Begone Bedtime Fears!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Many children dread bedtime because they're afraid... either of the dark, the monster under their bed, ghosts... the list goes on. We try as best we can to soothe these fears away, but understanding these fears along with their origin can most certainly make our job as parents that much easier. The following is some information that might help you better understand this phenomenon and help your little ones cope with their fears come dodo time.

First and foremost, it's important to address the origin of fear and how it materializes itself. Fear is a feeling experienced by all children, at different levels and according to their personality. This feeling arises from the first weeks of life when a baby is startled and cries when hearing a loud noise, and later on, around seven or eight months, when the infant encounters a stranger or whenever mommy is suddenly out of sight. It really progresses and evolves around the age of two, as the imagination begins to take an important place in his life. The greatest difficulties related to bed time fears are observed between the ages of two and seven, where imagination is limitless in a child's overabundant make-beliefs.

As parents, we can't help but wonder why the fears manifest themselves at bedtime? First, because humans are not truly suited for nighttime. A child's eyes do not see adequately in the dark, therefore objects sometimes take on an altered appearance from reality. Thus, a coat in the closet will take the shape of a ghost and the shaded figure of a plush dog will turn into a big monster. A toddler, who is not yet truly able to discriminate reality and fiction, will only fuel his fears by imagining the worst characters and scenarios.

Now, is your child's monster real or imaginary? When questioned, the main frights reported by children within the two to seven year-old range are: fear of loneliness, being abandoned or lost, afraid of the dark, fear of unfamiliar noises, afraid of wolves and monsters under the bed. Hence, in your child's world, the monster he sees in his room is indeed real. As tangible as his feelings. These images are somehow the visual representation of his fears emerging from everyday life. For example, the fear of a dog he crossed in the street, the loud voice of his mom or dad who reprimanded him, the siren of a firetruck that bolted near him or even images he has seen on television or in a movie. Starting at around two years of age, a child has the ability to transpose the emotions he undergoes into images.

Contrary to popular belief, it is argued that scary tales featuring wolves, witches and other evil characters wouldn't create anxiety, but would rather materialize the ones children are already experiencing. Your little one's imagination takes over when you tell him a story, unlike a movie or television show where the image is already fully created for him on the screen. Therefore, a story allows your kiddo to give his fears a word or image, to tame and overcome them as well, seeing that most stories have a happy ending!

The attitude to foster in order to address your child's fears is sort of on the tricky side. Mainly due to the fact that you must find that intricate balance between the need to reassure him while avoiding confirming his fears. Psychotherapists don't recommend using, for instance, an "anti-monster magic trick", or any other tricks to fight away the evil creature hiding in the corner of your little one's room. By doing so, you are sending an subliminal message that this evil character did in fact exist. Do not trivialize your child's fears, they're real... though you should try to avoid giving them a shape or form.

If the fears return night after night, try to adopt a ritual that will allow your child to relax prior to bedtime, such as a story, some music or a massage. You can also equip his room with a nightlight or provide him a flashlight to use when the need may be. When the fear presents itself, reassure him by taking a look together under the bed or in the closet, in order to make him realize that what he thought was a ghost, is rather a garment hanging on a hanger or a plush toy that has fallen under the bed. Let him know he is safe and that we too, as children, had our share of fears. Realizing he isn't alone in this situation along with that fact that mom and dad have had fears themselves, just like him, will certainly help overcome his own.




10 Fabulous Comments:

http://livingatthewhiteheadszoo.blogspot.com/ said...

bad dreams and night time battles are not fun. Thanks for your post.

amy2blessings said...

Thanks for the info.

Melissa + Tiffany @ Home Grown Families said...

I have an 8 year old that has BAD night time fears. I have to watch what she hears and sees because it all comes to a head at night. Sometimes, I just let her fall asleep downstairs with me. I feel like she needs a break from being scared every now and then!

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AJ said...

My 3 yr old often has night terrors. They are no fun!
joy h

MJ said...

Great info, identifying the root cause of the anxiety can make for a better nights sleep for everyone.

Mellissa Hanks said...

My oldest still has fears of the dark. Thanks for the info. :O)

Jennifer Clay said...

I let my girls take my dreams with them when it is bedtime! If I don't then they have "bad dreams".

Shari Lynne @ www.faithfilledfoodformoms.com said...

My son used to hate bed time and would wake up in the middle of the night screaming :( Great post and great tips! Thanks and Blessings!

LOVE MELISSA:) said...

My daughter was the same way! Luckily, she has outgrown them but for a few months it was SO bad!! Thanks for the info!

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