Helping Children With Fear of the Dark

When the bogeyman just won’t go away. When does that fear of the dark become a true phobia?

Is your child afraid of the dark? For many children, especially preschoolers, the bogeyman is a very real threat and it can make bedtime an unnerving experience. One way to help our preschoolers cope is by facing their monsters head on says psychologist Dr. John Munn. “If we can learn to listen to our child’s fears and help them by asking a number of questions about the fear such as; what do you think the monster will do? Why do think it would do that? Parents can be of value to their children because they can show an attempt to understand what the child’s concern is, to show that mom and dad aren’t afraid of it. In this way the child has a chance to elaborate on the fear and work things out in their head and figure out what they’re really afraid of.”

Senior social worker Randy Keyes adds that sometimes just shedding a little light on a situation can help preschoolers cope with their fear of the dark. “When we’re in the dark we don’t see as well and it is scarier. There is this sense that there is something just out of sight and arm’s reach. These fears, when kids are quite young, need to be handled in a straight forward way by putting a night light on, or a hall light on so that there is a relief of the darkness.”

If the night light doesn’t seem to alleviate the problem, then you may want to help your child look at their fears under the comfort of daylight. Once the sun is up and the lights are on, talk to your child about what they are afraid of in their room and what makes their room feel comfortable. Keyes suggests that perhaps parents can consider moving furniture, even “help them (their children) redecorate their room. They can do things that help empower their children about their surroundings. Children that are more comfortable with their surroundings will have less fear of the dark.”

Finally, Dr. Munn says that although many children experience some fear of the dark, there are signs to watch for that it could be turning into a phobia. “I think as a parent one might become concerned if the child appeared to be afraid to enter their room at night if it was dark, and then increasingly became afraid to go into the basement or outside, or if other situations were becoming more difficult for the child. Usually these fears of the dark go away once the child is intellectually able to manage and understand what goes on in his world.”


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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