How to Help Your Child Overcome a Fear of the Dark

Here’s another great post from our blog contributor!

Helping Your Child Overcome a Fear of the Dark

Fear of the dark is a natural childhood occurrence that most often melts away of its own accord. In some instances, however, this fear can become something that makes bedtime an issue, affecting normal routines and parents ‘down time’ as well as having a psychological impact on the child. The good news is that there are measures you can take to mitigate fear of the dark and help them overcome it.

Allow Strategic Lighting – ‘Facing your fear’ in the instance of fear of the dark is not a good strategy. An agitated child at bedtime means no rest for anyone. Forcing your child to simply ‘deal’ with their fears and get used to the dark can lead to insecurity and abandonment issues later down the line. That said, traditional nightlights and the concept of ‘leaving a light on so you won’t be in the dark’ can lend credence to fears and leave children feeling their fears must be justified if a light needs to be left on. Instead, make a low ambient light part of the décor in your child’s room. Fairy lights around a family picture are a perfect way to keep light decorative and illuminate a reassuring image.

Don’t Play Into Their Fantasies –  Children often imagine ‘creatures’ that lurk in dark corners and while it might seem like you are reassuring to check cupboards and under the bed to show them there are no monsters, the act of checking can serve to reinforce the idea that such things need to be check on. Simply reiterating that there is nothing to be afraid of because there are no such thing as monsters is a far better strategy. Imagination is a wonderful thing and should be nurtured in a child, but allowing imagination to be confused with reality is more damaging than it is developmental.

Keep Your Child in Their Own Bed – Tempting as it may be to bring your child into your bed to calm them and enable everyone to sleep, this is breeding trouble in later years and is not allowing the natural progression of the fear. The fear of the dark needs to pass and this will only occur as your child learns that there is nothing to be afraid of when they are in the dark alone in their room. Similarly, staying in the room until your child is asleep does not allow your child to learn to self sooth or to have faith that their fears are unfounded.

Keep to a light, happy bedtime routine and reiterate calmly that there is nothing to be afraid of whenever the issue arises. Allow your child to explain their fears and, in turn, explain that there are no bad things in the house. Avoid phrases like “don’t be silly”; invalidating your child’s feelings is not helpful. Simple reassurance in the safety of their surroundings and a firm, regular routine are the best tools you can give your child to help them face their fears.

Comments

  1. Terri S says:

    Great tips! Thank you for sharing them.

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