|Posted on May 4, 2015 at 10:05 AM|
Night time fears in young children are very common; fears can range from fears of the dark and shadows to monsters under the bed. Fears are a normal part of growing up and are linked to cognitive development because preschoolers aren’t yet able to distinguish between what is real and what is imaginary; they are also bright enough to know that things can be hidden by darkness. During the day your child is busy; there are lots of exciting things to distract him, but at bedtime and during the night when he wakes he’s tired, alone, its dark, its quiet and worries may surface. So, young children are more likely to feel insecure, worried and anxious at bedtime and during the night than during the day.
If young children are experiencing night time fears they may start to have settling and waking problems. They may become more clingy at bedtime and/or resist going to bed, use stalling tactics for ‘just one more kiss...or drink....(or both!)’ or continually get up to find you. Young children don’t have the coping skills to manage their fears themselves, so they need reassurance and support to help them cope and become calm. Comforting reassurance is always the best approach for night time fears.
Some practical tips that may help young children through night time fears:
• Reassure, reassure and reassure again; tell your child she is safe, and you are there to make sure she is safe;
• If the child verbalises his fears – ask him what would help him feel safer... the door open, a night light or torch?
• Look at the bedroom through your child’s eyes; remove any pictures or toys that could be viewed as scary; what adults see as ‘cute and cuddly’ may be viewed as scary by young children - and monitor TV viewing;
• Use a predictable, comforting bedtime routine, and consider encouraging the use of a comforter, lovey or special toy to help him feel less anxious;
• Try to encourage happy thoughts before sleep – talk about the child’s day, the happy things that happened and some of the exciting fun things that are planned for tomorrow;
• Consider using relaxing music, or a CD of waves, or rain to mask the silence of night time and any noises that may disturb or frighten;
• If she’s scared of monsters or goblins under the bed or in the cupboard - think of practical solutions like filling the space so there’s no space for goblins to hide.
• If monsters or gremlins are the problem - find happy, friendly monster books to encourage happy, friendly monster thoughts.
• Is darkness scary? Go for a walk outside together at night; give her a torch for night wakes; use a night light and put a favourite family picture next to it for comfort and leave the door open.
Finally, if your child’s fears become excessive, the fears increase over time and/or she begins to display anxiety and stress symptoms during the day, then it’s advisable to seek medical advice and support.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to inform and not for medical diagnoses or treatment. Please contact a health care professsional if you have concerns about your child’s health.