Two nights ago, shortly after I put Kai to bed, he started screaming, "Mama! Mama!" in terror.
He does cry occasionally after I put him to bed, but I would normally wait about 5 minutes before I go in again to check on him. But he sounded disturbed enough for me to jump off my bed immediately.
I could see the poor kid shaking with fright in his bed.
Me: Are you scared?
Me: What are you scared of?
(And he extended his arms to show me how long the dinosaur was.)
# # #
Yesterday, he cried long enough to convince me that I had to get out from my warm bed and day-end, power down braindead moment to check on him.
Me: What's wrong Kai? Tell me.
Kai: Afraid of night.
# # #
"Monsters under the bed" in the September 2008 issue of Parents talked about dealing with our kids fear, and has some great tips on how to deal with the over imaginative minds of our growing toddlers. What worked for me is:
1. Don't laugh at him. The dinosaur is as real to him as the cockroach that flew into your hair during lunch in a hawker centre. Show him you care enough to help him deal with the fear.
2. Reassure but don't overreact. Switch on the light or night light to show him that his bed room looks the same as it is in the day. There's nothing scary. I usually just stay long enough to reassure him that everything is ok and tuck him back in, rather than pet him to sleep. Staying there, simply validates his fear. And the next time, he'd want you to stay with him longer, and longer, and longer... It happened to me.
3. Remove any object that might be scaring him. I thought it was the ballon at the foot of Kai's bed and swaying in the wind, which caused the problem. I placed it aside, and explained why I did it. ("Mama is putting this aside because I think this ballon scared you in the dark.")
4. Make him feel safe. This kind of reinforces Point #2. But it helps that before I leave his room, I always tell Kai that he is safe and that I'm always "just in the next room" if he's scared. The magazine suggests having a night light in the kid's room; it gives enough to illuminate but not enough to distract.