Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mia and the Phantom Kitty

I have a parenting dilemma. Roughly three months ago now, Mia woke up in the middle of the night, trembling and distraught, about a "white kitty cat" outside her room. She was shaking and genuinely afraid, crawled into our bed and slept with us. Now, for a little background, our home has a tile roof and the front of the house is flanked by a veranda. The roof of the veranda is right below Mia's window. There is a white cat in our neighborhood that lingers by the front door; so, it's possible, I suppose, that this white cat was on the roof of the house looking into Mia's bedroom. I could imagine, since we don't have a pet cat, that if she saw one staring into her room, eyes a green glow from the evening light--this would be a bit frightening. After all, who likes to wake up in the middle of the night to find something staring at them? Even if it was only the neighborhood cat. As interesting as that scenario is, the more likely option is that Mia just had a nightmare about a white cat.

Either way, since that particular night three months ago, Mia has had a hard time sleeping in her room. At first, she would wake up regularly in the middle of the night, saying she was afraid and getting in bed with us. Other times, I would wake up in the morning to find her pressed against me. Now, I love my children more than my own life, but I also love a little bit of separation. So, we put the kabash on that scenario. But her fear of kitty cats persisted. One night, when trying to put her in her own bed, she said "the big mean kitty cat with red eyes" was in her closet. So, Robert gave her a special stuffed dog and told her it would protect her from the kitty cats. You know what she said? "Don't be ridiculous, Daddy, that dog can't even open his mouth!" She is happy if we drag her toddler mattress into the toy room off of the kids' rooms. Even then, she has us shut the door to her bedroom so "the kitty cat can't see her." Essentially, for the past several months, bedtime has become a struggle. After crying for a half hour last night, Robert's tender daddy-heart caved and he moved her mattress into the toy room again. But, honestly, this is getting ridiculous!

My parents even tried glow sticks. They bought some special glow sticks {pink ones.} They cracked one a-light and waved it in front of one their three Burmese cats. Sure enough, the cat took off like a bolt of lighting, afraid of the pink glow stick, but even with it glowing and tightly clutched in her first, Mia's bedroom that night was still a no-go.

Robert and I have discussed redecorating her room. She is getting a bit big for her toddler bed anyway... maybe if we redid her room and made it special... added a canopy and made her feel safe, she will like her room again. I will feel extremely frustrated, though, if after all that time and effort, she still refuses to sleep there. I suppose we could just hold the hard line and force her to sleep in her own bed, but I do feel that her fears are genuine {not an act} and I would hate to have to do that.

Here are some canopy beds we are considering for Mia's room... Obviously this is an adult's room (found here), but I think the netting is magical and the room feels cozy. I think this would be easy to recreate for a child.
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This canopy bed is sweet, too...
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This canopy bed was fashioned from a curtain and a piece of drift wood. I like the addition of the twinkle lights...
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What about you? Have any of your children had a lingering fear? What did you do to help them adjust and conquer their fears?

36 comments:

shelley g said...

i suggest you buy a bottle of room spray. maybe even make a label for it with a kitty and a big X. my friend did this with perfume when her daughter was scared of robots at school. she told her it was robot spray and protected her from robots. it worked for them. just a thought :)

Allison D said...

Poor you and poor her! I think both my older girls had a "fear" develop around that same age. We got one of those Cloud 9 light up ladybugs and just had to be sweetly consistent about them staying in their own bed. Eventually it passed. And by that I mean about 6 months. Needless to say I lived on coffee. New room ideas are beautiful!!!!

shelley g said...

do you know anyone with a white cat? maybe you can borrow it and pretend you caught it and remove it from the house.

Living by faith said...

Prayer is the most powerful way to overcome fear. Reading the word of God (Bible) at loud.Before bed time and during the day. The other thing is to put worship music

Laura said...

My daughter is 4.5 and started this about 6 months ago as well. Some nights she stays in bed, other nights she winds up on our floor :( We have a Cloud 9 ladybug in her room and it helped at first, but now she's back to wanting to sleep in our room..not in bed with us, just in our room :/ Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Maybe she could meet the white cat and make friends with it?

Jessica Haley said...

Thanks for the suggestions! Cloud 9 lady bug is interesting--never heard of those. Shelly, someone else suggested a spray bottle, too. I love the idea of a cat and an "X" for the label--ha! Makes me laugh.

Anonymous said...

Hi
Im torn in replying to this. My dilemma lies in the fact that I am a trained psychologist as well as a medical doctor and that, like your daughter I also had acute anxiety as a child sleeping in my own room....so do I answer as to how "they" say it should be done or do I allow my inner child to win!

