Night Fears

Night Fears
01/07/2017 NANU BEDTIME
In Nanu

Why are children afraid of darkness?
How to teach a child that the night is as natural as the day?
What are the common mistakes made here?

There are various fears that emergein a child from the babyhood on and this is normal in a his/her development. They appear with no obvious reason and disappear the same way. The meaning you assign to the concept of “fear” as a parent is important. Generally, children are afraid of being afraid. In fact, fear is a mechanism that helps us to defend ourselves against dangerous situations, so it has a meaning in our lives. It enables us to respond to a threat in a way to protect ourselves. Fear is a natural reaction to phenomena that is unknown or unusual to us. Thus, a child’s fears should not worry the parents.

Most children are afraid of the darkness because they fear the unknown, just like adults. They are influencedby what they see, and what they hear, along with their imagination.

It is important to embraceall the natural feelings a childexperiences.A common mistake made on this subject is reacting in a way to suppressor denythe feelings of the child. Statements such as: “There is nothing to be afraid of”, “You behave like a baby”, “Men do not fear”, “Are you really crying for this?”,“There is nothing to cry about” make children become distanced with their feelings and interpret the feelings of others inaccurately.

Explain your child that it is natural to feel afraid and it is going to pass. You can comfort him/her by sharing occasions where you or others were feeling afraid. Show your child that you understand his/her feelings by saying: “You are not the only one that is afraid about this.Children of your age may feel scared sometimes.It is perfectly natural and it will pass in time.”

It is important for your child to be informedabout and have control over what he/she is afraid of. So, make sure you enlighten him/her about why she is feeling afraid and about what.

For instance, if your child is afraid of thunder, tell him/her that it is perfectly natural and normal, for example by reading a book to him/her on thunder. In case she is afraid of darkness, tell her that it is dark in colour.Show her that even in darker colours (unless it is pitch dark) our eyes can see.

For the children who are afraid of darkness, solutions such as trying to seethe objects in the dark, shadow plays, or keeping a flashlight aside can be very relaxing. For example, if your child is afraid of her room being dark, tell her that you are going to play a game with her and this game will shrink and destroy her fear of darkness.

First, when the lights are on, count the stuff in the room together and ask him/her to tell whichobject is where. Then, tell her that you will now turn off the lights, but if he/she is patient, his/hereyes will get used to the dark colour and become able to see everything around.

Once the lights are turned off, (and you may hold his/her hand if necessary)make a challenge to find out who sees more stuff in darkness. Show him/her how some of the objects look different in dark by turning the lights on and off. Tell your child that shadows in darkness may cause illusions that make some objects look like something else. This would convince your child to embrace and sort out his/her fears rather than denying them.

If your child is afraid of darkness,you may place a dim nightlight in the room.But make sure the light is not so strong to negatively impactthe quality of sleep by causing him/her to wake up at night.

You can play “shadow play” with a flashlight, and ask your child to try and guess the objects you make with shadows. Alternatively, you can play hide-and-seek, hide inside dark places like a closet or set up a tent and have a family picnic. These activities would make your child believe that being in the dark is also quite fun.

If your child is afraid of intruders or thieves, you can provide evidence to convince her about the safety of the environment he/she is in by letting her lock the door to the house, close the blinders/curtains and check if everywhere is safely secured.

You could also show your child some practical ways to control his/her fears. Methods such as deep breathing, humming a song, praying, thinking about a happy tale or remembering good memories would distancehim/her from the fears and provide comfort. Remember to encourage your child by recognizing his/her efforts to cope with the fear.

It is of great importanceto provide your child with professional help in casethe fears are affecting his/her daily life in a very negative way.If a situation lasts over 6 months and if you feel that the anxiety level of your child is increased,you should get professional help.

Expert Psychologist and Educational Consultant

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