Many children experience bedtime fears. While some children may use fears as a stalling technique to avoid going to bed, the growing imaginations of others get the best of them and they experience true bedtime fears or nightmares that keep them from going to sleep and embracing their sleep environment.
Whether your child is complaining of ghosts or monsters, the dark, or simply refuses to say in bed, there are some effective techniques you can use to help your child embrace his sleep environment, conquer his fears and get a good night’s sleep.
Here are five of them:
1. Reassure your Child
Listen to your child and hear them out. Validate their feelings and emotions, but don’t validate their fears. “I hear that you feeling scared.” “I hear that you are afraid of monsters.” “You seem very scared, mommy sees that.” Communicate to your child that you understand their fears, that they are safe and that their environment is safe.
2. Teach your Child Coping Skills
Teach them practical ways to manage their feelings. Teaching your child to take slow, deep breaths in through his nose and out through his mouth can help ease anxiety. Giving them a "special friend" to sleep with (like a stuffed animal or toy) can also help increase their comfort level.
3. Establish a solid Bedtime Routine
Having a solid bedtime routine so that your child knows what to expect each night can also be helpful in reducing anxiety. After dinner, avoid overstimulation like action packed television shows or computer games. I suggest an hour prior to bedtime giving a bath, followed by reading a book in bed rather than saying just quickly saying goodnight.
4. Try to keep them in their own Room
It can be tempting to take your upset child into your bed, but don’t. When you do, you are reinforcing that their sleep area is not safe and that what they are afraid of is worthy of fear. Instead, comfort them in their own room, check on them often, and give them reassurance that they are safe.
5. Get creative in letting them take control over their own fears
If your child is afraid of monsters, consider giving them a "pretend monster spray" to use before bed. Take a can of room deodorizer spray, wrap construction paper around it and label it as monster spray. If they are afraid of ghosts, give them a spray bottle and mix water with a little lavender essential oil. Encourage them to spray it if they get scared. A special nightlight that they choose and can turn on by themselves may also help increase their comfort level.
Fears and anxieties can be a normal part of childhood development. By helping your child work through their bedtime fears and anxieties you can help everyone get a good night’s sleep.