Ill tell you both sides. I happily slept in my own room until I was about 3 and for no reason I can remember suddenly became very scared. I refused to sleep away from home and had to either be in the room with my sister or my parents if they hoped for any sleep that night. My anxiety was real. It was terrible. I felt nauseous, rapid heart beat, alert and vigilant. What did my parents do? They allowed me to sleep where I wanted to. Was this the right thing to do? Im not sure. It was so crippling to me that I couldnt spend a night away from home until I was 18. I slept in my sisters room until then. I never went to school camp despite my desire to be like my peers. One day, it all changed and I grew into a completely normal and well adjusted adult so from that perspective it worked but I feel like maybe I missed out on a lot as a child because of it. Im not sure whether the strict approach from my parents would have worked and I suspect I would have felt very let down and been extremely upset with them had they said I simply must stay in my room. Then again, I cant say whether after some time I would have been much happier.

As a psychologist we are taught that you shouldnt encourage the fantasy at all or they will think you also believe and therefore they have every reason to be scared. You should simply tell them it was a nightmare, bad dream etc and whilst it felt real it simply wasnt. That isnt to say you shouldnt acknowledge their fear which you definitely should because it sounds like she is genuinely very frightened and needs her parents comfort but just dont play along. The psychologist angle also says she shouldnt be forced and that it should be a choice. Perhaps some negotiation where you explain why she should stay there and then set guidelines that can be pushed a little further each night. If its been going on for months it would likely take a week or so to begin to change the pattern so whatever you do has to be consistent. I dont know whether changing her room would help and like you said it would be very frustrating if you did it and she still refused to go there. Maybe you could offer it as a reward to her that she can help you pick things and do it but only after she goes back in there or you could offer to sleep with her for a night in her room then gradually decrease the time there.....hopefully some others will have great ideas for you.
Good luck with it.

Andie said...

I agree with the prayer idea. Another thing you could do is help her to memorize a short verse about fear. One that helps me even now as an adult when I face my fears is: "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." (Isaiah 41:13)

It helps me to think about how big God is, and how small the things that I am afraid of are (spiders, snakes, broken glass.. white kitties, etc :o).

Hope this helps!

Gillian said...

Hi, yes my daughter had a couple of issues. Not fears per se, but "things" in her room. In fairly quick succession both her g'mothers died. On both occasions she KNEW something had happened to them. She swore one appeared in her room. She told me this in the morning, nan had died that night.

She wasn't afraid as such but kept insisting there was something in her room. We are Pagan so I used to put her to bed and "white-light" her (surround her with white protective light). I explained it to her, she accepted it but still wasn't happy. We went through a few other things which I'm happy to explain when I'm on a computer rather than my phone. In the end we did a massive house cleanse (spiritual) & it finally ended. Luckily she mainly kept to her room and was fairly ok with it. Consider involving Mia in the solution. Ask what she thinks you should do; intro her to the cat next door. Have her tell the kitty to "go away". I gave my daughter a crystal which I told her was for protection ( she still has it in her car, she's 24 now)!

Btw in my bedroom I have a mossie net over my bed. On the wall behind I have a set of fairy lights. It looks lovely. Perhaps that might appeal to Mia. Involve her as much as you can. Good luck. X

Anonymous said...

I agree with meeting the white cat in the neighborhood and prayer. She needs to be told that the white cat has the red eyes so he can see in the dark...and that maybe he is looking for a new friend and that he/she knew Mia was a nice girl. But I would be sure to pray over her room and for Mia to also say a prayer for the kitty to find a new friend!!! This too, shall pass!!!!

Maria said...

Okay I have first hand personal experience with this one. I slept in my parents room off and on from 3 to 10. I am sure that is not what you wanted to hear! :) I had (and still have at age 39) a fear of anyone/anything looking in at me from my windows. I hate when I forget to close my blinds before it is dark and always make sure they are lowered all they tight agains the sill. I have no idea what started it but my parents at one point put heavy wood blinds in my room and in another house put wood shutters I would close and made sure I did the little lock on them! I felt so much better making sure there wasn't one crack of window showing when I went to sleep. Does she alreay have something she uses like that? Maybe that would help. Sorry she is having a hard time!

Emilee said...

Maybe go through magazines and sample ideas with her and ask her if this would make her bed a happy place..she sounds like a smart little girl if she knew the stuffed dog wasn't going to help..she'll know if the canopy or changes in her room will help...and having her help in the design of her room just might make it a happy place for her.

