Monsters Under the Bed: Understanding Kid Fears
Never fails: After an exhausting day at work, you are getting your child ready for bed and gently tucked in. You lean down to kiss his forehead softly and turn away to close the bedroom door. On your way out you flick the switch to his lamp off. Suddenly, there is uncontrollable sobbing and your child’s rapid heartbeat. You stand in the doorway debating whether or not to go back inside and comfort your child or simply close the door and let him cry it out.
But, you must ask yourself, what is he thinking? Is he thinking that he cannot see what is out there and he feels unprotected in the dark?
Most children are afraid of the dark on some level – it is a very common fear of the unknown. To combat this fear, try teaching your child how to turn on lights around the house, and add a night-light to his bedroom. Allow your children to control the amount of light they have on when they go to sleep and gradually decrease it over time. Help your child understand darkness by going on a night walk together and discussing all the new and interesting things you can see when it is dark.
Everyone, from the youngest child to the oldest adult, experiences anxieties and fears at one time or another. Feeling anxious in a particularly uncomfortable situation never feels very good. However, with children, such feelings are not only normal, they are also necessary. Dealing with anxieties can prepare young children to handle the unsettling experiences and challenging situations of life.
Young children can get spooked by just about anything — the dark, the wind, or even a favourite stuffed animal. Or they seem to sail through a real frightening situation, only to become afraid of something days or weeks later. No matter how scared your child gets, childhood fears are usually nothing to worry about. They are normal emotions that help your children figure out how the world works.
Take a deep breath and try to understand why your child is afraid. Other ways to handle fears are listed below:
Let your child know that you take their fears seriously.
Give your child truthful information on topics such as death or war, and let them know you are willing to answer any questions.
Encourage your child to confront the object of their fear, such as dogs, one step at a time at their own pace. For example, perhaps start with pictures, then try a very small, gentle dog that is tied up, so the child decides how close to get.
Allow your child some control. For example, if they are afraid of intruders, make shutting and locking their bedroom window one of their night-time responsibilities.
Daily routines and rituals give a child a sense of stability and security, and may ease general anxiety.
There is no doubt about it. Life can be scary at times for children. We cannot keep our children from everything they fear—nor should we even try, but we can help them learn ways to be brave. It is an important step to growing up.