By Marli Naidoo
A fear of the dark is common in children, and usually begins in the toddler stage. This is the time when a child’s imagination starts to develop. Unfortunately for some children this fear does not go away. Those with anxious personalities may also be affected more seriously by fear and might want to stay with you day and night and follow you from room to room.
However, it is never too early to start equipping children to enable them to combat their fears.
Let your child understand that it is normal to be scared of the dark and that you understand. Do not pretend the fear does not exist. Your child needs your support. For him his fear is no small matter.
Explain to your child that the dark is scary because we cannot see what is going on around us. Our imagination can then cause us to stress about things that do not exist. When your imagination tries to play tricks on you, switch on the light and you will see that there is nothing you need to be scared of.
Make sure your child can reach the light switch easily. Touch lights that work with batteries could be a great help. Place them in places that your child finds scary, for example inside his cupboard, or in dark corners. You could even place one under his bed, and in the passage. When he feels he is in control, he will be less fearful.
Talk to your child about the things that scare him. We should not assume we know what they might be scared of. It could be a theme in one of their stories that we never would have expected. When you know what causes the fear, you can discuss it and perhaps it could start looking less scary.
Put a lamp or light with a fun element in your child’s room. It should however not be too bright and disturb your child’s sleep. It should also not be too dim or placed in spots where it causes more scary shadows. Glow balls are very cute. Your child can pick it up and carry it with him.
Also make sure there is a light between your child’s room and your room. He must feel that he can reach you easily. Leave your door as well as his open during the night.
Get rid of the shadows that scare your child by moving the object that causes the shadow.
It may sound like a good idea to, with your child, make sure no monsters are hiding in his cupboard or under his bed. This could however make him think that in actual fact there is such a possibility. Show him that there is nothing in the cupboard and under the bed to fear, not that there are no monsters.
Play with shadows. Show your child what fun it is to make shadow animals with your hands.
Celebrate the dark by dancing in the dark with fluorescent bracelets or paint yourselves with fluorescent paint.
Remain calm at all times and don’t become impatient with your child’s fear. He should in no way feel alone in his battle.
Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleeping-angels/201002/children-who-are-afraid-the-dark
Anxious Toddlers: https://www.anxioustoddlers.com/fear-of-the-dark/#.WzoFuLg0-So