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Preschooler Is Afraid of the Dark

How can we help our four-year-old overcome her fears about going to sleep in the dark? We've tried everything – an established bed-time, a night-light in the bedroom, books, prayers, songs – but nothing seems to help. Can we doing anything to address these night-time fears?

It’s fairly common for small children to experience bedtime fears. Their little imaginations are developing like wildfire and they don’t have the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality. Your child is probably going through a phase and will outgrow it in time.

If the problem persists, ask yourself if your child might be reacting to some kind of environmental stress. Have there been any recent changes at home or preschool that could have precipitated this bedtime behavior? Has your family been through the loss of a friend, the death of a pet, a move, the arrival of a new baby, or even marital conflict between mom and dad? It might be worthwhile to confront this question head-on. Sit down with your son or daughter and say, “Have you been feeling worried or scared about anything lately?” Encourage him or her to draw some pictures in response to your question. If nothing has changed and the child is simply going through a “scared of the dark” phase, here are a few other ideas you might try.

You mentioned that there is a night light in the room. Make sure that it doesn’t cast any scary shadows on the wall. Have your child pick out a stuffed animal to be his or her special “bedtime buddy,” providing comfort and security when you’re not there. Sometimes it’s helpful to buy an inexpensive CD player for the bedroom and let your son or daughter listen to some soothing lullabies or kids’ worship songs just before falling asleep.

Most importantly, remind your child that God loves him or her and that He’s always with us to protect us and take care of our needs. Continue your tradition of praying at bedtime. Teach your son or daughter simple prayers to repeat if he or she wakes up in the night. Almost every book in the Bible has a verse that says “fear not.” This is a great opportunity to begin teaching your child this valuable scriptural lesson.

If you’ve tried all these suggestions and your child’s fears persist, call our Counseling department for a free over-the-phone consultation.

 

Resources

Focus on the Family Complete Guide to Baby & Child Care

Helping Your Kids Deal with Anger, Fear and Sadness

Referrals
John Rosemond: Parenting with Love and Leadership

Articles
Is Your Child Overwhelmed by Anxiety, Fear or Worry?

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