My child has become fearful of our new house


I love your web site!

Please advise: I have a 5-year-old son who has two older sisters. They have all been watching the Disney Channel's Halloween specials.

I just found out how scary they are, at least to a 5-year-old! To top things off, we just moved from 800 sq ft to a 3,000 sq ft home. Needless to say, he has many new rooms to get used to including his own! He used to share one with both his sisters for the last year. Before that, he always shared one with his younger sister.

Problem: He is so afraid of ghosts that he pees his pants and won't go anywhere alone. He is even having night wakes, and runs into our bed at night! Help! I tried reasoning and telling him God was watching over him. I explained about his guardian angel and that the stuff on TV is made up.


It is not at all unusual for a child to go through a period of being afraid, especially when faced with something new. I recall being terrified of Star Trek, of all things, when I was young. Watching the reruns later in life I became a fan and wondered whatever was I thinking?

You need to slow the transition down so that he has time to adjust at his own rate. For example, when you are working in the kitchen, have him bring some toys with him that he can play within the next room where he can see you if he wants. As he gets comfortable with the fact that you won't disappear on him, he will start exploring on his own nearby rooms. Don't force it or call attention to it, but you will see his circle gradually widen. It is almost like he has a rope that goes so far. He'll get nervous at the end and then come back to make sure that the other end (you) is still firmly attached. But as he realizes that nothing happens, he will move a bit farther each day.

Do you recall the scene from the movie "The Sound of Music"? A thunderstorm strikes and all the children run to the governess' room. She pulls them out of fear by redirecting their thoughts to nice things. When your son wakes up at night, ask him what is wrong and if you determine it is a needless fear, then calmly tell him that the best thing to do in such situations is to think about what went well that day. Ask him what was his favorite event that happens the day before and talk about why it was so much fun. I did this for my eldest son when he was small. It didn't take more than ten minutes before he says, "I'm okay now," and he fell back to sleep. Within a week he wasn't calling out any more. Why? Because he learned to replace the fear with a mental inventory of nice things. He learned to conquer his fear. This is what you need to give your son: tools to use to conquer needless fears.

Fears spiral out of control when we dwell on them and focus attention on them. They diminish when we think about things outside of ourselves and on non-fearful things. Sometimes we reinforce the fears by acknowledging them. It doesn't help to "prove" there are no ghosts in the closet by looking in the closet. The fact that you looked gives credence to the idea that there might be ghosts there. Sure there are none now, but there might be some later. Even to say that "God is protecting you" at a time of great fear is to hint that there must be something from which I need protection. Instead, be honest, laugh and say, "There are no such things as ghosts! Whatever gave you that idea?" If something is particularly bothering them, such as a sound or a shadowy view. Explain to them that in a quiet house, small sounds are more noticeable and dim light makes things look different. Tell them or even show them what they are actually hearing or seeing so they can understand that their perception is off. Then always finish off on pleasant topics before they fall back to sleep.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:6-9). Notice that anxiety (fear) is replaced with thanksgiving. Thoughts are directed to truth and lovely things, thus allowing God's peace to dwell in a person.

We never allowed our children to come into our bed. If they came, we took them back to their room and talked there. If they called out, we would go to them to find out what was wrong. Thus they learned to receive comfort in their own bedroom, and mom and dad retained a private area of their own.

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