He is afraid of the dark, how to help him?

Why is he suddenly afraid of the dark?
Your child, who has been falling asleep so far without any problems, is now becoming afraid of the dark. This phenomenon is common and generally appears around the age of 2 or 3 years. Overnight, he refuses to go to bed, claiming that there is a monster in his room, or else starts screaming in the middle of the night, because he is frightened and does not want to go back to sleep alone. This fear is common at this age because your child now has a very rich imagination. The black making him lose all his usual bearings, he is likely to imagine everything ... and even monsters hiding in his closet or a giant shark stashed under his bed. The slightest shadow on a wall makes him think of a witch or an ogre, and the slightest noise is perceived as a dangerous threat. Also note that certain events that change a child's daily life (a move, entry to school or the arrival of another child in the family) can trigger nighttime anxieties. Pay attention to what could have disturbed your child.

What if he is afraid of the dark?
The first thing to do if your child becomes afraid of the dark is to take it seriously. Do not make fun of him by telling him that this fear is reserved for babies or that he is a real coward. On the contrary, show him that you are by his side, and that you think he is brave enough to face him. In the evening before going to bed, take a full tour of the room (in the cupboard, under the bed, in the toy chest ...) to show your child that there is no danger. Also show him that his bedroom window is properly closed, as is the front door of the house. To reassure him immediately, do not hesitate to install a small night light in his bedroom, or else leave the hallway light on. If he is no longer wearing diapers at night, leave a flashlight available so that he can turn it on to go to the bathroom. You can also show him the place of the switches, or even stick some phosphorescent stickers to show him the way. On the other hand, forbid him from coming to sleep with you: this would only reinforce his fear (and give him bad habits). On the contrary, you must reassure him by showing him that there is no danger.

Afraid of the dark or afraid of separation?
To understand your child's fear, note that darkness is not always the only cause. For example, does your child never complain about the darkness of movie theaters? Or do you go back to sleep without problems when he lies down next to you in your bed? More than the fear of the dark, it is surely a fear of separation. Hence the interest in reassuring him about your presence at his side. At bedtime, tell him that you are not far away and that you too are going to bed soon. Reassure him by telling him that you will find yourself the next day, as usual. The small light in the corridor is also a good way to break his isolation and show him that he is not alone, abandoned in his big dark room ...

How to help him to tame his fear?
On the other hand, do not hesitate to read him stories about monsters and witches: they will not reinforce his fear of the dark, but, on the contrary, will help him to better understand these creatures, even to understand that they do not do not really exist, and that it is in no way threatened. If their fear of the dark is linked to a particular event, discuss the change with them. Answer all of his questions and reassure him. The fear of the dark is, in most cases, fleeting. It disappears by itself around the age of 5 or 6 years. If this is not the case, and your child still seems terrorized by the darkness around the age of 7 or 8, do not hesitate to consult a psychologist. Your child is definitely anxious, and it is important that he can tell someone about it.

Read also: My child is a sleepwalker…
Take our quiz: Baby sleep in ten questions

Why Are We Afraid of the Dark? (September 2021)


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