As a kid I was afraid of the dark. There was this pervasive fear that something was lurking either in my closet, or under my bed. This “something” took many different theoretical shapes and forms, but it’s effect was to make it extraordinarily difficult for me to fall asleep.
“Use the darkness, or the darkness will use you.” I cannot for the life of me recall who said this to me, but somehow as a kid it made a degree of sense. Instead of letting all of the imaginary creatures keep me up at night, I decided to write about them. Whenever I had a hard time sleeping, I would get out my journal and start writing about those seemingly terrifying imaginary creatures. Usually after 10 minutes of writing, the scary things seemed less important and I became far more ready to sleep. When I woke up in the morning, I would very often laugh out loud at the ridiculous things I wrote about being afraid of. The terrifying thought of a clown somehow being up in the top shelf in my closet seemed utterly preposterous when reading it out loud in the bright of day.
And so I encourage my students to not be afraid of the darkness, but to shine a light in it. One of the best ways to shine this light is by telling stories. When kids share their fears, uncertainties, and frustrations through stories they find connection with others (the audience). This connection between storyteller and audience is manifest in rapt attention, bursts of laughter, and heartfelt applause at the recognition we are all in “this” together.
So if you (or your child) is having a hard time falling asleep, consider shining a light in that darkness by writing down what’s in/on your mind. Instead of letting that ghost keep you awake at night, tell the ghost’s story and receive both applause from an audience and a better night sleep.