Q: How can we help our four-year-old overcome her fears about going to sleep in the dark? We’ve tried everything – an established bed-time, a night-light in the bedroom, books, songs – but nothing seems to help.
A: It’s fairly common for small children to be scared of the dark. Their imaginations are developing quickly and they can have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. Your daughter is probably going through a phase and will outgrow it in time.
First, ask yourself if there have been any recent changes at home or preschool that could have precipitated the fear. Then ask your daughter what she sees, and what looks, sounds, or feels scary to her – and what would help her feel safe. Help her train her imagination to think of fun, creative stories that have some excitement and end well. If she sees a monster in her mind, have her draw it the next day and dress it up to make it funny and friendly. Give the critter a name and make up goofy stories about it.
If this isn’t working after a week or two, try other methods. A night light in the room or hall is great, but make sure it doesn’t cast any scary shadows on the wall. Some children enjoy listening to soothing music just before falling asleep. Each child is different, so what may work for one may not work for the other; you’ll need to be creative. The goal is to help channel the youngster’s imagination that can quickly be controlled by fear.
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