Fear of the Dark: Rite of Passage, or Destructive Emotion?


If you go to the library to find some resources on helping your children get over the fear of the dark; you’ll probably be hard pressed to find very much.  Although the fear of the dark is said to plague millions of children, it is still a subject that most parents know very little about.

Most parents will do just about anything after frustration and exhaustion takes over. One of the best things you can help give your children is nights of peaceful sleep.    Millions of children around the world would love this gift, but how can parents ensure this amidst common childhood fears?

The reality is that many children sleep with their parents for weeks, if not months. Parents hire therapists to help their children overcome such anxieties and many are simply left to deal with their fears on their own. While most methods have their validity, some are more effective than others.

No matter what approach you use or stage that you are as a parent, spending just a little time to help your kids through this difficult stage can have an impact for the rest of their lives.   In a simple way, dealing with the fear of the dark is probably one of the earliest fears a child is confronted with.

As parents, this is a great opportunity to help them know how to deal with fears in general. Many may argue that this is just a rite of passage for kids, but the fear of the dark lingers into adulthood for thousands of people and it can give rise to other fears.  Rites of passage are intended for the betterment of a person, but allowing fear to accumulate over prolonged periods of time and with no boundaries can be the start down a path of destructive emotions.

The younger the child, the less that they can separate their fantasies from reality. A simple traumatic experience or an innocent experience taken out of context can haunt a child for years.    Being conscious as a parent of your child’s struggle is ultimately going to help determine the outcome of their struggle.  Below are ten things you can start doing tonight to give the gift of peaceful sleep to your child.

  • Engage with your child: A firefighter never faced real fire prior to having sufficient training away from the hot zone. Don’t wait till fear strikes before you engage in conversations about fear with your child. Assume that your children will deal with at least one major fear or several growing up so start planning now.   What does fear look like in your child? What brings out fearful emotions in them? Finally, how does your child respond when confronted with fear?
  • Identify the triggers: Every child is different and the same goes to how they respond to circumstances and even their own imagination.   Does the television in your house spur frightful thoughts, does the tension in your home create undo anxiety in your child or did your child have a traumatic experience that you haven’t made sure that your child is dealing with properly? The better you know your child, the better you can help them through these challenges.
  • Deal with fear properly: The old saying is true that kids will do what you do, not what you say. If you struggle with fear yourself and fail to deal with it properly, more than likely your kids will follow suit. Get some help, identify the triggers and engage a friend or a spouse to help you stay courageous.   Your kids will learn more from how you deal with fear than they will reading ten books about it.
  • Declare war on fear: Fear is one of the most destructive emotions your child can give into. Fear keeps people back when they should be moving forward, fear destroys relationships, it hampers personal growth and it can lead people down enslaved paths of destructive emotions. Don’t allow fear to take root in your family. Rid it wherever it claims land in your household and your children will be that much better for it.
  • Rearrange the room: Often times a simple rearrangement can mean all the difference to a child struggling with the shadows and strange sounds of a dark night.   Cutting branches away from the window, getting darker shades, closing the closet, facing the bed away from the moonlight are just a few practical ideas.
  • Enjoy the night: There are thousands of nighttime wonders to fascinate a child rather than simply being afraid of it.   Creation has so much beauty that we often take for granted what darkness actually reveals.   We tend to think in terms of what darkness hides, but in reality darkness opens up a whole new world of glowing insects, nocturnal animals, shooting stars and the wonderful moonlight glow. Take time to introduce your child to a few of these so they can gain appreciation for the night instead of only being afraid of it.
  • Find a hero: Find someone that your children can esteem because of their bravery. We all face fear in our lives, but not all people are courageous. Read examples of men and women who have done brave things despite their fears and remind your children of such stories.   Even children can rise to bravery and courage when faced with an example to live up to.
  • Slow down: Many parents are so busy dealing with their own problems that they fail to see that their children are going through the same, if not a myriad of their own struggles.   Don’t just assume they’ll work it out, slow your life down to see the details. A well said conversation at the right time can make all the difference and give your child the strength to take on bigger challenges throughout life.
  • Speak to their identity: Don’t make light of your child’s fear and put them down for it, but rather focus on times that they are strong.   When you say things like “Wow, that was brave,” or “I noticed how strong you were;” you’ve just given your children an upgrade on their armor and they’re ready to meet the next big challenge in their life. Children have enough chiseling at their confidence outside their home, the last thing they need is an unsupportive parent.
  • Don’t give up: Our kids are some of the greatest investments we have in life, therefore the effort is worth the payoff.   Kids often go through cycles of fear as they face different challenges in life and their imagination grows stronger with age.   This typically isn’t a one night deal where you’ve conquered fear and it will never rear its ugly head again. Learn to keep watch on important milestones that your child is approaching as new fears or old resurrected ones like to visit again.

