AFRAID OF THE DARK?
Monsters Are Everywhere! But, they only come out at night!
By Erik Dunton
Many children are afraid of the dark.
Many people expect that children should never experience fear, however, many children are afraid of the dark. Fear is a natural and powerful human emotion; a normal part of life for all of us, including young children. Fear tends to begin with the “unknown”, like when we try something new, or when something unexpected happens. With children’s limited life experiences, the “unknown” is almost a daily occurrence. When we face the “unknown”, fear has the opportunity to rear its ugly head –especially at night.
What are children afraid of?
Whether they insist on sleeping with a favorite stuffed toy, a special blanket, or even a nightlight, millions of children are convinced that there is a monster under the bed, or the boogey-man is in the closet, or a three-headed beast lurking in the shadows of a dark corner, ready to gobble them up.
The fear of the dark tends to appear around the ages of 2 or 3, when a child has developed enough to begin to imagine, but without the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality. This gives the “unknown” an opportunity to become scary.
For a young child, being exposed to the sights and sounds of media may be terrifying. Some images can be intimidating and they are usually much too stimulating for a child’s young brain and be a factor in fostering night-time fears for a young child. This may provoke, already active, imaginations to generate ideas that may come back to haunt the child while lying alone, in the dark.
Another culprit, that may instill fear for a young child, is the well-intended, but misguided comment: Behave, or the boogeyman will get you!
How parents can help their children conquer their fear of the dark.
While many children are afraid of the dark, from one degree or another, the good news is, it can be solved! The best thing a parent can do for a young child with a fear of the dark is to be compassionate, respectful, and communicate and demonstrate that you understand.
Be calm when you’re talking to your child about their fear of the dark. Explain to your child what fear is, and help them understand it is normal. Be careful not to tell them that their fear is ‘silly’; they will still be scared, and now may feel guilty and ashamed, as well. Reassure your child, let them know that fear of the dark is normal.
Empower your child with the knowledge to tackle their fear of the dark. As opposed to looking for monsters, show your child that there are only clothes, shoes, etc in the closet and under the bed. You may wish to set a time, with your child, for you to re-check under the bed or in the closet, to reassure them. Choose books and other media designed to fill their mind with positive imagination. Also, supply them with their favorite stuffed toy, a special blanket, or even a nightlight to help them get a good night’s sleep.
With the support of an understanding, nurturing parent, most children can get over a fear of the dark in a few weeks. However, the fear may persist longer. If so, look for other triggers for stress, like divorce, the loss of a pet/ loved one, or a new baby, this may be a sign that it is time to seek outside help for your child.
8 Picture Books for Kids Afraid of the Dark
Reading before bed to a child who is afraid of the dark means choosing a book that’s going to give them some reassurance and relief. Here are eight picture books that can help both of you get some sleep.
Monsters Are Everywhere! by Erik Dunton
For the child that’s afraid of what’s is in the dark, this adorable story is the perfect way to put them at ease. This story gives children insight into the “monsters” they think they see at night and it teaches them that there is a rational explanation. Funny, and fun, wonderfully illustrated, and thoroughly entertaining. Your child will be reassured about the existence monsters when they realize that, things that look scary in the dark, are not scary things at all.
There’s a Nightmare in My Closet, by Mercer Mayer
https://amzn.to/33d9Zca I remember this story so well from my own childhood, and can’t wait to add it to my daughter’s collection. A story that personifies our fears into real things with emotions of their own, it’s silly, even a little absurd, but it definitely does the trick when it comes to banishing thoughts of the boogeyman.
No Such Thing, by Jackie French Koller, illustrated by Betsy Lewin https://amzn.to/3vFczE1
For the child that’s afraid of a monster, this sweet book is the perfect way to put them at ease. In the story, the monster under the bed is just as terrified of the boy on top of the bed, and the two of them have to face their fears together. It’s funny and cute, and your child will be reassured about monsters when they realize that, even if they do exist, they’re just as scared of kids as kids are of monsters.
Orion and the Dark, by Emma Yarlett
https://amzn.to/2SlF23n Little Orion is scared of a lot of things, but the dark is his biggest fear. He has tried literally everything he can think of to be brave and make his anxieties disappear, but it’s a no go. So how does he overcome it? The Dark decides to take him on an adventure! With gorgeous illustrations and beautiful storytelling, this story makes the Dark seem less scary and more magical.
Touch the Brightest Star, by Christie Matheson
https://amzn.to/3uw8YZ7 For some children, the night is scary simply because they don’t know much about it. That’s why this delightful story is perfect for those kiddos. An interactive story, this book is full of all the things that happen at night, including waving goodbye to the sun, seeing an owl, and making a wish on a star. When your child learns about all of the magic that happens at night, it may not seem as frightening.
I Need My Monster, by Amanda Knoll, illustrated by Howard William
https://amzn.to/3h0GP8p Like many children, I believed in monsters, and there was nothing that was going to change my mind. The trick for children like me, is to tell them about the wonderfully good monsters there are, and to appeal to the side of them that loves all creatures and imagination. That’s exactly the premise of this book: When little Ethan’s monster leaves a note under the bed saying he’s gone for a week, Ethan is worried he won’t be able to get to sleep without him and sets off to find a substitute. Super silly, and totally adorable for your little one.
Go Away, Big Green Monster, by Ed Emberley
https://amzn.to/3xUyUQf Another interactive book, with a monster who grows bigger and bigger with each page, this story is a great way to remind your children that they are in charge of their own fears. Eventually, the monster starts becoming smaller as your child gets braver, and finally disappears altogether.
Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?, by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Barbara Firth
https://amzn.to/33eW2dY A comforting story, Big Bear exhausts all of his efforts to teach Little Bear that there’s nothing to be afraid of until he turns to the night moon and stars for their help. The illustrations are so beautiful, and the story reads like a lovely lullaby.
What are your favorite fear-banishing bedtime reads?
Tags: erik dunton, monsters are everywhere, amanda knoll, can't you sleep little bear? there's a nightmare in my closet, christie matheson, ed emberley, emma yarlett, go away big green monster, i need my monster, jackie french koller, lights out, martin waddell, mercer mayer, no such thing, orion and the dark, touch the brightest star