What to Do When Your Child is Afraid of the Dark
Children have wonderful imaginations and once the day’s stimulation ends, things as harmless as a shadow can take form into something horrific to a child. This can cause a fear to emerge in your little one’s life. The good news is a fear of the dark is totally normal and easy to get over. While it may be difficult as a parent when your child is hurting and afraid, there are some things you can do to help until this phase passes.
The first thing to keep in mind is to never belittle or tease a child for their fears. Even though you may find the thing scaring them to be silly, to them it is a very real threat. Try to comfort you child and help them to realize that the threat is imaginary. Reassure your child that she is safe and you are with her.
One way to bring comfort is by offering a security item such as a blanket, a favorite stuffed toy or a night light. These give the child something that they can use to help soothe themselves and be calmer and much more likely to sleep.
You can offer to check on your child throughout the night at an interval that would make them feel confident that they are safe. Talk to your kid and ask “Would you like me to come check on you in a half hour?” Maybe every few minutes? Let your child decide; that bit of power over the situation will help to conquer fears.
You should never play into your child’s fears by pretending they are real. When you validate the fear it makes it something legitimate to be afraid of. Saying things such as “monsters only get bad kids” or “if you are good you have nothing to worry about” puts a stipulation on the child’s safety that can cause an immense amount of anxiety.
Avoiding television, video games or even books that have any scary or adventurous themes to them can also help to minimize the fears your child creates when the lights go off. These plant subconscious ideas that the very overactive young brain can turn into something terrifying. Try spending the last half hour or so before bed with your child doing something mild and soothing like a nursery rhyme, or just talking about the highlights of the day. This will offer a peaceful atmosphere for your child to unwind and go to sleep in.
Giving your child love and patience while they learn to overcome their fear is very important. Children tend to regress at night; they will need reassurance and sometimes proof that there is nothing to worry about.
Fears such as the dark are normal but shouldn’t last a substantial length of time. If you find that your child is having a fear of the dark for many months it may be time to talk to your pediatrician or a counselor just to be sure there is nothing else going on that needs treated.