Nighttime Fears in Children

The bogeyman, monsters under the bed and a fear of the dark have haunted children throughout the ages. This curious fact is grounded in your child’s active imagination and ‘magical thinking,’ which makes it difficult to distinguish fantasy from reality. This makes preschoolers very prone to having scary thoughts.

Seeing your child’s anguished face as you kiss him goodnight may unsettle you. How do you put your child’s fears to rest? Is there a way to reassure your child and help him get past the fear of the bogeyman?

Things That Don’t Work
There are a few no-brainers you should avoid when helping your child get past his bedtime fears. Don’t belittle your child’s fears and don’t tell scary stories.

And then there are some strategies that seem helpful, but may actually be unhelpful in helping your child overcome his bedtime woes. Telling your child he has nothing to be afraid of won’t help his fear, since a fearful mind is characteristic of this age group; rather, it may make him shy about sharing his fears with you.

Having your child confront his fears is equally unproductive. Even if you prove to him that monsters aren’t ‘real,’ they still pose a very serious imagined threat. Lastly, don’t always rush to your child when he calls for your help. This will make him too dependent on you. Besides, letting your child work through his fears can be beneficial.

Methods That Alleviate Your Child’s Bedtime Fears
There are some simple things you can do to help your child get through this rough time. Talk to your child about his fears and explain how you got over your own childhood fears. Insight may help dispel his anxiety. Also, while you’ll always want to run to your child’s side during the onset of these nighttime frights, you should slowly work your way out of the picture, so that he can become independent and deal with the terrors on his own.

What About Nightmares?
What should you do when your child is having a nightmare? Well, there are a few different schools of thought on this topic, so here are some of your options. You can either choose to wake your child up or let him sleep through the night terror. Some experts say that your child will not remember the night terror, so the best thing to do is let him continue sleeping. Waking him up could frighten him more.

If he’s already awake, then giving him a warm hug will help reassure him. A comfortable, secure, loving environment will reduce your preschooler’s anxiety and hopefully reduce the number of night terrors he experiences.