Monday, October 26, 2015

What's in Your Room?

What's in Your Room?

Hello again!  Sorry for the delay in posting; it has been a busy October for us at Moonlit Minds.  But we're glad to be able to get this post out before Halloween, a particularly spooky time of year!  This interactive activity is geared toward helping ease children to sleep and may be especially appropriate for those with some fear of the dark.

Many children go through a phase where they have difficulty falling asleep because they feel afraid of the dark. In fact, fear of the dark is so common, it has 3 names (nyctophobia, scotophobia, or lygophobia)!  It's important to help kids through this time in a respectful way to prevent serious sleep problems from developing.

Why Not Nightlights?


Many parents use nightlights as a quick remedy for the problem, but this may only be a "band-aid" solution.  Children can become dependent on them, and they do not address the root causes.  In addition, many studies have been done on the effects of nightlights on children's health.  While not conclusive, there are some results which suggest it could negatively impact eyesight, and ambient light can reduce your brain's secretion of melatonin which is a hormone that helps you naturally fall asleep.  It seems that extra light can trick your brain into thinking it isn't nighttime.  Nightlight have only existed for the last century; people have slept without them for much longer than that, right?  Wellness Mama covers the topic nicely in this post.

A Moonlit Minds Alternative


At its core, a fear of the dark is a fear of the unknown.  Tonight's activity is geared toward helping to ease the worries.  And you can play this with kids that aren't having sleep issues too!

Shed Some Light (Figuratively)


The first thing we do is put on our Super Hero Eyes.  (You can make a dramatic production of it like Clark becoming Superman.)  The purpose of this is to show kids just how much they can actually still see in their room, even when it's fairly dark.  This is partly due to ambient light (varies by home, of course), and partly because we have a good sense of where things are placed in the room already.  Think about if you closed your eyes completely- you could still find many of the things in your room.  So with your Super Hero Eyes on now, you can see like a cat.  Take turns naming the items in their room with as much detail as possible.  E.g. "I see your bookshelf with Goodnight Moon and The Cat in the Hat."  "I see my painting of the bear on the mountain."  Try to impress each other with just how much detail you can see/remember about each item!  You can also do this as a dark version of "I Spy".  E.g. "I spy something with an On/Off switch."  "I spy something shaped like a circle that sits on the floor."  "I spy something pointy in your art supply box."  Once most of the room has been named and described, you will have removed much of the "unknown" and the room feels safer.

Setting the Dream Stage


The next part of the activity is what we call "Setting the Dream Stage".  The intention is to provide the child with calming thoughts that might (hopefully) become the basis for dreams in a few minutes.  Here is an example of how we did this with our son last night.

MM: Ok, we've used our Super Hero Eyes and found everything in your room!
Son: Yes, I'm taking mine off now.
MM: Now let's think about what we could use all those things for.  Do you have any ideas?
Son: A construction site!
MM: That sounds fun!  What would we use that bookshelf for?
Son: The books would tell us how to make the house.
MM: Right!  What about that lamp?
Son: It can light up the site.
MM: Yes, we could pretend that it does.  And your chair?
Son: That's the porta-potty for the workers!
MM: Good one!  And the dresser?
Son: That's the wood to build with.
MM: Perfect.  How about this bed?
Son: This is the dump truck.  I'll sleep in it.
MM: Oh wow, it will be fun to dream about doing construction tonight with all the things in your room!  Can I have a big hug, and then I'll sit on your chair- I mean porta-potty- for a few minutes before I say good night.

This kind of "staging" can be done with all kinds of things besides a construction dream.  Some ideas might be a theater performance, visiting outer space, going on a safari, taking an airplane trip, or running a restaurant.  Whatever you do, it's all about setting them up for sweet dreams.  And by the way, he went to sleep soon after this and without repeatedly asking us to "stay longer."  It was nice for all of us.

For More Help


For some great ideas about handling "patterns of interrupted sleep" in a respectful way, be sure to check out this great post from Hand in Hand Parenting.

Sparkle Stories has a great story about being afraid of the dark with some other helpful techniques.  If you don't already know about Sparkle Stories, be sure to check them out.  We're really big fans!

Ok, as always, we would love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook and tell us about your experiences with this activity or anything else!

Have fun, and...Mind the nap!

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