Night Fears

What do you do when your children are afraid at night? Here’s the scenario. It's the end of a long day and all you want to do is drift off to sleep so that you can awake feeling refreshed and ready to get up and do it all over again. But then there's that little knock on the door or the frightened little voice from down the hall that is just above a whisper, "Mommy, I’m scared!".

There are a lot of reasons kids get scared at night. It’s dark, they have watched a scary movie, they are sad about a recent event, they heard a scary story, had a bad dream or they may dreading something in the near future that is going to happen or that they are afraid will happen. The quickest way to calm their fears, and allow you to head off to peaceful slumber, is to find out what is bothering them.

Some of us tend to yell down the hall, “Go to sleep!” or “There’s nothing to be afraid of!” The fact is that children have fears just like we do. Well, maybe we adults aren’t afraid of the boogeyman in the closet, but kids’ fears are just as real to them as our fears are to us. Fears are age and situation appropriate. It’s never a good idea to ignore or belittle someone’s fears just because they are a child. Your kids will find it much easier to go to sleep, allowing you to do the same, if you take the time to get out of bed and find out what is wrong. Here are some tips on how to calm your child’s night fears:

1. Take your child back to their bed – Although it may be tempting to just put them in bed with you, you will start a habit that you may want to break. Unless you enjoy co-sleeping with your kids, don’t let them into your bed.

2. Ask your child what they are afraid of. Be compassionate and really listen. Sometimes being heard is all a child needs. If it was a bad dream that woke them up, give them a few minutes to tell you the whole dream. Give them time to describe what is scaring them in detail. Sometimes talking it out will make it go away.

3. Validate your child’s fears. We all need validation. Let him or her know that you had more night fears as a kid than you do now. Share a story from your childhood about a fear that you used to have. Tell them how you overcame it.

4. Offer physical affection. Kids need hugs and kisses all of the time and especially when they are afraid.

Night fears will calm as a child gets older. In the meantime, take the time to help them get through each episode. Believe it or not, there will come a time when you will miss being woken up at night.

This is not considered professional advice. Should you feel the need for expert advice, you should contact your child's doctor or therapist.



Please be aware that the articles on this site are written by mothers who are discussing their own experiences and their own opinions. They do not, and are not meant to, represent professional advice and should be read with that point firmly in mind. Our children’s welfare is paramount; if you are ever in the slightest doubt about any aspect of caring for a child you are urged to seek qualified, specialist advice from a professional advisor.

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