Is your child afraid of the dark? Michelle Cohen has designed a simple yet effective protocol based on decades of experience working with concerned families whose children suffer from unexplained terrors.
Actually, There is Something Under the Bed is her book created to empower children and parents alike. Through easy to follow and fun exercises, the family learns together that they have more command than they realized in any creepy circumstance. Michelle emphasizes that it doesn’t matter if what scares children is real or imagined; the bottom line is—something is causing fear, so tackle that. In this three-part series featuring excerpts from the book, Michelle explains how to help a frightened child share his or her experience, along with several constructive ways to find power and control over the situation. Then she shares how children as well as adults can get rid of any unwanted energy in their environment.
Get it out in the open
Because the dark can appear to be filled with lurking shadows, it is best to start this conversation during the day when everyone is calm and levelheaded. I recommend letting your child know that today you are going to begin the process of taking on whatever is troubling him or her at night and together, you are going to conquer all of the fears relating to it.
Find a room in the house that doesn’t frighten your child. If it’s her bedroom that worries her, work in the living room.
If it’s a hallway closet that causes all the trouble, make sure the door is closed and work in the kitchen. Sit comfortably together. You might want to give her something to hold so she can transfer her sense of safety and empowerment to it (a stuffed animal or doll for younger children or for slightly older children, it could be a ball, keys, even a spatula, something elemental so she can feel her strength through the metal or the wood in her hands).
At this point, ask lightly about whether she is seeing, hearing, or feeling things in the night, as if that is a totally normal thing to do. I usually tell whomever I am working with that I also notice these things, so that she knows she is not alone or weird. If this has not been your experience, you can tell her you know this happens to people from time to time or you have read about it in a book. Basically, don’t let your child think she is the only one on the planet having this experience.
Then you can just ask, “What is that like for you?” and encourage your child to express whatever she perceives is happening, her fears, emotions, etc. This is a good time to be really quiet and just let your child talk without interrupting, comforting, or interjecting what you think, feel, or know.
Just getting it all out in the open is already a healing for what your child has kept bottled up inside. Just listen with empathy and compassion and try not to judge anything she might say.
When your child is finished (and do keep asking gently, “Is there anything else?”) you can absolutely acknowledge what’s been said. “Wow, that must be a little scary for you” or “I am so glad you are sharing with me what you are feeling” or “I had no idea, I am so glad we are talking about this now.” Say whatever feels appropriate and offers validation.
And then you can explain, “Did you know that you are the one with the power? Since you are in your body, you are always in charge, no matter what.”
Some children just need to be heard and the knowledge that they have power is enough. Others might need more attention. Again, let your child’s choice be the lead. Let her decide if she would like to continue or perhaps stop for now with the understanding that the conversation is always open and available to her.
Next month: Part 2: How to Handle Fear
Actually, There is Something Under the Bed is available on Amazon here
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
MICHELLE COHEN is a multi-faceted producer/writer/director and a deeply skilled intuitive who connects her diverse talents using a fully-toned funny bone. Her work has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, MTV, NPR, and in People, Entertainment Weekly, and the Washington Post. Michelle produced the off–Broadway megahit, Schoolhouse Rock Live!, an adaptation of the ABC Emmy Award-winning cartoon, and her published books include Actually, There is Something Under the Bed, Of Course You Can Sing! and MenOpop (A Menopause Pop-up and Activity Book). She also has created The Intuition Tool Kit an online program for discovering and honing your internal guidance system. Michelle is also the ‘voice of nursery rhymes’ in Japan, having designed an online program bonding Japanese mothers with their children through creative, imaginative interpretations of English language stories. Michelle has worked extensively as a vocal coach, serving as an adjunct faculty member at several acting schools, including NYU. Most recently she was invited to be a guest speaker for UCLA’s MFA Acting Program. In her career as an intuitive, Michelle Michelle helps her clients discover quality choices that set them on their unique and personal path. www.michellecohenprojects.com