Night time fears and nightmares are extremely common in children, especially during the preschool years. They are part of normal development, as children’s imaginations develop and children begin to understand that there are things that exist that can hurt them. Anything that makes a child more emotionally aroused is going to make his fears worse and make him feel more anxious. Young children are often afraid of monsters and other imaginary creatures, whereas older children are more likely to fear being hurt by more realistic dangers, such as natural disasters.
It is normal for young children to have fears of the dark and going to bed at night. Most children experience night time fears at some point during childhood. If a fear of the dark or going to bed is preventing your child from falling asleep or sleeping through the night, you may consider some of the following strategies to help reduce your child’s fear during the night and help him / her to get better sleep.
Give your child a chance to tell you what makes him / her scared at bedtime. However, do not force your child to talk about the fear if he / she is not ready. Some kids are intrinsically more timid than others. Also, the nature of fear in children is different throughout development. Never dismiss or make fun of a child’s fear. A fear that may seem silly to an adult may seem very real to a child.
Use a nightlight. No matter what your child seems to be afraid of, a night-light can help. Nightlights will certainly be of help in providing security at night even if your child is not afraid of the dark. As long as the light does not interfere with your child’s sleep onset, it is appropriate to have dim light at bedtime.
Offer your child the comfort of a soft toy animal or doll. To provide additional comfort and sense of psychological security, it is also helpful to allow your child to snuggle with his or her favourite soft toy or a blanket throughout the night.
Keep the bedtime routine ‘light,’ happy, and fun. Just an hour or so before bedtime, do not expose your child to scary movies, TV shows, frightening bedtime stories, scary music or videos, or other stimuli that may be upsetting to your child. Rather it is suggested to have a nice family bonding time at the terrace (open space), listening to soothing music and listening to value based stories.