Fear of the dark is a common childhood experience. In the Disney movie Monsters Inc., the little girl, Boo, wasn’t afraid of the monster in her bedroom closet. She saw him as a friend. She felt self-confident in the dark and the monster’s fear tactics didn’t work on her. The movie, of course, is make-believe. There aren’t monsters in our children’s closets, but the dark can still be scary for kids. And when your kid’s afraid of the dark, your evening can get scary, with the constant getting out of bed, stall tactics, and tears.
- Do fun activities in the dark together so the child learns to associate the dark with positive experiences.
- Check the closet, under the bed, and all the corners together to show that the room is safe.
- Sing a happy song together in the dark before bed to bring up the mood in the room.
- Avoid sugar and processed food before bed. Make sure bedtime snacks are mostly protein.
- Build children’s self-confidence during the day by helping them overcome daytime fears.
- Don’t exploit a child’s fear of the Boogeyman to discipline him or her into good behavior.
- During daylight hours, teach children how shadows are made. Dance outside or make hand puppets to show that shadows aren’t scary.
- Stay calm when the child is scared. Resist expressing impatience. Your frustration will only make it worse for the child.
- Allow the family pet to sleep with the child or give the child a large stuffed animal. Having “someone” with them will alleviate feeling alone.
- Play sweet, happy music quietly in the background as the child falls asleep.
- Avoid television and active games for a couple of hours before bed.
- Help the child memorize Bible verses about God’s protection.
- Tell the child you will check in every 10 to 15 minutes. This assures children that you’re close by and that they aren’t alone.
- Provide the child with battery-operated press lights they can turn on by themselves.
- Only read happy story books before bed. Avoid stories about scary creatures or villains.
- Create a routine and predictable habits at bedtime. This creates a sense of security in a child.
- Don’t dismiss the child’s immature fears as ridiculous. Listen and reassure as the child expresses the fears.
- Remind the child that God is big. He is with us and so are His angels. Pray together and invite God to fill the room with peace.
- Is stress a cause of your child’s fear of the dark? Is there something he or she experienced today that resulted in anxiety? Did adults discuss a difficult situation in the child’s presence, did family members fight, or did something happen at school?
- Encourage the child to deal with the fear by using the tools you’ve provided. If the child can’t do it alone, allow him or her to get you. When you enter the room, guide the child in resolving the fear for him or herself.
- Praise the child for overcoming the fear when it happens. Make the praise a big deal.
What are some ways you’ve helped your child overcome a fear of the dark?