When Your Child is Afraid of the Dark

(Editor’s note: Please welcome Leslie with her post on fear of the dark. Thanks Leslie!)

When I was a little girl, I was very scared of the dark. While my mother only allowed me to watch age-appropriate movies, I imagined the “bad guys” from the animated films were hiding in the shadows and that creepy crawlies were hiding under my bed. And don’t even get me started about what I imagined might be in my closet. I was constantly rushing to my mother’s room, begging to be allowed to cuddle up with her instead of sleep alone in my room at night.

Fear of the dark is very common among children, but there are a few conversations I had with my parents and actions my parents took that helped turn the tide for me, and I think they may help out parents dealing with similar fears among their own children. Here I will explore a few tips that could help your child overcome their fears.

1.) Thoroughly screen the movies, books and TV shows your child is exposed to. G-rated movies like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves or Sleeping Beauty might seem innocent enough for young children, but for me as a little girl, the witch who offered Snow White her apple and the dragon in Sleeping Beauty were downright terrifying. Later at night, I would imagine the bad guys were coming for me in the dark. Take a look at the movies and TV shows your children are watching and evaluate whether the “conflict” in those movies is a bit too intense for young eyes or whether the bad or evil characters are too scary. Young children have a hard time differentiating fantasy from reality, and what doesn’t seem scary to you could be terrifying to them. If you have older children in the house who are allowed to watch more intense movies, make sure your younger children haven’t slipped in to watch alongside of them.

2.) Talk to your child about fear. My parents taught me that fear was an acronym that stands for False Evidence Appearing Real, and explained to me that the things I was afraid of were in my mind. They said that lots of children felt this way and that I must learn to recognize fear and learn how to comfort myself in the Lord. They told me that I was strong enough to conquer fear with God looking out for me. They even taught me a few Bible scriptures to whisper to myself when I felt afraid. One verse in particular I remember was 2 Tim. 1:7, which says, “God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” Having your child memorize a few simple verses about God’s faithfulness and protection to recite to themselves at night reminds them that they can overcome their fears.

3.) Tell them you will check on them. Instead of giving in and letting your child curl up in bed with you or a sibling, tell them you will come in to check on them every ten minutes or so. Keep your word and follow through on this. Eventually you won’t need to do this as much, but this gets your child in the habit of staying in his/her own bed.

4.) Read to your child before bed and cultivate positive use of their imaginations. It helps to make the time leading up to bedtime a relaxing and soothing time. Read something to your child before bed that makes them smile and ask them to use their imagination in positive ways before they hit the sack. For instance, you can ask them to imagine the “best day ever” and encourage them to think about that day in detail if they start to feel afraid. This teaches them how to change the course of their thoughts and imagination to something happy and not fearful.

This guest post is contributed by Leslie Johnson, who writes about health, green living, parenting related articles at masters in health administration.

Photo provided courtesy of BenedictFrancis via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

Earnest Parenting: tips for parents who want their children to overcome the fear of the dark.

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3 Responses to “When Your Child is Afraid of the Dark”

  1. James says:

    If children have fears of the dark,monsters,ghosts,etc. Try checking out the website http://www.themonsterguard.com. Very helpfull for these types of problems

  2. Dylan says:

    Products are available to help children through the night.

  3. Hi Leslie, Thanks for your article. I agree that a lot of children’s movies are often quite frightening and love your fear acronym. I wanted to also let you know about the Little Children Big Dreams website which provides help for children who are scared of the dark or afraid of monsters. Parents can personalize and print off therapeutic stories for their children which have been developed by a Child Psychiatrist along with the accompanying child certificate and parent guide. The children are then encouraged to draw their own illustrations as the parents talk with them about the themes (following the parent guide cheat sheets!). I hope that your readers will find this website to be a really useful resource for parents wanting to help their children overcome their bed-time fears.

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