Jessica Haley said...

Maria, no she doesn't have blinds. She has white curtains that roll up and tie, but we don't lower them at night.

I think the interesting thing about this is that the cat *might be* real and what scared her might have been a real situation, too. Of course her fear of the cat bothering/hurting her is unmerited, but how much we mix fantasy to combat reality is an interesting question. Clearly, since the stuffed dog didn't work, Mia is already adept enough to understand some of this separation. Interesting discussion... I'll continue to read the comments. Thank you!

Ruthie said...

Poor you! I had read early on that you should not bring a frightened child into your bed, but rather you go to them. So that was the policy we adopted with my little one.

If it were me, I'd go ahead and switch her to a big girl bed (you eventually have to do it anyways). This might resolve the problem immediately. But if not, then maybe you can spend a night sleeping with her. This way, either you too will see the spooky cat, or she will sleep through the night without a kitty scare. You might need to do it for a few nights, but hopefully, it eventually will retrain her to have good associations with sleeping in her room.

Praying together in the room is also an excellent idea!

d.buxton said...

What if you try sleeping in there with her for a week or so to show her that it is a safe place? You may have to put a mattress on the floor for yourself but if you are in there with her and show her it is safe then maybe slowly you can make your way out of the room.

melanie said...

I've had problems with fear my whole life, as well as nightmares my whole life.
I believe that praying with her in her room, and also on your own is a great idea. Maybe you could get some insight that way. I'm not sure what you believe personally and there's a lot of beliefs expressed here, but for me, I would pray on my own. I believe that God honors your desire to be a good parent to Mia and to not belittle what she's feeling.
Someone told me once (and it's some of the best parenting advice I've ever received) that not only is every child different, but every mom is too. You could hear reams of advice on here and they could all be good ideas that actually work, but until its something that you could implement yourself - it's not a good idea. Remember that she's like you - what would you want in this situation, or your husband? That would be a fun conversation :)
Sorry I don't have anything more concrete than that. Best of luck to you all :)

Brittney said...

this has been interesting for me to read as well. About a year ago my 3 year old woke up screaming about bad guys in her room, and since that night she's up at least once a week, scared. We got a night light, we go and snuggle her in her bed, we read and pray daily, nightly, we don't usually let her come to bed with us. It's gotten better for a long time it was every night. She shares a room with her sister and sometimes I think they feed off each other. Just continue to make her feel safe and loved, and hopefully it'll work itself out!

Carrie Mc W said...

When my first daughter had a fear of sleeping in her room, I told her I would trade with her! She got to sleep in my bed and I got her bed. After a week or so, she had enough of Dad's snoring (LOL) and me bragging about how cozy her room was AND we did re-paint and let her make the decisions on furniture placement. It took another couple of weeks of me bed-hopping but she got through the phase. 10 years later she doesn't remember the fear just the fun painting and decorating. Dealing with this situation again right now with another daughter and hoping the redecorating will help again....

Anonymous said...

When my oldest son was about the same age he would wake up in the night from a bad dream, crying out for me. When I told my mom she quickly made a plan to come over for a visit, and brought with her a dream catcher. She explained to him what the dream catcher was going to do for him,

"Only good dreams would be allowed to filter through . . . Bad dreams would stay in the net, disappearing with the light of day." Good dreams would pass through and slide down the feathers to the sleeper.

From that moment on before bed I would pick him up and he would touch the dream catcher and I would lay him down to bed.

Before the dream catcher (which seemed to work like magic) when he would wake up in the middle of the night, he would tell me what bad dream was about. I would ask him instead to tell me about something that makes him really happy and we would make up a new dream about happy thoughts, usually a little silly too. I always left him with a smile on his face. This worked for my second son also.
Good luck, and sweet dreams.

Anida said...

I have been experiencing the same problem with my 5 year old daughter. She woke up one night crying from a nightmare. It's been 4 months that she is in our bed. I know that her fears are real, because she refuses to even enter her room by herself. My husband and I are frustrated as well, but if she feels secure in our bed for now we will allow it and continue to pray with her until she learns to overcome her fear. My daughter knows that God is bigger than the anything in this world and that he will protect her. I also love the verse from (Is 41:13) suggested by Andie. Thanks Andie, I will get my daughter to memorize this verse as well :)

Maria said...

Bad dreams are no fun either but those were different for me. My parents tried different things but bad dreams still happen sometimes. When they would I was welcomed to come to their room. A night or two and I would usually be okay going back to my room.

