Is your child afraid of the dark? 8 things to know

by Baylor Scott & White Staff on February 18, 2016

in Parenting

As bedtime approaches, kids can pull out their stall tactics. Whether they need a glass of water, they’re hungry, or they’re just throwing a fit about going to bed, it can become exhausting.

What can make matters even harder for parents or caregivers is if you have a child who is afraid of the dark. Just the idea of a black quiet room is enough to send some kids running.

McLane Children’s Scott & White nurse practitioner Jill Meredith sees patients in the Killeen/ Hemmingway area and has a few ideas to help your child if he is afraid of the dark.

Top 8 Things to Know about Children who are Scared of the Dark

  1. Fear can be a normal part of childhood

“Nightmares and fears are a frequent occurrence in childhood and can be associated with stress, traumatic events, anxiety, and sleep deprivation,” says Meredith.

There can be a number of reasons why your child may be afraid. Think back to what has happened recently, and see if you can determine any stress or significant events affecting your child.

  1. Fears can change, depending on age

“Fears of the dark and separation at bedtime can occur as early as three and can persist for a small percentage into older childhood,” says Meredith.

  • Younger Children— the younger they are the fear is more abstract, such as a fear of darkness, separation, or noises.
  • Older Children— have more concrete fears, such as a robber or physical harm.
  1. Don’t belittle their fear

It can be easy as a parent to downplay a child’s fear. Of course being afraid of the dark is a classic example, but some children are truly worried about darkness. Consider getting a nightlight, leaving the door slightly open, or something else that appeases your child.

“Remember that to the child the fear is real and not irrational,” says Meredith.

  1. Reassure them they’re safe with you

One of the best things you can do is to reassure the child that they are safe at home with you.

“Utilize safety tools in the home that they can see are in place,” says Meredith. “Locks, alarms, security lights, fire extinguishers.”
If your child is old enough to understand, teach them about these safety measures and how they can keep your family safe at night.

  1. It can grow worse as bedtime approaches

“Children will always implement stall tactics with bedtime at some point in time,” says Meredith. “When they show signs of anxiety and fear of the dark and the anxiety grows as bedtime gets closer.”

  1. Keep tabs on their media

Meredith says many bedtime issues and nightmares can stem from the child visualizing inappropriate content in movies and TV shows.

“We encourage parents to have a bedtime routine, decrease the child’s TV/screen time within the two hours prior to bedtime, and monitor what your children watch on TV,” she says.

  1. Don’t search for monsters

Have you heard of checking the house for monsters? Might not be the best idea.

Meredith says, “We counsel parents not to check or hunt for ‘monsters under the bed’ as this solidifies that they exist which can fuel the fear further.”

  1. It will pass

We understand how cumbersome this can be. One child’s fears can take over the whole family. In addition, it can cost several hours of coaxing, reassurance and bedtime attention.

“Many times parents are concerned about sleep issues as they affect the whole family,” says Meredith. “We counsel them that many of the common bedtime or sleep issues are normal for their developmental age and will pass.”

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