IS YOUR CHILD AFRAID OF THE DARK?

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Aarti’s 7-year-old daughter, Aruna, was afraid of the dark. She had no siblings and she refused to sleep alone. In fact she did not like to enter any dark room. She insisted that her mother or father should switch on the light before she entered any room. Aarti had to lie down with her until Aruna fell asleep and later on join her in bed or Aruna would wake up crying in the middle of the night.

 

It is quite common for small children to be wary of the dark. They do not like to be by themselves in dark rooms. The fear goes away as they grow up. But some children tend to carry this phobia well into adulthood which poses a problem. Careful handling of these fears at the right age might help to dispel the phobia and enable children to be more confident and resilient.

A few tips will definitely help parents to deal with the unfounded fear of darkness in their child.

  1. Keep a light on: It is a good idea to keep a night light on in your child’s room. This will help to allay fear of the dark and even soothe them if they wake up at night. There are many fancy and colourful varieties available and you can encourage your child to pick out one for her room. Or you could leave the light in the hall on throughout the night.
  2. Get a dimmer light: There are some models of lights which can be dimmed when required. Start with a brighter light when your child first begins to sleep alone and then gradually reduce the brightness and make the room dimmer.
  3. Discuss his fears: Do not try to avoid his fear of the dark or simply being alone. Talk to him about his phobia. It could stem from something he saw on television. Little children are very imaginative and they carry images and create pictures of these in their minds. It could be also due to a ghost story that he heard or read. If you child says that he is afraid of ghosts don’t laugh it off (chances are that even you are!). Let him speak to you about what it is exactly that he fears. The more he talks the more absurd it will seem to him and he will get over it.
  4. Tell her about God: Speak to your child about God and how God is omnipresent. Keep a picture of God on her bedside table. Ask her to say a prayer at night before she falls asleep.
  5. Be there for her: Initially when she starts to sleep alone, be there. Read together for sometime and lie down beside her until she falls asleep. Leave her door ajar and yours too so that she knows that she can call out to you at night.
  6. Give incentives: When he begins to sleep alone, give him small incentives for each night that he sleeps alone. He could still sleep with you on certain days of the week, like on weekends. This will encourage him to sleep alone the rest of the week.
  7. Dark room: Sometimes sit with him in a dark room and talk together. When it begins to get dark after sundown, do not switch on the light immediately. Let him get used to being in the dark for longer periods.
  8. Monitor television programmes: Do not let your child watch horror movies or movies with violence. In fact very young children should not be allowed to watch television at all as you never know what disturbs them. Cartoons are alright for them. Stick to watching comedies, until your child is old enough to conquer his fears.  

Fear of the dark is common and should be dealt with patiently. As parent it is our duty to dissuade this fear as the child grows up. Dealing with the fear will help the child to be brave and confident.

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