Being afraid of the dark is so common. We all have moments of feeling watched or thinking that something is lurking at our bedside. As adults, we rationalize and know that there really isn’t anything there. But for kids who suffer from a fear of the dark, it can be crippling.
Most kids will at some point show a fear of the dark. The severity differs from child to child, but if you manage to quell the fear before it turns into a phobia, you can help your child overcome it. We should not be teaching our children to suppress their fears, but rather to stand up and face them.
There are a few ways in which you can help your child overcome their fear of the dark.
- Have light switches close by
Make sure that there are accessible light switches available for your child. Show your child where they are and even leave a stool there for them to reach. If they know they have control over the dark, they will feel more at ease.
- Have nightlights
Nightlights are relatively easy to find and fairly cheap. Have a dull nightlight next to your child’s bed. This extra little bit of light will give them the confidence they need to sleep through in their own room and feel comfortable alone in the dark. Finding a nightlight that is fun or cute can also help them get through dark nights. Make sure the light isn’t too bright, as this could keep your child awake or overstimulate them at bedtime.
- Have them talk about what actually scares them
Have an open conversation with them about what actually scares them about the dark. Is it the fear of the unknown? Or are they worried there might be a monster under the bed? Knowing what triggers their fear will help you deal with it better. Also, stay away from any scary movies that might encourage their fear.
- Take out any scary clutter
At night, anything can appear scary. A coat hanging on the cupboard door or a standing fan. By clearing out any scaring looking items in the room, you are taking away the possibility of your child waking up and being scared. Kids imaginations can run wild.
- Make shadows fun – have a puppet show
Teach them that shadows aren’t scary. If they are still young, explain how shadows are made and even put on a little puppet show with shadows. This will break down their fear of shadows at night.
- Have parties in the dark with some lights and glow sticks
The dark can be fun! Host some glow-in the-dark parties with glow sticks, or tell stories under a sheet with a torch. By doing this, you are showing your child that there is nothing to be afraid of, and the dark can be used for a good time.
- Face the dark together
Don’t send your child to bed alone if they are afraid of the dark. Go to their room with them and switch the lights off while you are still there. Explain that there is nothing to worry about, and everyone sleeps in the dark. Turn on their nightlight for them and don’t say anything along the lines of “I will check under your bed for the Boogeyman”.
- Have a safe item – blanket/teddy bear
Give your child a token item to cuddle at night. A teddy bear or soft blanket can be a great help during the night. They will feel comfortable clinging to something, and it will most probably make them feel less alone.
- Don’t ridicule them
Teasing them about being afraid of the dark is the wrong move. Don’t belittle their fears, rather face them together. Congratulate them for spending the night in their room alone, and make a big deal of how proud you are.
- Take it slow
Don’t expect them to overcome their fear overnight. It will take time. Be patient, and eventually, you will see results. By taking it slow, you aren’t pushing them and you are giving them space to do it at their own pace. This will keep them comfortable and confident throughout the transition.
Being afraid of the dark is completely normal. Adjusting to new night time routines or new environments could set off the fear, but usually, it is something that appears in most children. Using these tips, help your child overcome their fear in a safe and comfortable way, giving both yourself and your child a better nights sleep.