I’m regularly asked about how to contend with children’s fears, especially this time of year when Halloween decorations, creepy costumes and scary stories are making their way into your child’s daily experience.
“I’m afraid of the monsters under my bed” is the most common complaint I hear from families with preschoolers and beyond. Monsters, or other fears, can cause delays at bedtime, but more often lead to night wakings and difficulty falling back asleep.
Well intending parents might use a “monster spray,” “no monsters allowed” signage or even do a magic spell to exterminate the monsters. Think twice about using that approach. When we validate monsters, we acknowledge they exist. Children deserve honesty, especially from their parents. Validate the fear, but not the existence of fictitious creatures.
Avoid teasing or using language like “big boys aren’t afraid” or “only babies get scared.” Feelings are always legitimate, especially feelings of fear. Older toddlers and preschoolers are developing vibrant and vivid imaginations. Acknowledge their fears by using language like “I can see you are scared.”
Additional strategies for contending with monsters under the bed include:
- As part of the bedtime routine, look through closets and under beds together. Make the experience a fun one with a flashlight your child can use.
- If there’s anything like a bed skirt, remove it. At least for now. Having a visual of the space will give them more confidence.
- For a child that is showing fears of not just their bed, but their room, make sure to spend some positive time together in their room, playing. Bring a special toy or activity you can do together. Keep the experience positive.
- Night lights can help, but can build shadows too. Bright night lights can limit melatonin production which can make sleep more restless and minds more anxious. Sometimes a dim light in a hallway outside their rooms, with a door ajar, is a “less scary” bet.
- Tell your child you will check on them when they’re asleep. It’s a reminder that you’re always close and checking on them, even when they don’t think you are.
- Eliminate screen time (including television, tablets and game devices) especially it’s late in the day. 3 year olds are highly imaginative. Even benign programming can have their imaginations running away.
- Cut out any books that might be “scary”. You’re probably not doing a lot of “scary” anyway, but I have lots of families put away “Where the Wild Things Are” and similar books when contending with fears of monsters.
- If they’re having bad dreams that they can articulate (this is often for kids who are more 4+ and have a better understanding of the concept of dreams), talk about the dream and how they can “re-imagine” their dream to have a positive outcome.
- Discuss it matter of factly (away from bedtime) and see if you can get to the source.
One last suggestion: Feelings of nervousness and anxiety are normal feelings for children to encounter. Aim to have your reaction be calm and reassuring. Use of the word ‘scared’ often elicits a strong reaction from parents. Don’t give fears more power by reacting strongly, or encourage regular use of the word “scared” to gain benefits that delay bedtime.
About the author:
|Krista is a mother of 3 (+1 dog who believes she’s people), a wife to a wonderful husband, and the owner and founder of Sleeperific. Even though she’s been in the sleep consulting biz for 4 years, she still gets really excited when she’s hired by a sleepy family.
Springing ahead without getting behind
Spring is almost here. After the winter that just won’t stop, it’s a welcome change. The days are getting longer, brighter and (hopefully) warmer. Then you realize it’s Daylight Savings Time and you’re going to lose an hour of a parent’s precious commodity: sleep.
If it’s any consolation, this time change tends to be the easier one from a parenting perspective. Kids bridge this gap a bit better than Fall Back.
Here’s some of our suggestions to make for a seamless transition back into Daylight Savings:
If you have an early riser – Don’t do anything differently. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! The child who is up like a firecracker at 6AM wake up will now be getting up at 7AM. Somehow, these parents will wind up gaining an hour after all this is said and done. Give a big thank you to the universe for this one.
For the ‘easy going’ child – A child with generally has good sleep habits and an ability to go with the flow, doesn’t require any preparation. You may not have to do anything ahead of the time change. Give them a few days to adapt to the new schedule.
For the ‘less flexible’ child – Start adjusting a few days before the shift. For children heading to school, shift their waking, breakfast, dinner and bedtimes to be 15 minutes earlier. For children who are younger than school age, consider shifting their entire schedule [including wake times, eat times, nap(s) and bedtimes] 15 minutes earlier. Repeat this incremental shift for the next 3 days. By the time Sunday rolls around, their bodies are fully prepared for the adjustment.
Stay on Schedule – Every aspect of the day gives our children an opportunity to know what time it is. Mealtimes, play times, along with wake and bedtimes all offer cues to help our children be prepared and receptive for what’s coming next. Be mindful and deliberate with the time adjustment as it affects ALL of your daily activities, not just sleep. Diligently follow your usual routines on the adjusted schedule.
Sleep Environment – Longer days and springing ahead means that sunlight is creeping into child’s bedrooms. Initially, the time change means more light at the end of the day. Light at bedtime can delay the onset of sleep. Ensure the use dark shades or window coverings to keep your child’s room dark. This will help prevent early morning risings as days lengthen and it becomes brighter in the early morning as well. A low wattage nightlight is fine.
However you decide to make the change, be patient. Your child will take a few days to adapt, just like you. Be consistent, stay the course and good luck families!
TINY LITERARY SALON
Kids LOVE reading as part of a bedtime routine. My children are no exception.
We were recently sent a copy of “Tuck Me In!” to evaluate. It’s an adorable book with illustrations of baby animals getting tucked in to go to bed.
Similar to the classics Goodnight Moon and Time for Bed, this book offers gentle rhythm and engaging repetition. It allows the child to not only understand, but also participate in bidding “goodnight!” and tucking in each little animal as the pages are turned.
My little literary experts approve.
Want to win your own copy?
Candlewick Press will be sending two lucky winners “Tuck Me In!” Enter our contest by next Tuesday, January 22th!!
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