It seems to happen all of a sudden… A child who’s always been happy to go to bed at night suddenly becomes scared of bedtime.
Sometimes it’s a fear of the dark. For other children, it’s a fear of monsters or “bad guys.” And in some cases, your child simply can’t explain WHY they’re scared…
This can be pretty alarming for parents, so I’ve put together my best advice on how to deal with this situation in the video below:
And — if you’re looking for even more information on how to get your child sleeping straight through the night — make sure to check out The Sleep Sense Program. It’s been trusted by over 109,000 parents… and you can get a discounted copy by clicking this linkView the Video Transcript
Hi, I’m Dana Obleman, creator of the Sleep Sense Program. Welcome to the this week’s video. Today I want to talk about something that happens a lot with young children, and that’s bedtime fears. I get emails from people every day saying, “My four‑year‑old, my five‑year‑old, my eight‑year‑old won’t go to bed. They say they’re scared of monsters.” This whole experience is turning into a big, long, hour‑long process of getting your child to settle for the night.
Let’s take a few minutes and just chat about what’s actually happening here. 9 times out of 10, fear‑based stall tactics at bedtime are attention‑getting strategies, plain and simple. He did it one time, it got a reaction from you. Now he’s doing it every single night. Keep that in mind, first of all. This is an attention‑getting strategy. I’m not discounting the fact that maybe he really is legitimately afraid, but the more attention it gets, the higher the fear increases and the drama around all this tends to escalate.
Some strategies that I’ve read about are to go in and spray magic fairy dust that gets rid of monsters. I don’t think you should do that. I am not a fan of monster spray because what I feel like you’re doing is validating the fact that there are monsters. You are agreeing with your child that, “Oh, yes, there are monsters. Let’s spray the room and get rid of them.” I don’t want you to validate it. I want you to have discussions, just casually, that monsters do not exist and there’s no reason to be afraid at bedtime.
Give them some examples of things you do to get ready for bed that make the process really enjoyable. Just discount this whole notion that there are monsters. You want to make sure that there’s nothing in your bedtime routine or anything that they’re watching through the day that could be contributing to this issue. It can be something you would never even imagine.
I had a client and we finally discovered that her fear was based around a show she watched that was talking about unicorns. It was nothing scary. It, for whatever reason, triggered something in her that led to some bedtime fears. A nice, relaxing bedtime routine will definitely help your child unwind enough. Some stories before bed, nothing scary or too stimulating. No electronics, no television, at least an hour before bed.
It will really help get your child sleepy and feeling relaxed, so that when bedtime arrives, they’re not all wired. Then, I want you to give a reward chart for going to sleep calmly, not calling you back, not coming out. A simple reward chart that, if you fall asleep on your own quietly, in the morning you will get a blank, sticker, a treat, a little toy. Something that your child would be motivated to try a little harder to self‑soothe.
This is all about regulating your own emotions. We can talk ourselves in and out of all kinds of things, even our children can. Putting a little bit of reward around the fact that we’re going to go to bed fear‑free will really help. If there are any game‑playings going on, you really want to make sure that you’re not giving it any kind of extra attention. You want to give some consequence around it. If your child comes out once to tell you he’s scared, tuck them back in.
Now you’re going to have to give a warning. “Listen, you can’t come out of your bedroom. If you come out of your bedroom, I’m going to have to close your door more.” Do something that they will really not like so that they stay in bed. You really want to be cautious that you’re not giving this the attention that your child is looking for. I hope those help, and as always, sleep well.
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