Help with teen's nightime fears


Hello Friends in Christ,
I have a 13 year old son who is pretty tough, confident and athletic. He was at a sleepover 2 weeks ago 5 doors down on my street (he has slept at this house many times before and his friend has been at my house too - family is nice and trustworthy or so I thought!). My son called me at 3AM and asked me to come get him - that he had a stomachache. He asked me to sit with him til he fell asleep. Odd. Well found out the next day his friend’s father had them watch The Exorcist! Well the kids had him turn it off when they couldn’t take the terror anymore - but he saw way too much of it - especially the horrific Crucifix scene, etc. Anyway my son is having alot of trouble sleeping now and being alone at night. Any tips? I’m trying all kinds of things - blessed salt, nightlights, trying to make light of that terrifying movie. Shall I have him talk to our parish priest? I KNOW sleepovers are always risky, and now I am afraid I’m in for a struggle for a very long time OR hopefully it will pass soon. It will be 2 weeks this Friday…


Well there is actually a way to turn this into a teaching moment. I recently watched a documentary on the real story behind the Exorcist. They interviewed two of the priests who were actually involved in the exorcism. The real child was actually a boy. Today he is a grown man and is not public about who he is nor does he cash in on the events.

What happened was, the boy's aunt brought a quojia (sp?) board over to his home and they used it. Strange things started happening to the boy until he became possessed. It is important to note that the family was not Catholic. They went to their preacher and he tried to help them and after a few failed attempts finally told them that they need to see a Catholic Priest. So they did. To make a long story short, the boy and his entire family converted to the Catholic Church during the process of trying to free the boy of the possession. Finally, with some pretty drastic intercession from St. Michael, the demon left the boy's body.
To this day, according to the documentary, the boy who was possessed continues to be a devout Catholic and has no interest in making money off of this story.

You can use this as a tool to introduce your son to the power God has, especially the power of the sacrements against evil things. Spiritual warfare is a life long battle for us all and as we enter our teens it intensifies. So, in some ways this opportunity can be a blessing. It is important for your son to realize that since Satan has no real power like God does, he has to use scary, flashy ways to look powerful. He is like a child begging for attention.


I am SO SORRY for what happend to your son. It is horrific-I could say that he was, of course, way too young to watch those movies, but that’s already been established.

Remind him that in that movie (which I have seen several times, as an ADULT) the good side won, clearly. The demon was out of the little girl. Also remind him that demonic possesion is very, very rare, and thank God for it.

Remind him that the devil is nothing compared to our Lord-the devil is a laughable moron compared to the Angels that defend us.

Remind him to pray, pray, pray-and when your alone at night, (or whenever your lonely and scared, really) reach out to your guardian angels and pray, the saints and pray, Our Lord, and pray.

I’m 30 years old, athletic, and tough and confident (some would say arrogant) as well!

Praying for him.


I think talking to your priest would be a good idea. This seems to be a pretty severe reaction to me. Does your son say what the thoughts are that he is having? Is he fine during the day, but just gets anxious at night?


I think we often forget that a 13-year-old, or a 20-year-old actually - is really really a child. :o

I also think it is okay for an adolecent to have some knowledge about the realities of things like possession, especially in a teen culture that glorifies satanic worship and vampires!

It sounds like he is missing the point - the real power of God and Love in the world. The Exorcist doesn’t really touch upon that. You have to teach him that God is truly bigger than Evil, and that he is always always safe just by asking.

I like the idea someone else had about the story behind the film. Great idea! I’ll bet you could find that documentary on Amazon. Or, I also like the idea of speaking to a priest - I would find an exorcist if I were you, to speak to your son. Someone who really knows and has seen Evil, and also seen God conquer it. Can you imagine the impression that someone like that could make?

You didn’t say - but I wonder if your neighbors are Catholic. I saw that film at 18 and laughed out loud. I actually did! I was just a Protestant kid, and saw the phoniness in it. My best friend, a Catholic, saw it with me and was hysterical. There was just none of the superstition to spook me. I just thought it was another horror movie - kind of interesting. :smiley: I think that was good. My point is, if they are not Catholic, they may not have any appreciation for the horror it could cause a Catholic kid.

