Is Your Child Afraid of the Dark?

It is not uncommon for a child to show some signs they feel uncomfortable to be left to sleep in the dark all alone.

Placing children into their own bedroom after a few months was a Victorian idea, and to this day remains part of methods on establishing good sleeping routines in modern households.

But when you take a minute to think about this concept - a baby or toddler inside a new room, all by themselves with the lights out - isn’t it any wonder they may feel frightened? it makes perfect, logical sense. They are small humans who thrive in the daylight, surrounded by other humans for most of their day. To then find themselves all alone in a dark room with no physical or emotional security, whilst parents or carers are in a separate room, is perfectly understandable for them to feel uneasy.

A fear of the dark can carry on well into childhood. Again, this seems logical from the perspective of a child. We are mammals after all and need to feel safe and secure.

How do we spot signs they may be afraid of the dark?

Are they telling you?

  • Kids feed us information all the time. Some intentionally and some not so. Their behaviors around certain situations often give us a subtle clue that everything is not all rosy in their world.
  • They may talk about monsters or have a genuine fear that something may happen to them during the dark.

Do they begin delaying tactics around bed-time?

This may be a perfectly normal sign telling you they are not quite ready for bed. Nothing out of the ordinary here, right? But there may be an underlying reason for this. They may be scared to be alone in the dark, but are just unable to articulate this message to you directly yet. So, they act up. This delays the inevitable. More time downstairs with mummy and daddy; not in the dark, sounds like a good idea to them.

How can we help?

Well, prevention is better here. Get in there before it becomes a full-blown phobia.

  • Chatting to them and offering reassurances is a good starting point. True, most of the information will just be washed away in a sea of fear, or they are unable to fully understand what you are trying to say. So, just simply continue to offer reassurances.
  • Maybe introduce a security blanket or a favorite teddy for them to feel safe with. Or allow them to take their favorite toy into bed with them.
  • Maybe introduce a night light. If the electricity bill is not an issue, then leave a light on all night. This is not ideal but can be used as a stepping stone in to into eventual darkness.
  • A kiss and a cuddle is also effective, so don’t underestimate this either.

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