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Ideas for an 8-Yr-Old Who Can’t Sleep since the Boston Marathon

20 May

Dear Belleruth,

I am looking for a recommendation for my 8 year old daughter.  Since the Boston Marathon bombings (we weren't there), she has had a terrible fear of bad people.  She can't sleep at night and is in our bedroom every night.  Guided imagery has helped me in the past, so I thought I would try it with her.  Can you recommend a CD (preferably downloadable so we can start it immediately)?

Thank you for your help.


Dear Karla,

I’m sorry you all have to deal with this extra load of anxiety from the Boston Marathon bombings, and I regret to say your daughter and your family are in plenty of good company.  A lot of kids have been feeling really frightened by the baffling idea that random, undeserved violence could be visited upon them – and why wouldn’t they? After all, what can we do to stop it, if it’s not about our having done something bad to deserve it in the first place?  We all contract a big case of helplessness from crazy stuff like this.

I’m sure some of our readers who work specifically with children – or thoughtful parents who’ve been dealing with this in their families - will be able to chime in with their own wisdom and experience, and I welcome them to please do so.

From my perspective, I think one thing you can do is remind her that what she sees and hears on TV and radio (over and over again) is not a true representation of reality. The truth is, most of us live in relative safety; and most people are decent.  Not only are they not looking to hurt us, but they’re likely to try and help us out when we’re in trouble. And those misleadingly repeating images happened one time in one place.
But if you just go by the news, you could think bad people are everywhere and bad things are happening nonstop, all the time, everywhere.  Not so. (This is not a bad reminder for us adults either.)

Another thing you can do is encourage her to keep expressing her feelings.  And you can express yours back to her.  No matter what you say, you want to model, if at all possible, your own calm confidence, in spite of these events which can be pretty baffling to you, too.

A lot of cuddling, snuggling and holding may be in order – more than the usual dose.  And you may want to be a little more patient than usual with regressive behavior, which would not be surprising under these circumstances.

Basically, it’s good to keep up “business as usual”.  Everyday structure and scheduling are a comfort.
Imaginative play can be a godsend, too.  In the imaginal world, kids can be in charge and safe, morphing into superheroes who right wrongs and rescue the helpless.
There’s a good list of tips from Boston Children’s Hospital here.


As for what guided imagery might be good for an eight-year-old – I have several suggestions:  For sleep, there’s The Sleep Fairy. For general empowerment, I like Magic Island.  I’m also crazy about two new additions to our list: Tami Peckham’s I Am the Sky, and Mellisa Dormoy’s Relaxed & in Control. For general relaxation, there’s always Charlotte Reznick’s Discovering Your Special Place.  There’s more, but these are a good place to start.

Hope this helps.
All best,

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award