Halloween brings about ghosts and goblins – a pleasant sight for parents and families that celebrate the holiday. But what happens when those monsters creep up under your child’s bed, keeping them up awake and startled? Is there really a whole society of monsters hired to hide and frighten children? (Thank you, Monsters Inc.!)
Both highly common and normal, fears around bedtime can really cause a fright around your child’s routine. About three-quarters of children are affected by fears around going to bed!
Children from preschool to kindergarten are more likely to complain about nighttime fears, most commonly the “Monster under the Bed”.
Far more likely than adults to have patterns of nighttime fears, children often experience fears related to “imaginary creatures”. Most outgrow and overcome these fears, however, on rare occasions these fears can interfere with the ability to function on a daily basis.
If your child has experienced these nighttime frets, you are probably wondering how you can assist them in coping with these feelings, or how to banish the creature altogether! The following is intended to break down this phenomenon and fight the monster under the bed once and for all:
Why are children afraid?
To children, the world can be a scary place, filled with new concepts and things. With this, it can be hard for children to distinguish between reality and their own imagination. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and is actually quite normal as a child’s imagination grows when exposed to new and abstract concepts.
On top of this, this fear can also be a symptom of separation anxiety when being away from mom and dad during the night, resulting in your child hopping into bed with you to “stop the monster”. While this is sweet, it can be a bad habit to create, leading to an unhealthy co-dependency down the road.
How can we help our children cope with these fears?
Listen to your child, be patient, listen and understand the fear.
Although irrational to adults, it’s important to validate your child’s fear. This can look like: not directing anger or frustration at your child when you are both feeling sleep deprived, and not dismissing them or making light of their struggle at bedtime.
Simply listen to your child. Allow them to feel heard and seen without judgement. Ask definitive questions that allow them to explain in detail exactly what that fear looks like. “What do you imagine will happen?” or “How often does the monster cross your mind?”
Use their imagination to your benefit
Good imagination can fight away bad imagination! One recommended imaginative solution is to use “monster spray”. Create a ritual before bed where you look for clues that a monster exists and afterwards, shoo away the monster in a light-hearted way. Make it fun!
By looking for clues and asking factual questions while shooing away the monster, your child will learn the difference between fact and fiction or fantasy versus reality. Ask questions such as “Has a friend or sibling found a monster under their bed?” or “What happens when you worry? Does the monster come?”
Teach Relaxation and Coping Skills
Discuss in depth what your child’s fear looks like. Practice positive affirmations around bravery and courage, such as “I am brave!” or “I am courageous!”. Tactics such as positive thoughts, affirmations, and reframing the scary monster into something silly and less threatening are all great coping methods to practice.
Be honest with your child and let them know what you are afraid of. Do you dislike heights? Are you afraid of birds? Start to read books together about what you both fear to help you simultaneously overcome and conquer it.
Use yoga or meditation as a tool before bedtime. Add aromatherapy, breathing exercises, and calming music on particularly stressful and sleepless nights.
It can be frustrating when your child claims to see a ghastly monster staring back at them from underneath their bed, but you and your child can overcome any fear together. No monster stands in the way of a great parent and a brave child.