Hopefully you can see by now that if parents are willing to take an active role in helping their children, there are dozens of ideas to help your child no matter what their age.     You can take a child who fears the darkness and begin helping him or her enjoy the beauty of the nighttime instead.     Below are several “fearbusters” that can aid in your courageous plan.

Fearbuster 1: Find out from your child what their favorite nighttime activity is and try to capitalize on it.   The goal is to engage them in as many comforting and enjoyable experiences before bed.

Fearbuster 2: Break out the tent, the sheets, or whatever you need to make an indoor fort for sleeping.     Kids thrive on unique experiences and an indoor adventure will surely get your kid’s imagination headed in the right direction.

Fearbuster 3:  Find some every day symbols that speak of strength.  Maybe you get a patch or a pin, or even a picture of something your child can aspire too.  These can be things such as shields, strong animals, brave people, etc.

Fearbuster 4:  Play a nighttime scavenger hunt with your children.   What creatures do you see or hear? What smells are present at night that aren’t during the day?  Lastly, what kind of shapes do you see in the stars or night sky?

Fearbuster 5: Celebrate courageous moments with your child.     Give liberal praise, have a formal celebration if your child makes great strides in overcoming their fear.

Fearbuster 6:  Don’t be too quick to offer a crutch.    There are times when it is necessary to step in a take a child out of a fearful situation.  Many times however, we do things as parents out of convenience, but it has no lasting help for the child.  Remember, a child becomes stronger when they are given the tools to overcome their fears and therefore choose courage, and not always just given the easy way out.

Fearbuster 7:  As mentioned before, talk to your child during the day about fear and don’t wait till it’s nighttime when they’re in the thick of it.   Your child will be in a much better state of mind and will probably open up much better to the things he or she struggles with.

Fearbuster 8: Try some calming music or a book on tape that encourages delightful thoughts instead of frightful ones. Even better if you can read or sing these to them, but at the least play them.

If you’d like more information about helping your kids overcome the fear of the dark, check out my book Lights Out! Helping Your Kids Overcome Their Fear of the Dark on Amazon and you can begin on the journey of helping your kids become more courageous. If you enjoy this content, please follow my blog and my Youtube channel RelevantParenting.




5 Ways to Make this Easter’s Celebration Count!

Easter Photo

Easter is one of our most celebrated holidays as a family due to what it means to our Christian Faith.   I’m all for getting the kids some candy and Easter baskets, but we try to keep the focus on what matters most in our celebration.   If we don’t intentionally plan to make that day count, it will be just another day off work, a nice service at church and my children having more of a sweet tooth.

Below are just five simple ways that we strive as a family to keep the meaning in Easter.   I’m sure you have others and I certainly would love to hear about them.   Enjoying some of the aspects of your culture around the holiday I think is also important.   It’s amazing how many memories children will keep from these times so let’s make them as impactful as possible.

    1. Celebrate the true meaning: Paul said that without the resurrection, our Christian faith is a miserable state.   This is one of the bedrock truths that is very important to pass onto our children.   We can begin imparting this truth very early in a child’s life. Because of Jesus rising from the dead, death has no more power to condemn us for eternity. It’s also resurrection power that gives us the strength to overcome those strongholds in our life. If you have never begun a relationship with Jesus, why don’t you begin one today?!
    2. Have traditions: With the internet at our fingertips, there’s no lack of resources for starting some exciting traditions.   You could also start with the things you experienced as a child if you haven’t already. You can check out my Youtube video here Easter Traditions , for some of the fun things that we do (with links below). Hopefully you’ve found a local church to attend on Easter Sunday-here are some additional fun traditions below:
    3. Focus on others: Anytime my children receive gifts, I try to remind them that every good thing does come from God and there are plenty of people around the world that don’t have the opportunity to receive such things.   Teaching your children to be grateful really helps keep the focus off of their circumstances and on the needs of others.   There’s people that don’t have money, are lonely, confused about what to believe, suffering or maybe just down on life that you and your children can reach out too. Easter is certainly a good time to do that.
    4. Take time to enjoy: We look at holidays as a time to finally get a break from work, spend time with family and maybe go on vacation. Although all of these are valid and true, there’s so much rich meaning to be enjoyed and passed onto our children.   It’s very easy to allow work and unimportant things to creep into our time spent with family, but make a commitment to be in the moment as you celebrate Easter.
    5. Make it memorable: Don’t just go through the motions, use some creativity and the imagination that God gave you. If this is particularly hard for you, Google Easter traditions or do a search on Pinterest.  Make this a year to remember with the whole family!

