Since the fall has started and the daylight saving time has ended, we all notice how dark early mornings and evenings now are. A lot of children are afraid of the dark, and this time of the year may exacerbate their fears. What gives this fear that usually starts at the age of two or three? The reason is in the developing child’s brain that is becoming more imaginative but still unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy. The fear of the dark usually disappears by the age of seven, but before this happens, there are things you can do to help your child cope.
Even though the monsters that your child is afraid of are not real, the fear is. The most important thing to do is to let your child know that you acknowledge his fear and that having the fear is normal. You can explain that when you were a child, you were afraid of the dark too. Do not say things like, ‘That’s silly’ or ‘A big girl like you shouldn’t be afraid of monsters’. That could prevent your child from sharing his fears with you and feel ashamed of what is natural for their age. Do not have a pretend talk with the ‘monsters’ telling them to leave either, as this will feed the child’s imagination and confirm his belief in the reality of the creatures.
Most fears come out from something scary a child had seen on TV or heard from books. If you read bedtime stories, make sure they are calm and happy in nature. You can also share some memories from your childhood or talk about the passed day when your child is going to bed. You can offer to lie down with him for a little bit, but do not make it into a habit to have your child fall asleep in your presence. For the same reason, do not invite your child to sleep with you when he is going through this stage. You can offer to come back and check on him in some time or have a night-light on if that would make him feel safer.
The most important message you want to give to your child is that he is safe in the house with you, and that any fears he might have will be gone in some time as he grows older.