Child Can’t Sleep After Watching a Scary Movie

How can we help our preschooler overcome his fears and get to sleep at night after watching a disturbing "kids' movie" we got from the library? He's been hysterical at bedtime ever since viewing this film and keeps us up half the night because he won't go to sleep alone. What can we do about this?

It’s unfortunate, isn’t it? Parents of young children can no longer trust ratings or written descriptions of movies and television programs. The only fool-proof way to avoid the trauma your child is experiencing is to review entertainment media yourself before allowing your kids to see it. If you don’t have the time to do this, you can always take a quick look at the reviews posted on Focus on the Family’s
PluggedIn website. They’re designed to provide moms and dads like you with all the information they need in order to make wise and discerning decisions about their children’s media choices.

It’s obvious that your child was severely frightened by the “kids’ movie” you brought home from your library. Under the circumstances, the first thing you need to do is sit down with him and give him a chance to discuss the film openly. Ask him what he saw, what he thought about it, and how it made him feel. Whatever you do, don’t make light of his fears or dismiss his feelings as silly or immature.

Once his emotions have been aired, assure your son that this was only a story, just like the imaginary tales he may have seen in picture story books. Then you can explain that God has promised to be with him at all times, even in the midst of danger. Open up the Bible and show him the passages where God promises never to leave us or forsake us (Genesis 28:15; Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5). Pray with him about the scary movie and his fears, and encourage him to pray on his own when he becomes frightened at night. If it seems appropriate, you can also practice some coping techniques with him, like deep breathing relaxation exercises or visualizing a happy place.

One last thought: it is definitely not a good idea for you to sleep in your child’s room or to let him sleep in your bed. That will only reinforce the behavior you’re trying to eliminate, encouraging him to act helpless and dependent. So whatever happens, make it clear that you will not be sleeping with him. Instead, find some other way to make him feel secure, like turning on a nightlight for a while or letting him take a special stuffed animal to bed with him.

If you feel a need to discuss your situation with a member of our staff, you can call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

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