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7 Tips If Your Child Is Afraid of The Dark

September 27th, 2023

Being afraid of the dark is a common fear among children. From taking hours to go to sleep and endless requests for “just one more story” to late-night escapes into your bed, you’re not alone if you’re tired of bedtime being a complete (pun intended) nightmare. Helping a child overcome their fear of the dark takes a great deal of patience and understanding. Here are some ways that you can help them cope so that you both get some sleep again.

Show Empathy

Share your own experiences of being afraid of the dark when you were young. Your child can see that being afraid of the dark is normal, and it’s possible to overcome this fear. By showing compassion, your child will feel safe coming to you with their concerns, and they’ll know you’re someone they can trust to help them through difficult times.

Encourage Open Communication

Encourage your child to express their feelings about the dark. Listen attentively and validate their emotions. Let them know it’s okay to feel scared and that many people, including adults, experience this fear at times. This can help them not feel alone and take comfort in others dealing with the same issue.

Shine Some Light

A core reason some children are afraid of the dark is simply because they can’t see what’s around them. Their growing imagination then takes over, creating fear-based scenarios that simply aren’t there. By softly illuminating pockets of their room with a night light, small lamp or gently dimmed light, they’ll learn that it’s only their imagination that’s been trying to trick them all along.

Create a Comfortable Sleeping Environment

Another way to ease their fears is to create a cozy and inviting space for them to sleep. Tuck them in under a weighted blanket, snuggle them up with a favorite stuffed animal, or lay their head on a personalized pillowcase made just for them. A sound machine can also help tune-out sleep-disrupting creaks and clatter.

Develop Bedtime Routines

Develop a consistent bedtime routine that promotes relaxation and comfort. Reading a book about brave characters, listening to calming music, or sharing favorite stories from the day can help distract kids from their fear of the dark. Your child may even start to feel like that brave character in their book and feel better prepared to face the darkness on their own.

Build Positive Associations

It may also be beneficial to create positive associations with the dark. Go outside and stargaze together or make shadow figures on the wall in the dark with a flashlight. Talk about how nighttime is for fun as well as rest and not for scary things to happen.

Give Positive Reinforcement

Whenever your child takes even a tiny step forward, give them praise for their efforts. This can boost their self-esteem and push them to make more decisions on their own. You empower them to take ownership of their fears by creating a solution-driven action plan. For example, if you feel scared, turn on your lamp, count to 100, and go back to sleep. Or keep a flashlight on their nightstand so that they can shine the light on a dark corner or under their bed for reassurance. Never punish your child for being afraid of the dark since it may only make the situation worse and lead them to anxiety.

Seek Professional Help

Children need sleep like they need oxygen. If their fear of the dark becomes severely disruptive and persistent, consider asking for guidance from a child psychologist or therapist. They can provide specialized strategies to help make sure they get the quality sleep their growing minds and bodies so desperately need.

Most of all, overcoming any deep-rooted fear takes time. The process will most likely be a gradual one with no easy, instant solutions. Every child is unique, and how long it takes them to conquer their fear of the dark will vary. Be patient and supportive, and they will be able to overcome almost anything!