Some of the most common things that characterize a childâ€™s life include fearing the dark, thinking thereâ€™s a monster inside the closet and anxiety at the thought of retiring to bed. How parents or guardians offer reassurance while addressing these issues usually affect their ability to fall and also stay asleep.
How to Help Your Child Not Be Scared at Night
Hereâ€™s how to help your child not be scared of the dark at night:
What makes the child afraid â€“ You first need to identify the source of fear by listening to the child. Talk to the child while asking open-ended questions and let them tell you what scares them at bedtime. Donâ€™t laugh off their fears since what seems trivial or funny to you can be a real deal to a child.
Donâ€™t support the childâ€™s belief in imaginative creatures â€“ Giving the child the slightest clue that you will do something about the creature implies its existence. This will only delay bedtime instead of providing comfort.
Help the child feel safe by constantly reassuring him/her â€“ Parents should reassure their children of their safety and let them sleep on their own beds. Donâ€™t continue sleeping with them because they are scared. Be gentle but firm about the child staying in bed and not running over to yours. Encourage them to sleep in their own beds even when they call you out in the middle of the night to tell you they are afraid.
Telling the child to stay in bed after reassurance helps prevent him/her from leaving the bedroom because they now know they are safe. If itâ€™s necessary, go to the childâ€™s room to comfort them instead of letting them run to yours. However, staying there for too long is not recommended unless the child is extremely scared.
Alternatively, tell the child that you will go over to their room after every few minutes to check on them then keep stretching your time out until they fall asleep. This makes the child comfortable because they know you are around to keep checking on them. Also, let them stay in their own beds when they wake up in the wee hours of the night. If the child is afraid of going up to sleep, reassuring them usually works the magic. For those who wander to the parentâ€™s bedroom, ensure you always take them back but first guarantee their safety.
Build up your childâ€™s coping skills and self-confidence â€“ You can work on different activities that will help build your childâ€™s confidence during the day. For instance, let the kid talk about their bedtime experiences and fears. You might help the child cope with or even overcome these fears by discussing alternative methods of responding to them so that they donâ€™t always be afraid at night.
Ensure the childâ€™s bedtime routine is light, fun and enjoyable â€“ Limit screen time an hour or preferably two before bedtime. Also, donâ€™t let them watch scary movies or tell them frightening stories and any other stimuli which can upset the child.
Allow security toys and night lights â€“ Let the child snuggle their favorite toy or object all through the night for security and additional comfort. If the child canâ€™t sleep with the lights off, the dim setting will come in handy. Donâ€™t close the door if the child is still scared seeing as they are not allowed to walk out of the bedroom.
Remember positive reinforcement or rewards â€“ It can be in form of sticker programs that the child turns in and gets a treat. Small toys and special gifts are always a great way of rewarding kids. You can also use positive words and phrases to encourage and motivate them. Remember to let your children discuss their fears with you during the day.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Call the doctor if:
- The childâ€™s fears begin after a traumatic experience, which persists way after it comes to an end
- The childâ€™s anxiety and bedtime issues worsen or become severe