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How to conquer your child’s night time fears

Dispel those childhood fears and worries come bedtime with our tips on how to encourage a more restful sleep

How to conquer your child's night time fears

Most children will experience nighttime fears at some point during childhood and it’s perfectly normal for young children to have fears of the dark and going to bed at night (and not just those delay tactics) that are preventing your child from falling asleep or sleeping through the night. It is important to understand your child’s fears. Give your child a chance to tell you what makes him/ her scared at bedtime.

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NIGHT TIME FEAR: Scary monsters, ghosts and ghouls!

The nature of children’s fear is different throughout development. It is not uncommon for younger children to have difficulty telling the difference between what is real and what is imaginary. Reassure your child that they are safe, and try to make them to feel secure and less anxious. A toddler may benefit from choosing a security object that can “protect” them like a blanket, toy or stuffed animal; an older child may be reassured if he can take the time to explain to you what is real and what is just imaginary.

Try never to dismiss or make fun of a child’s fear – a fear that may seem silly to an adult may seem very real to a child. For example, if they’re afraid of monsters, don’t get out the monster repellant spray or broom to sweep the monster away or establish rituals to “clear the room of monsters.” These actions tend to make children think you believe in the imagined object as well may inadvertently create a situation in which you are both delaying bedtime and providing entertainment for your child as opposed to providing comfort.

JUNIOR RECOMMENDS: A worry doll which is a little wooden doll to help with bedtime worries and anxieties. Their purpose is to encourage children to talk about any concerns they have by confiding in their doll before bed time and in the morning all the worries will be gone >> Worry Doll, £11 by Emilie Rose at notonthehighstreet

NIGHT TIME FEAR: Being in the Dark

Using a night light can give a reassuring glow and provide security at night even if your child is not afraid of the dark. As long as the light does not interfere with your child’s sleep onset, it is appropriate to have dim light at bedtime. Remember, too, that when lights do go out, absolute silence can be frightening. Your child may be happier if she can hear people moving about, or the sound of a television or radio. Leaving your child’s door open at bedtime can also create a sense of comfort and alleviate fear that is associated with separation from parents at bedtime.

JUNIOR RECOMMENDS: We love the sleep-friendly portable nightlight from Junior Award Winning Shnuggle >>Shuggle Moonlight, £29.95 

NIGHT TIME FEAR: Thunder and Lightning

Keep your own mood upbeat and keep your cool. Kids tend to feed off of their parents’ moods so if you remain calm, they will feel more at ease as well. Say something like: “That’s the sound of the sky celebrating – how exciting to have rain!” In other words, even if you hate it yourself, make light of it. Or, if your child is interested in nature, turn the storm into a science lesson. Explain how the thunder and lightning works (a combination of water and all that electricity passing through the clouds produces lightning and the electric boom of lightning heats up the atmosphere, causing the noise called thunder), promise them that storms show nature at its most amazing and help them understand whats happening. Hug them, distract them but most importantly reassure them they are safe.

JUNIOR RECOMMENDS: If you can get hold of this sweet illustrated children’s picture book with music then do – as it takes the scare out of a thunderstorm with a tale of eternal friendship. >> Thunder & Lightning: A Story for a Stormy Night by Tim Sheridan

NIGHT TIME FEAR: Being Alone

If your child has a difficult time separating from you after being tucked in for the night, or if she / he calls out in fear soon after bedtime, go back and ask what is wrong, respond quickly by going to them and reassuring them, but avoid the temptation to make a big fuss. Don’t encourage your child to get out of the bed. You want to help your child overcome their fears – so by staying in bed and understanding that everything is OK, they should will learn to trust that their bed/ bedroom is a safe place. The same goes for children getting out of bed during the night and coming to your bedroom, just take them back to their bed and continue to give them reassurance of safety.

Encourage your child to have a special toy or comforter that she brings to bed with her, and reassure her that you are close by. You can further reassure them by saying something like “you are OK. We are here to make sure that you are safe.” Or,  “We will make sure that nothing bothers you so that you can sleep comfortably in your own bed all night.”

JUNIOR RECOMMENDS: This special Superhero comforter with a unique pocket in the cape to hold a photograph of whomever the child wants to hold close – and the ‘a Superhero has my back’ slogan to remind children that there is someone always looking over them keeping them safe. >> Superhero Sleep Buddy Bunny, £30, Scamp & Dude

NIGHT TIME FEAR : Loud noises

Being scared of loud noises is quite common in children, especially in early childhood. A strong dislike of everyday sounds can sometimes be called hyperacusis. It’s not know what causes hyperacusis – in most cases children simply do not like the sound. Sometimes it can be triggered by a loud or unpleasant noise that takes them by surprise, like a firework or a balloon popping. If your child is frightened of loud bangs, such as fireworks, watch them from the safety of a window. Leave the professional displays, which usually include spectacular bangs, for older children, and opt for gentle LED or fibre-optic toys instead. Noise cancelling headphones can help at  fireworks displays, festivals and outdoor events. For noises at nighttime you can try playing smoothing music, use ‘white noise’ apps or even get them to wear earplugs.

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JUNIOR RECOMMENDS: Soft Silicone earplugs that are designed as a ‘noise reduction’ by pressing the soft earplug over the ear canal it forms an airtight seal, which hushes unwanted grizzly sounds. >> Beary Quiet Silicone Earplugs, £7.99