Getting your child to bed and asleep can be horrifying enough, but when your child has a fear of the dark it can feel almost impossible.

Yet sleep is absolutely vital for your child in order for them to grow and develop to their best potential as well as ensuring they’re alert and ready for learning at school the next day. But with the threat of the boogieman or the monster under the bed, how do you help your child stay calm and get to asleep?

Fear of the dark usually develops around the ages of 2 or 3 when your child’s imagination is starting to develop and this fear of the dark tends to occur because at night time your child is less distracted and thus their imagination runs wild when they’re in the dark.

Scary-FaceTelevision can be a big factor in developing fears. You might not realise it, but a simple news story or advert for a TV show can really affect your child. Similarly, if you have older children they might be watching something that is age-inappropriate for your younger child while they are in the same room. All it takes is a simple scary character in a cartoon to develop a fear. Instead try to be careful with what your child gets to see and limit their television. Technology these days makes it easy to put controls on what your child can see. It’s simple to set your tablet to just play Peppa Pig – it might send you to distraction but it will make bedtime far easier.

Of course, it’s not just television – books and radio can be just as provocative. Be especially careful around the time of Halloween for monster-themed books and adverts.

If your child does develop a fear of the dark, the best thing you can do is to be understanding and communicate about their fear. Telling your child not to be daft or silly will be far from helpful. Indeed, it might make them feel guilty or ashamed of their fear, making it worse.

What you should do is stay calm, listen to exactly what your child is scared about and try to encourage your child that they are brave and can overcome their fear. Of course, this will take time and patience. The worst thing you can do is become frustrated just because you know that the monster doesn’t exist, Rather, you should let your child know that having a fear is perfectly normal.

Create a bedroom routine that involves you checking under the bed, in the corners and in any cupboards for monsters. By taking the fear seriously you will reassure your child that their bedroom is safe. You could also create a simple ‘monster repellent spray’ to use – fill this with water and a little lavender oil, which calms and helps sleep.

Another simple way to help feelings of ease is to provide a ‘guard’ for their room. Ask your child to pick out a teddy or action doll that will protect them at night. This can be placed at their door to stop any monsters getting in.

Of course one of the easiest ways to help combat the dark is to provide a night light, but this won’t really help with the fear in the long run. Instead try to make the dark a less daunting place by teaching your child that the dark can be fun too. Try creating games that involve the dark such as under bed sheets, or even go for walks at sunset. A sunset walk will show the dark to be a gradual event rather than something scary that happens suddenly. Once they learn that the dark can be fun, it will make it easier for them to feel safe. 

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