Childhood is a time of vivid imagination and magic- fairies, imaginary friends, and talking pets. Unfortunately, imaginary fears of ghosts and goblins, monsters and boogeyman also go hand in hand with this vivid childhood imagination. Many parents struggle with how to get their kids to stop being afraid of the dark, sleep in their own rooms, or stop believing in monsters. Here’s how you can help stop common childhood fears.
Take The Fear Seriously
Unlike adults, kids really can’t understand that everything they hear is not true, and are unlikely to believe scientific explanations for a bump in the night. And if something doesn’t exist, you can’t get rid of it, so telling your child there’s no such thing as a monster or a ghost is likely to only make your child feel like you don’t care about her fears. While you shouldn’t give your child the opportunity to believe in the fear more than she already does, you should take the fear seriously. Get your child to describe to you what the monster looks like, when the monster comes out, what the monster does that is scary. If you know exactly what your child is afraid of, then you know exactly what to do to make it go away.
Get Rid of Common Sources of Fear
Shadowy rooms, dark closets, and odd shapes in the dark are likely to trigger fears. A shadow on the wall looks real to a child, and waking up in the dark after a nightmare can be terrifying. Close closet doors, eliminate sources of scary shadows, and make sure your child has a night light positioned in a location that’s unlikely to create scary shadows.
Give Your Child Some Control
Your child is afraid of monsters, ghosts, or boogeymen because he feels like he’s powerless over them, so yelling at him for leaving too many lights on or making too much noise is likely to make him feel like the monsters are even more likely to get him! Instead, give him a flashlight to sleep with, put fairy dust under his pillow, or come up with some other tool he can have with him to make him feel like he can scare the monster just as much as the monster can scare him.
Take Advantage of Your Child’s Vivid Imagination
A child who believes in monsters and ghosts is a child who believes in good forms of magic, too. Consider making up a ritual to get rid of the monsters. Tell your child that banging pots and pans and singing a loud happy song scares away monsters, and then spend an hour or two doing this with your child. When your child says the monster has come back, do it again. Or try telling your child that magic fairy dust will keep away goblins or that their stuffed animal can scare away monsters. You may be uncomfortable lying to your child, but keep in mind that to her, the fear is very real. By doing something to make the scary thing go away, you’re giving her control of the situation, treating the fear as valid, and having fun coming up with ways to end the fear together.
Pay Attention to What Your Child is Watching
A child who has never heard of monsters is unlikely to spontaneously develop a fear of them. Things that are innocuous and unscary to adults can be terrifying to children, so be careful about what your child watches on TV. If your child watches a show about monsters or goblins and then develops a fear of monsters, it’s time to get rid of that show!