What to Do When Your Kid Is Scared of the Dark

Worn out from your little one getting up in the middle of the night?

Posted Jul 05, 2018

Picture this: You barely crack your heavy eyes in the middle of the night to see your small human standing way too close to your face. She says, “I’m scared of monsters.” This would be sort of tolerable except that this is the norm, rather the exception, and you are too tired to deal.

Parent's Inner Thought: “You again? If you get out of bed one more time, the monster will actually eat you!!” Or, “monsters only eat children in the hallway. Stay put.” Or, “you are the last person in the world I want to see right now. You are making my tomorrow miserable.”

 Holly Burns
Source: Author: Bobbi Wegner. Illustrator: Holly Burns

Child Development Perspective: Nighttime fear often emerges around 2 years and can linger until about 8 or 9 years, which is completely normal. Vivid imagination coupled with learning that things in the world can hurt them can make for terrifying nights for many kids. 

A Child Psychologist Would Say: Remember this too shall pass. Like everything, it is a stage. Create soothing bedtime routines, remind the child that you are just a door away and that you would never make your child do something that was unsafe. Kids also often feel reassured when parents say something like, “I used to worry about that too when I was your age. It was scary before I learned that those noises were just house noises.” Parents often try to convince the child that monsters don’t exist, which is relatively futile. Instead, empathize with his/her emotion, remind him that you would never put him in a situation that is dangerous, convey your trust that this fear will pass sometime but for now, they might just need an extra snuggle. Lastly, reinforce the desired behavior (i.e. staying in bed through the night) with a meaningful reward (i.e. chocolate chip with breakfast in my home), and don’t worry too much about it.