Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dealing With A Child's Fear Of The Dark

Being afraid of the dark may seem crazy, but this fear is very real for many young children. The fear is so real that kids often carry this fear into their grade school years and in extreme cases adulthood. The first step in dealing with this typical childhood fear is to sooth your child and express understanding.

I personally know how nutty bedtime can become when a child is afraid of the dark. I'm currently watching my four year old anxiously get to bed and though her fear of darkness is hard for her to articulate it's there and makes bedtime a time of resistance.

The fear of dark usually develops in toddlers when they begin to establish a sense of imagination and fantasy before they're able to decipher what's fantasy and what's reality. According to WebMD, "The best thing a parent can do for a child with a fear of the dark is to communicate, be respectful, and show that you understand." Limit TV usage and books with scary content. We don't often register how books and TV can feed into a child's fear, but they very often do.

Offer children an item that might bring comfort in the darkness like a nightlight, special blanket or toy, and whatever you do, don't give in to having them sleep with you because of their fear. Of course, this is easier said then done, but instead of letting a child simply sleep with you, create a space where they can develop coping skills. Though you may easily want to rescue them from darkness with a simple sleepover this only gives them a false sense of security and they obviously can't sleep with you forever.
In our home, the hubby and I often pray with our toddler, we offer her a plush toy and redirect her desire to jump out of bed to play in the light (avoiding her fear). We also try to never ridicule her feelings and validate that we get she's afraid, while we try not feed into anxiety by acknowledging "monsters" or the "boogeyman", or worse, tease her for being afraid of them.
Many kids will eventually develop a very real fear that something "scary" lurks in the darkness. Remember their minds are developing. With love from understating parents this fear soon subsides. Be consistent in your understanding, kind in your approach and keep offering your child ways to cope with this anxiety all on their own.
Do you know a child who's afraid of the dark or maybe deathly afraid of spiders or clowns? 
Share your stories in the comment section!

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