But, Mommy, I'm Afraid!

Cynthia Dermody
17

nighttime fearsDo your toddlers sleep with night-lights? Mine do -- they're too afraid of the dark to go to bed without them. My son uses the basic utilitarian model from the grocery store, but my little princess does not know the word subtle. She uses a chandelier night-light similar to the one at left from Target.

A friend of ours gave it to her last year after she started complaining about the "lions under her bed." That, plus some carefully crafted talks and stories about how "lions are our friends" and "lions help people" helped her overcome her fear.

A recent discussion about nighttime fears in Answers led to some other specific ways that moms can deal with the issue.

- Get the book Let's Talk About Being Afraid. My son loves reading this book and understands that being afraid is normal -- sometimes we need to listen to ourselves when we're afraid, and that we need to talk about it, too. JPsMommy605

- I bought a special dog toy. I told him he would protect him from ghost, bad dreams, etc. And he still sleeps with that dog today and he is almost 9. LOL. lovinmomto3

- Moving them once they fell asleep in our room. When our eldest was that age, he woke up in his room and realized he'd spent the night and it was fine. After we did this a few times, he just stayed in his room. HNK11

Here's another idea -- my neighbor actually strings Christmas lights around her 4-year-old daughter's room all year long! I also thought this advice from Dr. William Sears was helpful, especially for children under four. Sears says they are too young to use their minds to overcome their fears and need tools to help them.

- Parent your child off to sleep with a soothing story, massage, or song.

- Leave relaxing tapes playing for an hour or so after bedtime.

- Gradually increase exposure to darkness by playing dark tag, beginning with the lights on in a room that preferably has a dimmer switch so that you can gradually dim the lights.

- Play hide-and-seek at dusk, and let the game extend into the darkness. Play follow the leader as you weave around the yard at night on an exploring expedition. Initially, hold your child's hand as you explore together.

- Give your child his own flashlight to keep next to his bed so that he can turn it on to shed light onto suspicious piles of clothing that turn into "a bear" when there's no light. Sometimes just knowing that he has the power to change the darkness into light is enough to quell the fear.

- Leave a light on his room; it won't interfere with his ability to sleep. He'll start turning it off himself when he's older.

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