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“Goodnight Amma, don’t switch off the light”, said my son. So I said “Goodnight”, left the lights on, waited for the kids to fall asleep and then switched off the light, still leaving a night light on. We live in an apartment, where each flat follows its own sleep schedule. Which means, that there will always be someone who cooks in the middle of the night, has a late night party or even a crying child. When the noise reaches our house in the dead of the night, it sounds like the noise monsters make, something that scares the kids. And to be honest, sometimes even me!
While I can’t really get the whole neighbourhood to reduce their decibel levels, there are a couple of things I can do as a parent. I know there are a lot of things that kids don’t understand yet and it’s up to me to help them realize that they are safe at home. For example, it took a while for my older one to understand that the noise that the cooker makes, will not harm him or that the vacuum only sucks dust and not human beings. I also realized that it was his exposure to certain cartoons that prompted him to assume that harmless things such as the vacuum cleaner could eat him up. So that’s how my rule number 1 was formed….No exposure whatsoever to media that shows anything scary. And if my kids happen to watch it, let them know that it is a make believe world and show them a video of how cartoons or movies are made. There are many times that I have sat with them trying to find these videos online, laughing at the way tv shows or cartoons are made and how most of it is in people’s imagination. We then sit and make our own make believe cartoons, like a monster being friends with humans, so that they know there is nothing to worry about. In the process, I have learnt a lot myself.
Darkness is another scary place. If you can’t see a place clearly, you don’t know what may be lurking there. Well, that’s why I leave a night light on. But the shadows……??? That’s when I introduced the kids to shadow play. Positioning our hands in a certain way made the shadows look like different animals and birds. Voila, they understood. So it’s not always an alien in the room, sometimes it’s just the shadow of your teddy bear! At times, we stand beside each other and pretend we are one big monster with six hands and three heads. Not so scary, but very very funny. And it feels great when we laugh together!
Then, there are the noisy folks of the neighborhood, where we hear doors slamming, a shrieking laugh and sometimes just a bump. While I know, it’s probably a neighbor returning home from a late night out and then switching on the tv, my kids don’t. This is when you have to really sit and talk to the kids and explain that they are just noises from the house next door. I help them understand and then let them go back to sleep in their own bed. I don’t sleep with them or take them with me to my room, because I don’t want them to think that there is something scary out there and that’s why mommy and daddy are protecting us. But every time, they do come to me with their fears, I am there for them. Instead of screaming at them or teasing them, I listen. I help them understand and deal with it. I believe that’s the only way kids will learn to deal with their fears for the rest of their lives. And come to think of it, I have learnt to cope with my fears too. I never realized that I would end up dealing with my fears, along with my kids. I am glad I can help my kids have an unfretted childhood and participate in their imaginative world. I try my best to see things from their perspective and empower them to take on all the challenges!
So the next time, your child comes to you and says there is a monster under the bed, take a torchlight, bend down and show them that there is nothing under there. Solve the problem then and there! And trust me, you will feel better too! Khuljaye Bachpan for me and all the children!