Do you know what your child is afraid of at night and why? To know the Top 5 things that children are afraid of at night and how to deal with their fears, read on.
Young children exhibit many fears at night-time, and it can be difficult to reassure them. All day long, children play with dragons and zooming cars and superheroes using their imagination. Because of their immaturity, they are unable to separate reality from fantasy. At night-time, children find it difficult to stop their imagination from running wild. That is the reason why some of their most beloved daytime toys turn into monsters that attack them in the night.
Find out the 5 most common night-time fears of children and what parents can do to overcome those fears below:
1) My child is afraid of the Dark.
Fear: I can’t see anything in the dark. I don’t know who is out there. I don’t feel safe. What if someone hurts me?
What to do: Fear of the Dark frightens children. They fear the unknown. Teach your child how the lights go on and off. Give him a bedside lamp or a night light in his room. Let him decide how much light he wants in his room when he sleeps. The key is to help him feel in control of the dark. Over time, gradually decrease the amount of light when he is asleep, until he gets used to sleeping with less light without getting frightened. You could also tack up some glow-in-the-dark solar system pieces on your child’s ceiling so that he can get excited about switching off the lights to see the stars and planets.
2) My child is afraid that there are Monsters in his room.
Fear: There are monsters hiding under my bed or inside my cupboard. They are waiting for mom and dad to leave so that they can hurt me.
What to do: You can proclaim that there is no such thing as monsters until you are blue in the face, but it will not stop your child from imagining that bad hairy scary monsters are lurking in the dark shadows, just waiting to pounce on him.
Because their vivid imagination is just developing, they tend to distort reality when asleep and dreaming. Instead of making sweeping statements like, “Big Boys don’t cry,” take him at his word and look for monsters under the bed, inside the cupboard or wherever else your child asks you to. This not only helps to allay your child’s fears when you cannot find any monsters, but also cements the trust that your child has in you. Stop bedtime stories that have monsters or villains in them, and TV shows or news that may trigger his fears. Help him separate reality from imagination by explaining that monsters are make-believe and every child, including his mom and dad, have had such fears at some point, but do so without being insensitive or pushing aside his fears.
3) My child is afraid of the Thunder, Lightning and howling Winds.
Fear: The wind is making scary noises like its screaming or crying. It’s thundering so loud. What if lightning hits me? I’m scared, Mom and Dad. Make it stop!
What to do: Make your child experience different kinds of weather outdoors.
While the noises may scare your child, he will definitely enjoy playing in the rain! So next time it rains, take your child out to play in the rain. Explain how thunder is sometimes nature’s way of informing little children that it is about to rain, and that they should get ready to play. Obviously, do not let your child out if it’s raining too heavily and there are chances of lightning. Take him out even when it is really windy, and explain how those howling noises occur when the wind is trying to get past the small gaps in the windows and doors. Teach your child the science and magic behind thunderstorms and lightning to prevent their imaginations from running wild. Hug them, talk to them and divert their attention when the weather is at its worst. So the next time he is in bed and the wind starts howling, he will be well-equipped to process and deal with his fear better.
4) My child is afraid of being Alone.
Fear: I want Mom or Dad to be near me at all times. I feel safe and protected when you are close to me. I don’t want you to go out of my sight.
What to do: Surround your child with all his favourite safe toys and when he becomes completely involved in playing with them, slink out of the room for a bit. Keep conversing with him every few minutes from the other room, and keep checking up on him every once in a while. Put him in his bedroom and sit outside it in such a way, that your child can see you easily. This will make him feel comfortable in his room knowing that you are just outside. Play hide and seek in your house, starting in his bedroom. Make it easy for your child to find you. He will come to realise that even if you are not easily visible, he will be able to call out to you, or find you whenever he wants to. However, please be careful as it is not safe to leave your little one completely alone or with hazardous small toys or sharp objects around.
5) My child wakes up screaming or crying because of Nightmares.
Fear: I'm scared of sleeping alone, because I sometimes get very bad, scary dreams.
What to do: Nothing illustrates a child’s difficulty in distinguishing between reality and imagination as do nightmares. Often, your child may be unable to explain exactly what frightened him, but he will demonstrate the same by awaking and screaming frequently, incoherently mumbling about something he saw in his sleep, or wanting to be close to you all night long. Following a set bedtime regime such as a warm bath, cozy night-time stories, etc., will go a long way in preventing nightmares. Your child’s nightmares may be linked to a TV show or news story that he may have seen or heard just before bedtime. If your child suffers from separation anxiety, that too could cause nightmares.
When your child cries out, go to him right away. Physical reassurance, in the form of hugging and comforting him will help him fight the after-effects of the nightmare. Soothe him with his favourite blanket or stuffed toy, keep a night lamp on, and leave the door to his bedroom open to communicate that he is safe and you are just a shout away. If his nightmares are persistent and severe, consult your doctor as your child may be suffering from night terrors.