( some neutral colored eyeshadow with glitter I had hanging around) on her eyelids as added security - the magic dust repelled any monsters that might happen to drop in! Aaahhh, the things we do for our los!
Good luck - the phase was short lived for us.
That said, the degree of scary-ness of those videos might be contributing to this. I've found that it helps to pre-screen shows, and we generally stick to PBS shows. There are also a lot of family movie review websites, where you can double check the content before watching it to make sure it's ok. Like, our friends were telling us I should take DD to see Tangled in the theaters, but I checked some of those websites and found out that someone gets stabbed and dies, and I know DD would be very upset by that. I think the site I went to was http://www.kids-in-mind.com/ but there are quite a few if you search. That might help you figure out what to let her see going forward from here!
To deal with her fears right now, I'd do along the same lines as others have suggested. Talk about the variety of witches and monsters so she doesn't think they're all bad. Has she watched any Sesame Street? Elmo is a monster and you can't get friendlier than that. Get her books about nice witches. Play pretend or dress-up games with her where you are a friendly, happy witch or monster. This will pass!