So let’s agree that this Easter is going to be different. Focus on the message and making an impact in your child’s life through positive memories. Impart not only great traditions, but most importantly, some spiritual truths that can change their life!  I look forward to hearing some of your ideas and comments.




Mission Trips at Home

Mission Trips at Home

Mission Trips at Home

Last time I blogged about Letters Every Father Should Write to explain the importance of communicating with your kids, especially during those milestone moments. This week, we’re going on a trip, but instead of a staycation, it’s going to be a mission trip at home!

Raising kids who are aware of other cultures and needs around the world-both spiritually and physically, help them gain an international perspective that I believe grounds them in a lot of areas.

It helps combat prejudices and create a love for all peoples of the world. I want to teach my kids to focus primarily on what people are on the inside and not just what they look like on the outside.

Stacy Berdan in here Huffington Post blog on 10 Tips for Raising a Global Child states that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to help them thrive in a global atmosphere.

Teaching them to communicate, interact and gain an appreciation for other cultures will empower them to be stronger candidates in the workforce, especially if they know another language.

Not only will their social skills be at a premium, but their professional abilities to work with the many differences that life and people present will be magnified.

A great start for that is taking mission trips from home.  If you don’t have the time, money or simply your children aren’t old enough yet to venture to a foreign land, then these “in-house” mission trips are for you!

For our mission trip today, we’re just going to go on a general one to get to know the country and find out ways we can serve.

Our mission trip this month is scheduled for THAILAND and we’re going to learn about the culture, the land and ultimately their need for Jesus.

There’s several different kinds of mission trips such as:

  • Vacation Bible Schools
  • Visiting Orphanages
  • Medical Missions
  • Prison Ministries
  • Feeding the hungry
  • Bible Translation
  • Preaching
  • Building Schools
  • Several if not all of the above at once.
  • (Feel free to explain the purpose of each of these to your kids)

Any successful mission trip requires teamwork, so we’re going to work together on what we need to pack, how we can prepare ourselves mentally for this trip and how we can make the most impact in the Thai people’s lives.

If you were to travel there in person, you’d certainly make some new friends, see that most people there live on a whole lot less than we do and how they conduct their daily lives.

Decorative House in Thailand

SAMPLE packing list for Thailand:

  • Camera
  • Sunscreen
  • Clothes-long sleeve/long pants if you’re in need of bug proof clothing
  • Bandana-to wipe the sweat off your face
  • Hat
  • Comfortable shoes-closed shoes and flip flops
  • Toiletries
  • Bug spray
  • Wet Wipes
  • Headlamp
  • Bible
  • (Bring some of these to your lesson to make it more real)

Trained Elephant Sitting

Other ideas to make the “in-house” trip special:

Baot in the Ocean

Ann Dunagan in her book “Mission Minded Family” rightfully says “Instead of merely asking God to bless your kids, meet your needs and fulfill your personal goals, seek God for how your family can bless others, meet others’ needs, and help fulfill God’s goals…”*

These “in-house” trips are a great way to shift the focus. First thing that we have to do to prepare for any mission trip is to pray.   Let’s ask God’s protection and blessing as we travel overseas to Thailand.

“Heavenly Father we thank you for the chance to go and serve the Thai people. We ask for your protection and blessing as we minister to them in Jesus Name, amen.”

Since we’re traveling from Colorado to Thailand –that’s approximately 8,000 miles away! Let’s board the plane and head out to Thailand. It will take approximately 18.5 hours to get there.

