Is Your Child Scared of the Dark?

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full moon, sleep, fear of darkness

One night--I think my kindergartner was about 3-- the night light blew out. Mommy confession: it hasn't been replaced since. Initially, it didn't get replaced because every time I went to the grocery store, I forgot to pick one up; but there was also a part of me that wanted my son to be comfortable in the dark and I secretly thought, what better way to help that happen.

Today my son is mostly fine in the dark; he shares a room with his younger brother and they still don't have a night light. But occasionally, if the hall lights are out he will express a fear of going upstairs alone. Those times I'll make the trip to his room with him (BTW: he can cut his room light on himself).

Hey, some adults are afraid of the dark; it's a fear that is as natural as it is common.

“The darkness is, physically and metaphorically, the unknown,” says Dr. Jacquie Hetherton, a clinical psychologist in the UK, specializing in phobias. “From an early age we are taught to fear the dark. In many respects it's a survival instinct. But when your child is safely tucked up in their room, with parents to look after them, there is no need for them to be afraid.

“The unknown can contain wonderful, fantastic possibilities, as well as monsters and thieves. When we avoid the dark, it reinforces our misconception that it's a big bad world out there, that it's a scary place. Learning to embrace the darkness is a way of weakening that belief system,” she says.

Some pointers for helping kids who are scared of the dark:

  • Talk through the fear Help your child to rationalize it, but never joke about it. For example, if your child is scared of monsters in the closet, open the doors and check with him or her that there is nothing there. Stress that there is no way a monster could get in.
  • If a child is anxious Gradually dim the lights week by week by moving a lamp farther from the door, or by closing it bit by bit. Don't make them go cold turkey (like I did my kids).
  • Don't stereotype darkness as “scary” Avoid too many stories or TV shows where the dark is portrayed as something filled with monsters and demons.

Good luck and sweet dreams.

Is your child afraid of the dark? How do you help comfort her?

behavior, independence, sleep