Young children go through a period when their imagination is on overdrive. Books, television, school ground, or playground, are all filled with opportunities and themes to twist into a diabolical plot that grows under their beds. No matter your reassurances, there is a monster ready to pounce when the lights go out!
What do experts say about children’s fear of the dark? Studies show that there is a consensus that during the developing years when everything is new, children will fear the unknown, the unseen and the unimaginable. When children begin to develop an imagination, but cannot yet process what they experience, fear sets in. And when does this fear manifest? Well, when they have been tucked into their beds, the lights are off and the house is silent; except, of course, for the tapping under their bed which could be explained by their creaky bed!
To calm your young child’s fear of the dark, here are a few things you could do.
Limit Television Program
Although there are great educational programs available, it is important to remember that children under the age of 6 can be easily affected by not only what they see, but by what they hear. Innocent sounds like creaking doors, footsteps, roaring, or barking can leave an impact on little minds, especially at nighttime.
Read Age-Appropriate Books
When little brother picks up big sister’s books on monsters, an emotional upset can follow. As with all things harmful, keep these away from their reach.
Empower younger children with skills. Take them around to every corner of their bedroom during the day and have them investigate what is there. Sometimes throwing a sweater over a chair looks very different in the dark. Show them how things look different in the dark and how to reduce “shape-shifting” by putting things away.
Arm Them With Super Powers
A blanket is only a blanket until you tie it around your shoulders: then it has superpowers. A flashlight with a thunderbolt painted on the reflective glass will dissolve any shape shifter in the area! A teddy bear tucked under their chin keeps their eyes wide open for danger while they sleep!
Install a Nightlight
Letting your child select the type of device that may reflect a superhero on the wall or a spaceship to take away any monsters lurking about is a great idea. Depending on the child’s age, making them part of a team of “protectors” can instill healthy self-esteem. What is important is that they don’t feel helpless. Empowering children from a very young age will yield many rewards as they grow older.
Read at Bedtime
One of the best ways to let your little one drift off to sleep is to read them stories that are uplifting, joyful and fun. Reading stories which include battles, or sad themes will fuel their imagination. If the last words they hear before falling asleep include negative themes, it is very likely that they will carry them into the night.
Play Relaxing Music
Sometimes adding soothing sounds at bedtime will allow your child to fall asleep to the tunes while masking any other sounds that may appear frightening. They won’t hear the little creaks and squeaks if they are focused on bells and chimes.
Fear of the dark is not exclusive to young children. Many never outgrow their fear and as adults have found ways to use many devices including nightlights and ambient music. Finding a clear and unobstructed way to dreamland by whichever means possible is the ultimate goal.
Angela, Your Sleep Expert