Additional Ideas to experience another country within your home:

  • If you wanting to try different foods around the world, go to www.trytheworld.com and subscribe to their taste the world one country at a time. Every couple months you’ll get some treats such as teas, cookies, jams and more all created by an expert chef. They give other recipes and stories behind the products to make it interesting. It works out to be less than $20 a month depending on how you set up your payment plan.
  • Google Maps lets our take kids take walks down streets of every major city and town in the world. Allowing them to get a sense of other cultures and see some cool sites from the comfort of your home.
  • Mobile Apps for kids to learn other languages. FlashCards Thai Lesson by Vannala Mobile Apps gives the Thai spelling along with the English spelling. What I like about this app is that it says the word in the Thai language, has the picture and writes it out along with the English Translation. My children are fascinated by how different the Thai language is from English.
  • Sponsor a child http://www.compassion.com/default.htm
  • Loan money through Kiva https://www.kiva.org/ as little as a $25 loan.
  • Go to a museum and specifically seek out artifacts from other countries.
  • Host a foreign exchange student and maybe encourage your child to work abroad during their college internship.
  • Give to the mission fund at your church. If your church doesn’t have a strong mission’s fund, contact a mission agency that you could support directly and ask if there’s any outstanding needs you can help support.
  • Observe some of their holidays: Many of their Public & National holidays are from the passing or birthdays of past queens or kings which could be an interesting study on some of their bios. Global holidays such as New Year’s and Christmas are celebrated with rich cultural history and great variations to how we celebrate them here in Western Society. National Nurses day, National Science Day and even National Children’s day are observed holidays in Thailand and they would be interesting to learn about those and even celebrate those from a Thai perspective.
  • Cook some of their food. A trip to the library, online or through an app on your phone will deliver thousands of recipes from other countries. I’ve included one of my favorite recipes for Thai Fried Rice which I’ve made on several occasions Chicken Fried Rice Recipe. Of course I always have to add extra spice to it.

If you would like to see these ideas in action, go to my YouTube Mission Trips at Home and take a look for yourself! It doesn’t take much preparation of time and money to make a little mission trip from home.   Get your kids involved, have fun and just get started!

  If you like my content, feel free to subscribe as well as email or comment on any ideas to make “in-house” mission trips even better!

* Mission-Minded Family: Releasing Your Family to God’s Destiny. 2008.  By Dunagan, Ann. Colorado Springs, Authentic Books. pg 1.

* Pictures taken by my wife on her trip to Thailand in 2009


Letters Every Father Should Write

Letters to Kids

It’s often said that we live in an age where we have so many modes of communication, yet we communicate so little. If you’re anything like me as I get older, it’s harder and harder to discipline myself in the area of communication-especially if it happens to be a hand written note.

I remember being at a particular relatives house not too long ago and my wife and I chuckled as we were sitting at the table talking while our older relatives were both on their Ipads not talking.  It was if roles had reversed there for a second with my wife and I at least 20 years younger in age.  The struggle to communicate properly seems to be getting more difficult with technology rather than easier.

     Many times we get caught up in life and forget those things that matter.  We may think to ourselves that our kids are fine without a nurturing relationship, but there’s a special place for each parent in that communication that only a parent can fill.  For instance, research shows that just talking with your child about school can have a significant effect on their overall accomplishment in school *.  Certainly the principle would apply in other areas of life as well.

Communication is the connection between our experiences, our emotions and is one of the greatest ways to grow any relationship.   I think we all would be hard pressed to find a child that doesn’t like being communicated to in a positive way.

My goal today is not to give you an exhaustive list of ways to communicate to your kids, but simple ways in which you can ACT TODAY! The important thing is to just get started.  A simple handwritten note, an email or text can make all the difference in a child’s life.

      As fathers, we should be looking for any occasion to tell our children that we love them, are proud of them and that we accept them.   Many adults can testify to the gap in their own lives from not hearing these simple phrases when they were children. So, where do you get started?

Letters every father should write:

“I’m proud of you”   Telling your child that you’re proud of them is important to building their confidence.  This is a legitimate form of praise that encourages a child to take healthy risks, pursue who they are and find their way.  Saying you’re proud of your child may be one of the most important things you’ll ever say.

“You’re good at…”  Every child needs to find their path as they navigate through life.  There’s plenty of distractions and peer pressure to fit into a mold, but a father’s “you’re good at ‘X’…” will help guide the child towards their natural passion. Helping a child narrow down their focus of what they’re good at and love will save them from making poor choices that go against who they really are.

“I love you”  Love is certainly one of the deepest emotions that every child needs to hear.   Saying this heartfelt phrase will help a child feel secure and often times prevent them from finding poor substitutes that are readily available and sometimes even harmful.   If you’re not the type that express your love through words then it’s time to change. There’s no substitute for saying it and you’re kids won’t believe you when you say “but they know I love them even though I never tell them.”

