My 5 year old is afraid of the dark. He sleeps with the light on and has the dog in his room, but still comes into our room in the middle of every night. Any suggestions on how to help him with his fears?

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Alicia - posted on 01/22/2009

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My son has had the same problem since he was young. He dreams very vividly. We have tried many things and here are my suggestions on what has helped us. We don't let him watch anything before bed that might cause nightmares (including some cartoons). We have gotten him a dream catcher. We say prayers every evening before bed and if he wakes up w/ a bad dream we will also say a prayer and that seems to calm him down. I also try not to let him get to over tired because it seems worse if he is overtired (more emotional) even though you would think it would be the opposite. Also, letting him listen to classical music, church hymns, or anything soothing really calmed him and helped him sleep through the night. My son is 9 yrs. old now and it has gotten much, much better than when he was younger but it was a hard time for us. Good luck and hope this helps:)

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Lindie - posted on 01/23/2009

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Hi. Actually my son is still too young to have that problem but my folks had the same problem with me when I was your sons age.



Firstly they would help me inspect the room before getting into bed. The monster in the cupboard was my problem, so at night they would lock the cupboard doors and give me the key - they put it on a string around my wrist and they assured me that no one can open the cupboard door except the one with the key. Then they gave me a flashlight that I got to keep with me at all times during the night. When I got scared, I would switch it on. Also, make sure that there are no clothes hanging around in the room or anything bulky that can be mistaken for something other than what it is. Hope this helps and good luck.

Deb - posted on 01/22/2009

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Hi, there is no age limit for anxiety & often bigger worries manifest as 'fear of the dark' or separation anxiety. Mine were afraid of the dark, so I got my hands on a bottle of very special "Monster Spray". Get a cheap pump/spray bottle of car or room deoderiser, or oils like lavender, apricot etc & make up or print a label for it on your computer with a monster picture. Pump ones are better as you can water them down because if they get over enthusiastic, it can pong a bit. Make sure it smells unfamiliar, so they don't recognise it as something from round the house. Tell the child you sent away for it specially. "It completely repels all monsters, bad dreams, bad things in movies & scary thoughts and creates an impenaterable barrier on all windows, doors & cupboards!- ABSOLUTELY GUARUNTEED! It smells nice, so they hate that & dare not come near it."
THEN Get THEM to take control! Get THEM to look under the bed: out the window, in the cupboards, & confirm what is there. Whats there? Just friendly toys; the back yard swings, clothes, etc & nothing bad! Make him name them & confirm in his own mind. Having checked only good things are there, Get HIM to spray on the window ledge, the doorframe, in the cupboard, the draws etc to repel any bad things from coming in. This lets HIM take charge & control/destroy the object of the fear. Tell them it lasts for a day/ 2 days, a week/ whatever allays the fears, but if they are unsure, let them spray every night. Still leave on the night light & dog, (my son is 10 & daughter 12 & still have a light) no harm in that, but the coming in drives you nuts.
He'll still come in probably, but walk him to his room, let him re-spray & hop into bed.
If the visits lessen, then get him to return on his own, after reassurance, & spray & put himself to bed. This builds his independance. If however this marvellous invention doesn't work, rather than them come into your bed & wake you, i got one of those small flip out foam couch/bed/chairs for toddlers & put it by our bed on the floor. (or a small peice of foam with a sheet & a pillow). Call it the safe bed or cuddle / worry bed-whatever. The child can still come into your room, they are right beside you on the floor, you can hold their hand, but not wake everyone & rummage round in the bed (or leave yours wet). Set the rules! (only if Monster Spray doesn't work), that they are welcome to come in, only if they don't whinge, cry & make a fuss, if not: back to their own bed! Be FIRM! They learn to come in quietly on their own & they feel safe & don't disturb you. Mine still come in if they are sick, or have anxieties: like my 12 yr old scared of starting high school, or fighting with school friends for a night or 2 then they settle again.
Also, kids have odd fears, like what do I do when I grow up/ fear of mum or dad dying/ or breaking up/ or friend exclusion/ or 'best friend' problems, or the world blowing up, or wars or things on the news etc: (You'd be surprised what they pick up on). It's not always "little kid fear of the dark". Talk to him at betime. Ask if he has any worries. Be honest to allay his fears:
"Yes there are wars, but they are a long way from here, & it's very unlikely the'll happen to our house: I've never heard of one round here, neither has grandma in all the time she's lived here",etc. Give him real, but simplified information. Kids are smart & want real answers, not just "there's no such thing, don't be silly".
Then when he unloads his worries, get him to go back over the day & name everything good or fun he did, even eating a really tasty apple or seeing a bird if nothing exciting happened that day, or re-living a nice place, beach, park, friend, picture etc from his memory. Remind him then that he is safe, happy, fed & well off, loved, so he goes to sleep (after spraying) with a positive frame of mind. it's also good for their recall skills.
Some kids gain confidence quickly & it stops the fears, some take longer (maybe a year). You need to get him to build confidence skills now, to help separation when starting school, daycare etc. He may have relapses if things in life change: school, friends, loss of a pet etc, a scary movie, but have the 'safe bed' & spray there as a respite tool, but always ask what the completely related underlying fear may be. Good Luck!

Allena - posted on 01/22/2009

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Reassure him that it's okay to be afraid. My 2 boys fall asleep with the light on too. My husband & I go in later when they are in a deeper sleep and turn it off. So they are used to waking up with it off. Also if your son does come into your room to sleep, it's a phase. Our oldest did that for awhile too at 5 and we'd let him fall asleep with his blanket and pillow on the floor by the bed. We just told him that there wasn't any room on the bed (mostly cuz he's all over the bed & neither of us would have gotten any sleep) but he could be beside me.
The one thing my dad gave me advice on was "don't let them wake up with you. let them wake up in their own beds if they do fall asleep in your room".
The phase will go. Eventually you will have to firm, not harsh about him sleeping in his own room/bed. Reassuring that everything is okay. Also find out what he's afraid of. You'd be surprised on what children can see when we can't. My boys would see dragons, deformed apes, snakes, all kinds of creepy things that I couldn't see. But what I could do was teach my boys to order them to go away. Repeating myself they would say " 'Name of whatever it wasthey saw' go away. You do not belong in my room". And it worked. I would stay with them for a bit and not too long after they were asleep peacefully. It taught my boys how to take authority over themselves and their own area. Sounds strange, but it worked.
Best thing you can do is be there and assure him everything is okay. Reassurance and patience with him is the best for now, it will pass. Our oldest did and now sleeps great through the night.

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