One more suggestion, and it may sound funny, but I’m serious. Go to the video store and get a season of “Paranormal State”. It’s a bunch of college kids ghost hunting. The leader of the group is a great kid, very moral and unashamedly Catholic. They do use Catholicism to rid people of some hauntings. They bring in priests, etc. It could show your son, in a language he can understand, that people with God’s help do overcome such things in real life.


Yes do take him to speak with a priest.

But also, do not let him dwell on this kind of thing. Tell him that, anytime he finds himself even starting to think about this issue, he should stop and pray. An Our Father, a Hail Mary, or a prayer to his guardian angel or patron saint. He should continue to do this until these thoughts no longer, if you’ll excuse the pun, haunt him.

I’ll pray for you both as wel.


Thanks to all so far with their advice - I really appreciate the Catholic support and help. You really have given me good ideas.

My son is fine during the day. He told me that he is not worried about being possessed himself but that he just thinks she (Regan as the demon) may show up in his room, etc. He said the movie was “very disturbing”. And that he can’t get the scenes out of his mind. I told him to switch his thoughts but he said he has a hard time doing that.

I told him that this movie has terrified millions of people and that it is “normal” to be scared for a while but that it will dissipate. (I hope & pray) I myself saw it as a teenager when it came out but I think I got over it quicker because I was one of 9 kids and had lots of company every day and night. He only has one brother (who is autistic) and he has his own room… I actually watched the movie again by myself a few years ago. It doesn’t scare me at all… When I told him this last night, he seemed “impressed” that it doesn’t scare me… But then he came to me at 2am and 4am all uptight last night.


I'm so sorry this happened to you son. What incredibly poor judgment on behalf of the Dad to show this to your son. You trusted him with you son. :(

I hate scary movies....and when saw this I stayed awake for 3 days.And I must have been 22 at the time.

Here is the review from the USSCB.

Exorcist, The -- Strong screen version of the William Blatty novel about the demonic possession of a young girl (Linda Blair) and the attempts of two priests (Jason Miller and Max von Sydow) to exorcize the devil from her. Directed by William Friedkin, the movie is on shaky ground theologically and its special effects are horrific but the result is an exciting horror fantasy for those with strong stomachs. Its graphic violence, obscene references and foul language make it strictly adult fare. (A-IV) (R) ( 1973 )

Not for a child. I'm sorry, again.


You make an excellent point! The neighbors are not Catholic and are not practicing any particular Christian faith right now and I have been hoping that we have been a good Catholic witness to them. And I bet it doesn’t affect them like it could affect Catholics - very interesting observation.

And my son is very aware of the mystical possibilities that happen especially in Catholic life and spirituality.

You may all think I am nuts but as an example, my autistic son sees angels regularly. As part of his disorder, he isn’t capable of lying or making things up and he sees 4 angels all the time. And you should see the sparkle and vibrant smile when he is looking at them - he says they wear “dandelion yellow” robes (he knows his crayon colors) and that they were wear “Gold” on Christmas Day. But this story is for another day, another thread!

My other son knows this - he has witnessed my autistic son seeing them many times - and I try to remind him of the reality of the angels and the saints, not to mention Jesus and Mary in our midst…


I’m sorry for your son, I was in the same boat he’s in when I was younger. I think I was 12 when at a birthday party sleepover someone thought we should watch that movie after the parents went to bed. Once it started getting scary, I closed my eyes. I didn’t see 98% of the movie, the one time I got brave enough to open my eyes it was a closeup of her face all grossed out. And I had nightmares for a solid 3 months over it, even without really SEEING the movie! It still scares me to this day, as does anything involving that subject matter, so I try to avoid it. It might just take some time for the fear to lessen a bit, although I’m sure it would be very helpful for him to talk to a priest about it. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it, as my Mom had expressly forbidden me from seeing that movie so I didn’t want to tell her I got peer pressured into sitting through it.


Try a night light or give him a flashlight. After I saw I Am Legend I was terribly afraid of the dark, and I was afraid to go to the bathroom at night because I would get this fight or flight response at recalling the monsters in the movie. I'm in my 20's too :o


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