What to do when your child is afraid at bedtime or during the night (part 2)
Dealing with a child who is afraid of the dark or scared to go to bed at night can be like walking a tightrope. There is a fine line between wanting to reassure him and not wanting to reinforce his fears. If the fears are ignored, the child will not be reassured. If the child is reassured too much, the parent may be giving the subtle message that there is something to fear.
If bedtime fears are affecting your child’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, try some of the following: • Listen and understand.Try to understand your child’s fears. Don’t dismiss or make fun of them because fears that seem silly to an adult may be very real to a child. • Teach coping skills. Teach your child coping skills and discuss alternative ways to respond to nighttime fears, such as by “being brave” and thinking positive thoughts (e.g., “monsters are just pretend”). You can also talk about how you deal with something that frightens you and read stories about children who are afraid and conquer their fears. • Introduce a security object. Helping your child become attached to a security object that he can keep in bed with him may be beneficial. This may help your child to feel more relaxed throughout the night.
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