All children are afraid of the dark, monsters, storms, etc. Childhood fears create experiences that make kids grow, provided they are handled well. Slowly but surely, you can help your child overcome their fears.
What do children fear?
Here are some common fears by age:
- 8 months: separation anxiety (fear of strangers, fear of abandonment, etc.)
- 1 year: noises (vacuum cleaner, telephone, blender, etc.)
- 18 months: monsters or the dark. Whereas before, they slept with the lights off and the door closed, children will now ask to keep the door open. They realize that, alone in the dark, they no longer can see familiar things and feel threatened.
- From 2 to 4 years: transient fears (large animals, especially if there are none at home, storms, clowns, imaginary creatures such as witches, ghosts or robots). These fears are sometimes transmitted by others if they overact to certain things or situations.
- From 5 to 12 years: specific fears (insects, robbers and kidnappers, doctors, dentists, fear of heights, accidents). Children may also be afraid of natural disasters or war, due to troubling pictures on the news on television. This is also the age of when social fears, resembling those of adults (rejection at school, speaking in public, etc.) arise.
How to react to nocturnal fears?
Learning to face their fears is an important step in children’s development. Gradually, over the course of their experiences, children learn to distinguish harmless situations from those that are actually dangerous. This can greatly increase their confidence. Therefore, you play a crucial role in helping them gently and gradually to overcome their fears. Your attitude as a parent can make all the difference. Here are some helpful tips to guide you:
- Take your child’s fear seriously, without making fun of, or scolding them. Even if it appears irrational or seems trivial, their fear is real.
- Reinforce courage. Remind your child of situations when they are not afraid, or of others when they managed to overcome their fear.
- Decode their signs of fear. Without naming them, your child can show that they are afraid when they hide, close their eyes, etc.
- Encourage expression of emotions. Help your child to express their emotions so that they learn to name their fears and talk about them. Words help young children take control of their emotions.
Fear of monsters
Often related to a fear of the dark, to that of being alone, and also to the development of their imagination, the fear of monsters is solved by reassuring your child and having them talk about their fear during the day or before going to sleep.
When you comfort your child when they are afraid, you help them to feel safe. This feeling gives them the courage they need to eventually confront and overcome their fears:
- Reassure them, while saying that monsters do not exist and are a figment of their imagination. You can check once under the bed with them, but no more. If you do it every time, you justify their fear.
- Establish a comforting ritual before bedtime. For example, a bath, followed by a story or quiet games will make your child feel secure.
- The atmosphere of the room is very important. Install a small nightlight to provide a soft, soothing light. A cuddly soft toy, relaxing music, your odor impregnated on a blanket in their bed are also reassuring things for your child.
- If they wake up frightened at night, go immediately to comfort them, listen to them without interrupting, then help differentiate reality from imagination.