Your day ended, you just settled onto your sofa, all set to watch your favorite webs series on Netflix. You are about to press “play” and you hear tiny footsteps padding down “Mommy, I can’t sleep” “I am scared”. You have lost the count since; this is repeating every other day. Your child is scared at night and you are assuming that it will go away with the age as they grow. It may not. Do not take it lightly. How to help your child not be scared at night?
How does fear affect child development? Fear is a normal part of life, including kids. It tends to begin when you are doing something new, something unknown. Ideally, kids around the ages of 4 to 7 are when they are old enough to imagine but they are not able to tell the difference between reality and fantasy.
Why are kids afraid of the dark?
Most of the kids are afraid of the dark which is common. Helping your children to overcome this fear can boost their confidence hence teaching them how to cope with other fears in the future. Some kids develop a fear of the dark for no specific reasons.
Others events include :
- When they hear a scary story
- They watching something abusive, brutal, on the television
- The home environment is not good, parents fighting and shouting at each other
At times parents are unaware of their child’s mental condition especially when they are dealing with such nightmares and fears. The first thing your kid needs is your support and warmth. They should know that you understand them and will help them recover. Children who can master their fears are more capable, independent, and self-reliant.
What causes your child to be scared at night?
Fearing at night is a common thing, but anything that is repetitive, and making a pattern is an issue of concern. In some cases:
- Because of traumatic experience
- Because of some medication side effects causing sleep to rebound
- Separation of parents
- Hitting anxiety when seeing scary television shows
- Sexual assault/ abuse
- Pediatric post-traumatic stress disorder
Here are some of the symptoms to recognize:
- Does not sleep without light
- Lot of tossing happens during sleep
- Scared to go in the dark rooms
- Running away from the dark rooms
- Becomes nervous in any darkened environment
- Reluctant to go out at night
- Anxiety hitting when about to sleep
- Becomes nervous while going to bed
- Avoids going to bed
Physical symptoms include:
- Stomach pain, nausea, anxiety developing when going to sleep
- Clings and cries while going to bed
- Giving reasons, resisting going to bed
- Does not want to sleep alone
How to help your child not be scared at night?
You might have tried different approaches from setting up their regular bedtime to giving them warm milk or reassuring that it won’t happen again – but it is still not working. What to do when your child is scared at night and can’t sleep? Here are a few ideas that have worked:
Empathize with your child
Acknowledge that it is absolutely okay and reasonable to get scared. You need to talk them into a soothing tone that makes them feel safe, especially emotionally safe. Never question them or challenge their fear by asking “why are you scared?” instead say “I know you are feeling scared, I am going to be there to help you”. Separate your child from worries.
Keep their bedtime routine fun and relaxing
At least before 60 minutes of their bedtime, do not expose your child to television, scary stories, or music videos, or any kind of stimulant that will keep them awake.
Keep your child in his/her own bed whenever they wake up
“How to deal with a child who is scared” you are frantically looking over the Internet to find a solution. Well, to say every child is different are their fears and so are they overcoming their anxieties and cure. When your kid wakes up at night, assure him by staying with them. Your child needs you. However, resist making them sleep with you. Take them back to their room and assure them that everything is alright and the room is completely safe to sleep.
Work on boosting your child’s self-confidence
Talk with your child to know about their reason for fearing. This will give a boost to their self-confidence knowing that fear is meant to conquer. Talking with him you get to know what is making him uncomfortable and jittery. This way you will be able to connect on his level to help cope up with the nightmares.
Have a soothing light and music on for a while
Bring in noise and lighting into your children’s room for helping them to get rid of their fears of nighttime. Children usually like to have more light instead of keeping a dim light which will reduce the darkness in the corners helping your child to relax and reduce their fears. Make them relax and be comfortable by playing some soft music when preparing them for sleep.
Do not entertain your child’s imaginative creatures
Stating that you will destroy “the monster” will confirm your child that the monster exists. This will rather worsen the situation rather than providing comfort.
Don’t skip the bedtime story
Get into the habit of reading a story at bedtime. This will help visualize him new things and for once it will shift the focus of the nightmare. Get the books that talk about happiness and fun, bravery and conquering fears.
Get rid of stimulants
Avoid giving sugary stuff, energy drinks like coke/Pepsi, or any kind of caffeine-induced drink before sleeping time. Beware of the stimulants in chocolate that have side effects that include over-the-counter medications. If you think your child’s medications are part of this issue, discuss this with your physician before you stop them.
Don’t forget praising it with positive reward programs
This can do wonders in boosting self-confidence in your child. It can be anything from treating his favorite meal, presenting a toy, planning an outing, and so on. Rewarding your child will send him the message that he can overcome this challenge. Also, use a positive sentence like, “you did a great job by staying in the bed” or “You are brave”. This helps him know that he did it himself and ultimately removing the fear of the dark forever.
When does the fear of night typically start and end?
Children are often afraid at night, starting at the age of 3 or 4 in their preschool years. A fear usually lasts for a few weeks or months
How to deal with my child’s growing anxieties turning into fear?
Nightmare anxieties are common issues that children face. According to the child psychologist, children are unaware of these difficulties and not able to figure out the right cause of developing anxiety. When not treated on time, the anxiety with time grows in the child and starts affecting their day to day life in general.
How do I understand my child’s fears?
Understand what your child is going through, comprehend from their viewpoint. Never make fun and ignore their fears; they are dealing with real fears and it might stay with them for life-long.
When should you discuss the fears with your child?
There is no specific time for doing so. Your child is uncomfortable and scared due in the night, talk to him to know the reasons when he is in a chilled out mood. Comfort your child whenever they are feeling scared without giving in. If possible sleep with him till he is comfortable sleeping alone.
Is it okay to get professional help for the children?
Seeking professional help is always good if you are feeling your kid is burdened with fears and night phobias. A medical practitioner can teach you different strategies on how to manage anxieties and fears and parents can learn the helping strategies.
How can you help your child to relax?
Teaching your child to relax and calming their anxieties can help them fall asleep during their bedtime. Shift their focus on something else while lying in bed, read a story, or have a soothing talk can help to distract them from their fearful thoughts.
When your child is afraid of the dark, it is very important to acknowledge his fears about it. Making fun, shouting, and ignoring will lead to acute issues that will grow with their age and time and are tough to cure at the later stage of their lives.
Talk to them about their fears and let them feel safe and comfortable. If possible, seek professional help to cure the issue in the right manner. The medical practitioners are experienced in curing chronic nightmares, fearing of darkness hence your child will be provided with result proven cognitive-behavioral therapies to remove the issue from the root cause.