Fear of the dark is very common in childhood, but it can be exhausting for everyone involved. Whether your child is scared of monsters in the closet, ghostly shadows on the ceiling, or just finds a darkened bedroom spooky for no particular reason, it's a tough phase to ride out. So we surveyed our readers for some mom-approved tips and tricks for helping children overcome that pesky fear of the dark once and for all. Scroll down to check 'em out.
Dim the Lights
A night-light may be the first line of defense, but many children need a stronger light like a small lamp to feel reassured at nighttime. Think about putting a dimmer on the main light. Or for older kids, stringing a set of holiday lights around the room.
Giving your child a small flashlight is another common way to address her fear of the dark. A regular ol' flash light should do the trick, but you can also up the fun factor with a super cool one like this, LEGO Lantern ($28).
Nightly Monster Spy Missions
Check good monster hiding places (like under the bed or in the closet) with your child before bed to prove there are no scary creatures lying in wait. Tracy S. recalls: “I would go into her room and open the closet and say ‘Oh look nothing’s in there, just the clothes,’ then I would have her come over and look too. After a few nights, and a small night light, we haven't had any more problems.”
Children are often comforted by a stuffed animal that could fend off scary monsters. Just make sure to ask your child her opinion on it, too! Tots usually have their own ideas about which item is going to do the trick — and may be even more scared by an object you've placed in their rooms.
My daughter overcame her fear of the dark by sleeping with a light-up stuffed animal like this Glow Pet Penguin ($25). Affixing glow-in-the-dark stars to bedroom walls may also calm nighttime fears, as Cate C. relays: “My daughter is scared of the dark too, we have glow-in-the-dark stars all over her room, and now she is fine with it.”
Magical Spray or Dust
Whether store-bought like this Monster Repellant ($7) or homemade (water in a spray bottle), magical "monster spray" and "monster dust" (baby powder) are both very popular ways to quell a child's fear of the dark. Jessica H. shares: “We gave my son monster spray. Just a little squirt bottle with water and told him to spray it any time he got scared." Go one step further and help him create an emergency kit/box filled with everything your child needs to keep safe if he starts to feel frightened.
A recent trend of nighttime fears at my house were warded off when my daughter came home from school with a dreamcatcher she had made. We hung it from her bed, and she's been terror free ever since! 4CrazyKings has a simple dreamcatcher project that kids can do at home.
Limit Scary TV and Movies
Always monitor screen time, but a good rule of thumb for a child with a wild, and often scary, imagination is remove any less-than-pleasant TV shows and movies from your fearful child's lineup. After a night or two of waking up afraid of Ursula (from The Little Mermaid), we cut my daughter off from the flick, explained why, and she was A-OK with it.
Ease Into Dark Time
Another way to make the dark less scary is to purposefully spend time in the dark with your child and together, demystify all the mysterious shadows and shapes. Consider doing portions of her nighttime routine with dim lights or even in the dark. If she's not ready to go for the full darkness without you yet, just turn the light back on after you kiss her goodnight.
Let Pets In
Pets can do wonders for a fearful child at night. Letting the family dog or cat snooze with your child for a few nights could solve the night fright issues fast.
If at First You Don't Succeed . . . Sticker Chart!
Sticker charts are big in my household. We basically do a sticker chart for just about every mountain that needs to be climbed, and I'm perfectly OK with it because they work! If your lil one is big on rewards, then try doing a sticker chart with an exciting, fun prize at stake after making it so many nights without getting afraid.
Understand the Fear
Many moms recommend teasing out what exactly is frightening your child. As Stacey suggests: “Have you asked him about the monsters? What they are doing? What they look like? etc....They may be symbolic of a fear? Have you had any changes in your house or routine lately?” Discussing and resolving an underlying worry or insecurity may be the key to dissipating your child's fear of the dark. After all, Stacey adds, "If there is some underlying cause for these monsters, even the strongest monster spray/powder/fight or delivery box won't take them away."