Are you having trouble with your children being afraid to go to bed at night? Do your children become anxious when they know bedtime is close? Do your children talk about having a monster in their room or dreams? If you answered yes to any of these questions and are having trouble helping your child feel safe at night, read on.
Fear of a monster under the bed, fear of the dark, fear of the nighttime, fear of separation, fear of noises and the fear of sleeping alone are all real and are very common problems for children between the ages of 3 years and 6 years. This makes sense if you are knowledgeable about typical child development. During the ages of 3 to 6 a child’s ability to use their power of imagination is developing at an exponential rate. This explosion means they are able to imagine a new and scary monster easily everyday.
During this stage of development you can also see a child show fear of objects and movies and situations (dark bedroom) that have not been previously frightening. Children at these ages are not able tell the difference between real and pretend. In addition, preschool age children are learning there are real things in their world that can hurt them.
When a child spends a good part of their day in pretend play with dinosaurs, dragons, bad guys or a monster of some sort, it is difficult to turn this imagination off when going to bed. Children also spend a lot of time typically watching movies that have a monster, ogre, trolls, bad witches, ghosts and more.
It is important for parents to realize they will not be totally able to end their child’s fear during this stage of development. With this said, there are many things parents can do to help their child learn to deal with these fears and help children get to sleep easier. Some ideas to think about to help your children get through the fear of going to bed and the nighttime monster under the bed are:
– Spend a few hours before bed doing non-violent and peaceful activities.
– Avoid watching fairy tale movies or reading fairy tales before bedtime.
– Set into place a bedtime ritual that is low key such as; taking a warm bath, singing happy and fun songs, reading books that do not include witches, a monster or ogres.
– Turn on a night-light or two.
– Leave the door ajar.
– Play story tapes or lullabies
– Sleep with a loved toy, pet or sibling.
It is important for parents to understand that this stage of development will pass, but they they have a responsibility to set up the nighttime routine in such a way as to ensure their child has as many supports as is necessary to learn to cope with their fear.
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