Maybe just try tacking up a dark sheet over her window tonight and see if that makes her feel any better? She might just have a fear of creepy things looking in at her. Perfectly justified in my opinion! ;)

Anonymous said...

I haven't read through all the other reader's posts so maybe someone has already suggested this, but have you considered trading her room with one of your other children, or even allowing the toy room to become her bedroom & make her bedroom the toy room? Rather than trying to convince her to sleep in her room which she is obviously afraid of. Its just a thought. This may sound dumb but, I do believe that little children can see spirits that we can't- animal & human alike. The reason I mention this is because of two events that happened in our lives. The first was when my then two year old son, came to me, out the blue and very seriously informed me that "Pop isn't sick anymore, He's all better now!!!". My Grandfather lived several hours away, so my son had only ever seen him a handfull of times. My grandfather suffered with severe emphysema before he died. I received a call from my grandmother aprox an hour after my son said this, informing my grandfather had passed away. Another event, when we first bought this house, my two youngest sons told me they saw an old black dog wandering around the house. And sometimes, they'd hear him bark or whine. My husband & I personally never saw or heard a thing. After my husband & I acknowledged that the boys seen & heard this dog & we began talking openly about it, its presence went away. Maybe she see's something you can't.
Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Couple days ago we had a fly come through the front door and was in the house all day. My son (3 1/2yrs) was afraid of it. In the middle of te night he came to our bed crying that the fly was very scary with red eyes wanted to eat him. The next night he didn't want to sleep in his bed. First I told him that the fly was not going to eat him and that the fly was just lost and need to go find him way home outside. Then I told him that God's angels are protecting our home from anything bad so there is no way that anything was going to harm him. My son looked up at me and asked me to pray with him. After our prayer he kissed me good night and got into bed.
This is not the first time that something like this has happened. Weather he saw the fly in his room that night or it was just a dream you need to tell your kids the truth for them to trust you in the long run. I try my best to always tell my son the truth in the 3 year old language he understands.
Last, I've been praying with him since he was a baby and now he asks me to pray with him. To me that means the prayers are being answered.
Hope you find a solution for your daughters nightmares. My prayers are with you.

Danielle said...

When I was 6 or 7 I became terrified to sleep in my own bed. I had seen some scary movies that gave me an intense fear of this lady who worked at the pool we went to in the summertime. I know that's odd, but she looked mean and eerily resembled a lady in the movie. I was terrified that she would come to our home and harm my family. Each night when I fell asleep my nightmare would pick up where it left off the night before. I can't express to you how terrified I truly was. I can remember how annoyed and even angry my mom and nanny would get. They thought I just wanted to sleep with them. I did not. I was too frightened to be alone. It was a very traumatic experience. Even as an adult I have negative feelings about the way my own situation was dealt with. Punishment etc

I did not read all of the post above mine, but as a pediatric nurse and a child who went through this myself, I agree most with the post by the MD/Psychologist. I don't believe it is beneficial to give her spray etc that feeds into her fear being reality. I believe that you can validate her fear by letting her know that you believe she is frightened, without making her believe you think it's possible that the cat is in her room or poses a threat. Have you asked her if she has any ideas how you can get rid of the kitty? Perhaps she has an idea. Is she afraid to be in her room or anywhere else by herself during the day?

I don't remember what made my fear go away, but eventually it did. The reward...redecorate my room. Once I was able to get over my fear and sleep in my own room the room renovation occurred.

I so hope your sweet girl is able to concur her fear with your loving guidance. It sounds like you are a wonderful mommy and daddy. Best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

I think the most important thing you can do first off would be to pray with her, ask God to send angels to protect her and thank him for being bigger than fear. Recite verses or play worship music (I like Hillsong). Sleep with a lamp on, get different blinds that cover the window, check outside the window before she goes to bed and let her know it's ok. Explain why the eyes are red is a good idea. I also think sleeping with her in her room would make her feel a lot safer. As someone who still feels fear sometimes. It is a very real feeling whether it makes sense or not, I think to feel understood, accepted and loved despite the fear is important. You sound like a great mom, I'm certain with all ur suggestions you and ur daughter will be fine. I'll pray for you guys too. God is very concerned for our well being, especially children.

Anonymous said...

Let her know she can talk to God/Jesus personally and ask Him to protect her and keep the kitty away. Her saying the words will have a stronger affect.

Erin said...

My son had this happen about 3 months ago. He was still in his crib (2 yrs old) and woke up one night screaming about bugs. We ended up switching him to a big boy bed, repainting the room and using "bug spray". He is sleeping through the night after all of that, but still has trouble going to sleep without me in the room. Good luck!

