Help! My Child is Scared of the Dark: What To Do

With these tips, your child will soon sleep safe and sound.

Monsters, ghosts and boogeymen – who knows what’s hiding in your toddler’s room? Well, you do, but your child still isn’t certain. There could be a bear in the closet or a skeleton under the bed. Your child is terrified, and you’re at a loss for what to do.

First, take a deep breath and know you’re not alone. Being scared of the dark, even after years of sleeping well, is a common occurrence among small children. The imagination runs wild between the ages of two and six, so kids think all sorts of crazy things. In addition, their memories are stronger, so it’s easier for them to transform past details (a friend telling them a story about a witch, for example) into current fears (a bump in the hallway was the same witch).

A child in a dark room holding her knees to her chest.Fear of the dark is common and natural, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help.

Overcoming fear

Take heart – there are several tips you can use to give your child the confidence to sleep alone:

  • Avoid scary things: Make it a rule: Absolutely no television before bed. Even child-friendly programs aren’t completely safe. Fear, especially that of a toddler, isn’t logical, so what looks like a cute woodland creature to you becomes a rabid monster to your child during the middle of the night.
  • Make the room feel secure: Plug in a night light or play music to help your child calm down.
  • Design monster-banishing props: Use your child’s imagination in a positive way and turn everyday items into defenses against things that go bump in the night. Buy a canopy to act as a monster shield, and decorate a rolled up newspaper – secure it with ribbons! – to create a monster swatter. You can also create monster spray by filling a spray bottle with water and a few drops of essential oil. As a bonus, choose either lavender, lemon, jasmine, sage or bergamot oil, which have aromatherapy properties that will help your toddler sleep.
  • Help them develop healthy habits: If your children cry out for comfort, attend to them in their own room rather than your bed. Eventually, they’ll realize their closet isn’t scary and will sleep comfortably. Additionally, don’t tell your kids there’s nothing to fear. Instead, acknowledge their feelings and build their confidence so they naturally stop being afraid.

Most children grow out of their nighttime fears, but as a parent, you naturally feel compelled to do all you can during those few years of fright. Be patient and gentle, and your child will surely be fine.

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.