Bedtime: When Young Children are Afraid of Monsters
Being afraid of monsters at bed time.
My four year old son has these horrible fantasies that monsters are in his room. He thinks they are hiding in the closet and I want him to be able to go to sleep at night. What can I do? It is typical for young children to have a good imagination and to believe in magical creatures and monsters. Between the ages of three and six many kids have a difficult time separating the fantasy world from the real world. This is quite normal for kids at this age and it will eventually go away on it’s own as they get older, but there are some things we can do to help our kids learn to cope better at bed time.
I know your not real!
Some children will respond well to being told that monsters aren’t real but many other children won’t be so convinced. For the ones who are willing to be convinced, they may still have the odd bed time when they are afraid and aren’t quite sure if the monsters aren’t real. We can help them out by giving them a small flashlight at bed time. Let them know they can use it to look under the bed or in the closet when they get worried. We can also encourage them to be brave and to tell the imaginary monster I know you’re not real. go away!
Joining the Fantasy?
Other children will be less amenable to be convinced there are no monsters. The reason they are so afraid of monsters at bed time is that for them the monsters are very real. The more we try to convince them not to be afraid of monsters because monsters aren’t real, the more afraid they actually become. This is because not only do they feel powerless in their quest to rid their room of monsters, they also now feel all alone because no one believes them. Bed time has now become even scarier to them.
It can sometimes be much better parents of children with such strong fantasy lives to join the fantasy and help their children find ways to rid themselves of the monsters. For example, you can still give your child a flashlight at bed time but let them know that the light will scare any monsters away. You can also let them know that monsters are more afraid of people and that is why we don’t see them during the day.
Scaring away monsters at bed time
You can also give your child a magic talisman of some sort to protect them from the monsters. It can pretty much be anything that has special meaning to the child. Stuffed animals are probably best because the stroking of a soft object is soothing to children and ultimately we want children to be able to find self soothing behaviors when they are afraid of monsters at bed time.
You can also tell your child to create their own imaginary weapon to scare away the monsters. At bed time you can give them an empty water gun (if you allow such toys) or spray bottle filled with invisible magic anti-monster dust that will frighten away the monsters. Remember try to convey to the child that you are very confident in their abilities to ward off the monster. You might even tell them you did the same when you were young and afraid of monsters.
Using their own resources to deal with their fear of monsters
Other more practical methods at bed time might involve using a nightlight, leaving the door open with a light on in the hallway, letting them turn on a radio or play music that is soothing, or even turning on the light when they are really afraid of monsters. The important thing for parents is to encourage the child to try to deal with their fear of monsters at bed time by using their own resources. When they are able to do this we can use it as a way to further empower them by reinforcing their resourcefulness.
As much as we can, we don’t want our children running to our room and relying on us to fix their fear of monsters every time it happens. We want to encourage them to do it on their own as much as possible. Even though we love getting up several times a night and it’s not like we would like to get any sleep or rest ourselves, we need to do this for the child’s sake. We really do want the child to learn to cope at bed time as much as they can by using their own resources.
Other useful parenting techniques when your kids are afraid of monsters
Some parents might feel that joining the child’s fantasy when they are afraid of monsters will only reinforce their fear and cause greater anxiety. It’s important for children of this young age to know they are safe and secure. Let them know that no matter what you would never let monsters or any magical creatures do any harm to them. You can always let them know that the monsters only live in imagination land and that they will always go away if we put imagination land to bed at bed time before we go to sleep ourselves.
You can also remind your children that they have gotten through every night of their life so far without monsters ever harming them. You might even want to add up how many days that is and show them using beads or some other object. That’s a lot of sleeps without any harm from monsters. In addition we need to be aware of the TV and movies our children are watching. Some of the things that seem harmless to us can fuel our child’s imagination at bed time, so we need to be careful what we expose them to. The bottom line is that you know your child best and hopefully one or a combination of these parenting techniques will help you and your kids battle those monsters at bed time.