Nighttime fears- afraid of the dark

Being afraid of the dark is a real bedtime fear that most children experience at some stage in their childhood. This emotional situation can be very scary for these little people and today I have a few practical tips and tricks to overcome this fear.

  • Listen and understand the child’s fear. Let them do this in their own time, if they don’t want to talk about it straight away that’s okay, they will in time.
  • During this process you need to reassure and validate the fear. Spending time talking about this can help to overcome the darkness. It is important not to inadvertently build up the fear as this can make it worse.  You don’t need to get the monster spray out or a broom to scare the monster away, rather listen to the concern and help them to overcome it. By using ‘monster spray’ or something similar you can in time delay bedtime and not help the situation.
  • It is also a good idea to read stories. These may include stories that talk about a superhero overcoming the fear.
  • Let them have a security object or comforter. This can be a long standing comforter or something they think will keep them safe at night
  • During the day practice playing in the dark, making it fun and a place to feel secure in.
  • At nighttime let them be in control. I don’t mean of their bedtime but let them turn on the night-light, turn off the main light. These small acts can empower your little person to know they are in control.
  • Avoid television in the evening. What we believe to be a harmless television show may be distressing your child. Televisions are highly stimulating and can make developing brains go into over drive. By decreasing the stimulation you will help ease bedtime fears.
  • Use reassuring and supportive language. An example of this is ‘remember we are in a safe house where mum and dad love you.’

Often when your child is sleeping badly we as parents have a subconscious thought process occurring. This includes parents being stressed, anxious and emotionally drained. All of these emotions are normal, however these emotions affect your child’s sleep and it can become a continuous downward spiral.

If the child has been exposed to a frightening situation or these bedtime fears and anxieties continue. I would encourage you to seek professional help through your General Practitioner.