Jessica said...

Thanks so much to everyone for all your input. It definitely seems to be a theme that fears like this can linger for quite some time, if we don't do something creative. I think blinds on her windows are a really good idea. I also, the more I think about it, feel it is worth the effort to redo her room... will let you know how that goes! Her bedroom wall actually has the very first version of our logo painted on it, so I will be sad to see it go... but her room does need a whole re-do anyway.

Some people mentioned praying before bed, and we do that every night. We have done this without fail every day since they were born. We pray the benediction our pastor always said at college service where Robert and I met: "The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord makes His face to shine upon you, etc." We close with a few words that are not by rote... the kids really like the mix of consistency in the same prayer and keeping it approachable.

Kathryn Michelle Jenkins said...

I love canopy beds too. I want one in my room! lol. but I hope it helps with her fears, that's so hard.

kathryn
www.thedragonsfairytail.blogspot.com

cutenails1000 said...

I would change her room into the toy room, and put the toy room stuff in her old room and c how that goes! thats just me though, im a big softie haha!

Anonymous said...

My 4.5 year old daughter is going thru exactly same thing right now. I on the other hand did end up completely changing her bedroom and adding girly decor that she personally picked. But that didn't seemd to help much. WE do have a night light for her which does not help much eather. I could tell that she was really afraid and not just faking it.

So now we got her a teddy bear that she seemed to like to sleep with and we specifically have a nightly prayer about fear. She prays to God that he will keep her safe and send an angel to her room. This method seems to help a little bit and she is getting back to the routine of sleeping in her room. Good Luck!

KD said...

I haven't read any of the above comments, and my perspective may be a little different as I'm neither a parent, nor have I ever taken care of a small child for longer than a couple of hours (during the day, I might add). But as a 27 year old I still have an unreasonable fear of the dark, and a hyperactive imagination doesn't help that much. So, my thoughts:

* Canopies sound great, but if I were to put one of the ones you linked around my bed, I'd be even more scared. The idea then is that I'm enclosed in one of these areas, out of which I can KIND of see, but not really -- making whatever it is that's scaring me even scarier, because I can't even identify it properly now. If Mia's claiming to see glowing eyes, the sheer nature of the canopy isn't going to stop her from 'seeing' the eyes, and it may actually increase her terror if she cannot discern the rest of the cat's body.

(My browser's playing up, I think the comment's too long -- posting in two parts.)

KD said...

* As an adult I still struggle with these fears, even knowing that they're completely irrational. For a child of Mia's age I suspect she doesn't have the mental control necessary to comprehend -- deep down inside, not just intellectually -- that whatever it is she sees is not a real threat. Things like this don't get better with 'exposure therapy' -- they just prolong the terror. As inconvenient as it may be, you may have to consider moving her into another room permanently if the fears don't abate. :(

I know that's not very helpful, but hopefully it sheds a little light on things from her side -- and it's strange that I'd be trying to get into her head, but I feel I've been there, and not so long ago, either (I actually had a crazy nightmare two nights ago that stopped me from getting back to sleep again, and its content was even more implausible than a white cat with red eyes showing up outside my bedroom).

Best of luck. :)

Pretty Up said...

Since you might redecorate any way why not just let her room be the toy room where she is comfortable? They outgrow these things eventually, much sooner if they feel safe.

kpriss said...

That really worries me as our little girl too has nightmares at times. Only she doesn't say anything about those. She's just crying in her sleep and goes back to sleeping right after we cuddle and kiss her.

However, like many before me said, I too was really scared when I was little and my fears were just ignored. I had the same nightmare for years, each night, the same. I couldn't wake up until I fell off of bed. Thinking about it, I don't know if anyone could've done anything about it all except sleeping in the same bed with me. No, sleeping in the same room didn't help. I still experience the same fears even after all these years. I think the best approach is to befriend that white kitty or adopt a white kitty yourself. It may not sound practical, but the idea is to empower your girl, not yourself, in relation with the fear.

What I'm trying to say is that maybe, giving your kid the power to approach her fear is far more important than making her sleep in her room. And in this case you're lucky enough the fear has such a mundane form - a kitty, a white kitty and not some shapeless, headless monster!

The curtains might help big time, as she fears someone / something looking from the outside in the privacy of her room. The Curtains (without necessarily being wooden blinds) could give her the impression of security and full privacy. However, that doesn't mean she approaches her fear but shields from it.

I wish you could get back and tell us what worked and how, it would be helpful for our experience as well. Thank you in advance.

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