Friday, January 28, 2011

Dark Anxiety

Bryce has always had a bit of general anxiety about things.  But then, so has Caroline.  They come by it honestly though.  Jason was apparently an anxious kid for some things, my dad was apparently an anxious kid (we just learned this last summer!), and well, yeah, I have a little bit of anxiety from time to time too.  Bryce's anxiety is a little different than Caroline's though.  I've always said that if Bryce was an animal, he would be a puppy.  (For the record, Caroline would be a cat and Piper a piglet, but I digress.)  Just like puppies, Bryce doesn't like to be alone for long.  He's happiest by your side getting your full attention.  He loves snuggling and being loved.  He loves talking and socializing.  He's the kid that hardly ever plays by himself because he doesn't really enjoy spending time alone. (Randomly, he's hardly ever had any issues with separation anxiety like Caroline has had off/on through her childhood.)   I can count on one hand the number of times he's played in his room by himself.  Caroline, on the other hand, likes having some alone time. He's also always had a fear of the dark but it never seemed to be that unusual.  A lot of kids are scared of the dark and it's developmental.  We don't let the kids watch any kinds of scaryish movies/TV for that exact reason - their vivid imaginations just couldn't handle it.   (Trust me, we've had mini run ins with semi-scary stuff in a commercial or something random they'll see for a blip on TV and that's been enough.  Heck, nature shows have given them bad dreams with a scary looking fox, raccoon, or wolf!)

But lately, Bryce won't even walk down a semi-dark hallway to use the bathroom in the middle of the evening when we're all home because he's so freaked out by the dark.  It's like he's immobilized.  If he wakes up in the middle of the night having to pee, Jason or I have to get up and walk him to the bathroom because the prospect of getting up and walking to the bathroom, even with night lights every step of the way, is too much.  We even had a weekend morning recently where it was dark o'clock when he woke up and he wouldn't come down to our room.  He screamed long enough that it woke his sisters up and their presence being up and about gave him the courage to get out of bed.

We thought about putting a flashlight by his bed for those types of occasions but we have a flashlight problem in our house - they walk away.  Without fail.  I can't tell you how many flashlights have come and gone in this house.  It's an exhausting exercise for Jason to manage to keep 2 (a small one and large one) semi-near his side of the bed.  Little rascals leave them on all the time too.  Plus, I don't think a flashlight would be enough to keep him from being scared.  This evening, for example, he was helping me clean the master bathroom and the light was on in there along with the light on my bedside table closest to the bathroom being on.   The other side of the room was not very bright, but not dark as Jason's lamp wasn't on.  Bryce wouldn't even walk to the other side of the room to return something to that side because it was "too dark."

Of course, I've talked to him about it several times.  Trying to find out if there was something specific he was worrying about. (He's not.)  What he's thinking about when he's in the dark? (Monsters, maybe, or he's not sure.)  And talking about what the worst that could happen which is really one of the best things you can do to quell anxiety - trust me, I know that trick.  But I think that, based on his responses, that it's just a developmental phase he's going through.  Bryce is not a timid kid in the least and this dark thing makes him like that.   I even tried to talk to him about Monsters, Inc or about the fact that Grover is a monster, but he wasn't interested.  I tried making up an elaborate story about his imaginary pet T-Rex named Otto (he loves dinosaurs) who looks over his shoulder because he likes to eat monsters.  Nope.

So we're riding this one out and continuing to keep the scary potential things off the radar to keep the fear from growing.  I think it's just a matter of time.  I remember going through periods of fear of the dark as a kid too.  Shoot, I know after I see something scary on TV, I get a little spooked too walking by a dark room.  But then, I know it's my imagination and I don't think he quite has that ability yet to realize that.

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