“Just in case something happens to me” Just in case something happens to you; you want each of your children to know exactly how you feel. Even if you’ve told them, they could forget or those memories could fade over time.  Writing your feelings down for them and sealing them in a letter will help the memory of your love and care last long after you’re gone.   You could even video yourself telling them how you feel; the important thing is to get it done.  Don’t take for granted how powerful a simple gesture this could be that could carry them years into their adult life.

“I accept you just the way you are” Every child is different and they might be much different than you. A child may even naturally rub you the wrong way, but they need to feel that how God made them is exactly how you accept them.   This doesn’t mean that you won’t help them improve, but you accept their personality, their gifts, talents and even their shortcomings.  It’s that unconditional love that says I love you just the way you are instead of becoming who I want you to be.

“Learn from me…” Often times you read in the bible of a father giving instruction to his son.   It’s what we do; we pass down the life skills and lessons so they can have a fruitful life.  We try to help them avoid some of the pitfalls that we did and lead them to adventurous, exciting life. Take the time as you learn from God’s word to pass that down to them.  Don’t believe that they’ll learn it all from church or school-you must do your part as well.

Occasions to communicate with your kids:

  • At bedtime.
  • When your child wakes up.
  • When they overcame a fear, a big obstacle or reach a milestone.
  • After graduation: at school, into another season in their life, or in a project.
  • When there’s a special mission or spiritual truth you would like to convey.
  • When they’ve had a trauma or a setback.
  • When you’ve identified their love language.
  • When you have a chance to show them unconditional love.
  • As a random act of kindness.
  • When you’ll be away or coming back from traveling.
  • When they’re about to start something new: like a new grade in school, going away to camp, start a new class, etc.
  • When they’ve worked hard towards an accomplishment or goal.
  • When they’ve portrayed great values or character.
  • After they’ve made an important decision in their life, emotionally, physically or spiritually.
  • After they’ve learned an important lesson in life.

Ways to communicate with your kids:

  • “Pillow Talk:” Sow a pocket on their pillow case and place notes in there before bed.   My kids still love to get these and often ask if I had put a note in their pillow case before lying down.


Pillow Case           

  • “Bite-Size Encouragements:” With the dawn of scrapbooking, there’s so many cool 3d stickers of food. Whether you find a TV dinner tray, a cookie sticker or one of a sandwich, use those stickers to decorate a little note to stick in their lunchbox                  

    Lunch box Encouragements

  • “Special Delivery:” You can buy a little mailbox off of Amazon (link below) for those special deliveries or special assignments. Kids will look for the flag to be up because everyone loves receiving mail!  Little Red Mailbox from Amazon

                           Red MailBox

  • “Wax Sealed Letter:” Use these wax sealed letters for special occasions or milestones. I actually wrote a letter to each of my children just in case anything happened to me and I sealed it with a ship insignia.   I let them know how proud I was of them, how much I love them and accept them.   That way if anything ever happens unexpectedly, they always have that momento from dad. For a seal you can use the first letter of your last name, a favorite animal or just a symbol that means something to the family.

                             Wax Sealed Letter

  • “Special Mission:” This can be a top-secret mission or a special assignment that suited for each child. It can be the concentration on a specific spiritual value or principle, or just a charge to “focus on this…” or “try to get better at this today…”
  • “Lost at Sea:” This one can be a lot of fun to make and the kids will enjoy it too. Everyone has seen the note in the mysterious bottle floating in the sea, and you can recreate this experience for your kids.   I usually will place one of these in their bathtub prior to them jumping in and of course I either have a treasure map inside or a special note.

                           Letter in Bottle

  • “Electronic Cards:” USB’s are so inexpensive now a days and if you’re not inclined to make your own cards, just record yourself and place it where your child will find it.   Even at a toddler age, kids can learn to operate a USB properly to load up a video of you talking.
  • “Sunrise Moments:” Do you have a devotional that you’d like to share with your kids?   Break it down and make it simple for them to understand, but be creative. Writing out a simple verse on some cool decorative paper can go a long way.
  • “Postcard:” Do you travel for work a lot or happen to be at the office a little more than usual? How about sending a postcard from work wherever you are and let your kids know that you’re thinking about them.

                           Collage of Letters to write kids

These are just a few ideas that you can start working on today! If you’d like to see some more ideas, make sure and check out my Youtube video of Youtube Letters to Your Kids Part 1 . Let me know some of your creative ideas as well and please comment about the ideas you’ve seen today.


* National Parent Teacher Association http://www.pta.org/programs/content.cfm?ItemNumber=1761&RDtoken=4247&userID=