Fortunately for our family, bedtime isn’t really a battle.
We stick to a routine, and nine times out of ten, the kids drift off to sleep relatively quickly. Instead, our struggles often come after midnight when one of my girls (ages eight and six), wake up from a nightmare or a “seriously bad dream” (as my oldest puts it). When they wake up, they will come downstairs and wake either me or my husband and we then immediately walk them back to their bed. Early on into these nights filled with tears, my husband starting praying aloud a short prayer, and asking the girls to also whisper the same simple prayer:
“Jesus, I’m scared right now. Please comfort me and give me peace.“ and then again… “Jesus, I’m scared right now. Please comfort me and give me peace.“
Over and over again until they’ve calmed down. He gives them a drink of water, prays this prayer with them, and reminds them that even in the scariest moments of the night, God is always near. When they’re scared God can ease their fears. When they’re feeling lonely, God is with them. Even when mom and dad are not around, they ALWAYS have God. He’s just a prayer away.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28
Thankfully, the girls don’t have nightmares every night—maybe a couple of times a month at the most. But when they do, we do our best to make sure they feel safe and secure, hopefully getting them back to sleep as soon as possible. Here are a few other ideas to help get kids back to sleep after a “seriously bad dream.”
5 Tips for Comforting Kids through Bedtime Fears
1. Install a nightlight: We don’t typically have a nightlight on each night, but we do light one when one of our daughters needs extra security in the dark of the night.
2. Listen to why they’re scared: It sounds like a no-brainer, but figuring out why they’re upset is really important. Sometimes it’s about a big test or a fight with a friend, and not really a “nightmare.” If we know what has upset them we can comfort and pray specifically to help them overcome their fears.
3. Sing a short familiar lullaby: We’re big Jesus Loves Me fans at our house – so when it doubt, sing it (softly) out!
4. Read a short story or poem: We read a bedtime story every night before last hugs and prayers. A couple of great books for kids about the power of prayer include God Listens When I Pray and Precious Moments Little Book of Prayers.
5. Comfort them until they fall back asleep: Almost always, the above-mentioned actions are accompanied by a few moments beside their bed, rubbing their backs to comfort them while they fall asleep. Finding what works when dealing with nightmares is tricky, and what works for my kids might now work for you. But don’t give up.