Both of my children suddenly got a terrible fear of the dark during their toddler years. One day they had no problem with the dark and then suddenly they were terrified – it came out of nowhere. That intense fear has left them now but there are still certain things that we have to stick to in our home when it comes to lights out. My daughter is 6 years old and my son is 4 years old and neither one will walk into a dark room at night.
Listen To Your Child’s Fears
Yes you may be tired and want the day to end but try to be patient and listen to your child’s fears. Every night for about 2 months my son insisted that there were monsters behind the curtains and under his bed and that they were going to eat him. Of course we know this is not true but little children’s imaginations run wild at this age and while we may think it is a silly fear for them it is serious stuff. Imagine truly believing that you would be gobbled up by monsters? Not a nice thought at all. Take time to listen to your child and even if you have to say it 100 times a night that there are no such things as monsters this is what you will need to do.
There were many nights where I had to search the room and check everywhere for monsters to ensure it was safe before tucking my son in and very often I had to sit with him for a while too while he settled down and felt safe enough for me to leave.
It is also important to let your child know that it is perfectly normal to have a fear of the dark talk to your child about it and find our exactly what his fears are.
Keep A Passage Light On
Keeping a passage light on will let some light into your child’s room. It will also, very importantly, give your child a safe passage of light to your room if he is scared during the night. Your child must feel that he can get to you if it gets too much for him.
We leave the bathroom light on every single night which is in between our room and our kids room, lighting up the way for them to get to us if they need to.
Use A Night Light In Your Child’s Room
Night lights are awesome. They give off enough light to banish scary shadows while not being light enough to disturb your child’s sleep. There are some really funky and fun night lights which will make night time something to look forward to for your child instead of a time to dread.
Use Battery Operated Press Lights
These are awesome little lights that you can place around the house, especially for the scary places to keep them lit at night. Your child will be able to turn then on and off. This will give your child a feeling of control since he can turn them on when he needs them and turn them off when he is feeling insecure and scared. Your child can also show you where he would like the lights – empowering your child will go a long way towards overcoming his fear of the dark.
Your child may not be tall enough to reach the main light switches so he can make use of these little lights in the right places.
Avoid Scary Movies
Now remember that our scary and our child’s scary is just not the same. I remember that my nephew had this intense fear of panthers. Yes strange as it may be it caused problems – my sister is not sure where this fear came from but it could very likely have been something he saw on tv. Kids are very susceptible to things and at a young age there are many seemingly innocent things that may cause your child distress.
Make sure that you know what your child is watching and the nature of the programs. It is best to stick to safe than to have something cause your child fear and upset somewhere down the line. It is also important to avoid tv before bed and stick to a routine that helps your child wind down and process his day before he climbs into bed.
Books About Being Scared Of The Dark
There are plenty of books for kids about being scared of the dark and this is a really nice way to approach the problem without putting too much focus on your child. I don’t know about you but I read my children a bedtime story every night. This is the perfect time to read a book focusing on fear of the dark.
Make The Dark Fun
If you make the dark fun the fear will eventually start dissipating. Get a torch and make funny shadows with your hands. Get your kids some glow sticks to play with in the dark and start associating the dark with fun and happiness.
Keep in mind that this is just another phase that you need to work through, it won’t last forever but the more effort you put into helping your child overcome his fear of the dark the quicker it will probably all be over.
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Also published on Medium.