IF your little one is petrified of the dark, bedtime can feel like a battle.
It may feel like you’ve tried everything to reassure them, but even the smallest thing like a scary shadow or a sound under the bed can get their imaginations running wild.
It’s very common for children to be afraid of the dark, but there are ways to deal with it[/caption]
Sleep specialist Nikki Ramskill reveals the ways you can deal with a nervous tot at bedtime[/caption]
Thankfully, help is at hand. Here, Dr Nikki Ramskill, GP and sleep specialist at the digital health provider, Livi provides her tips for parents of children that are scared of the dark.
She explains: “It’s not uncommon for children, especially around the age of three to six, to become scared of the dark and have nightmares. This is because as their cognitive abilities expand, so does their imagination.
“There is no age limit – parents know their children the best, and if they are worried they should seek help.”
The most important thing is that your child feels safe before going to sleep – and a toy like a teddy bear can be a huge comfort for little ones.
Nikki says: “A good tactic for young children before they go to bed is to reassure them that they are protected.
“If they have a favourite teddy bear, you could say, ‘teddy is always here to protect you. He’s watching over you and nothing bad can happen.’
A teddy bear can be a huge comfort to little ones[/caption]
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The dark can be scary for children and adults alike in certain situations – but claiming back control is a surefire way to deal with fear.
Nikki says: “Empowering children to learn that they can be in control of the dark can also help to reduce fear.
“Making light switches accessible to children can teach them to gain independent control of their emotions.
“There are multiple brands of light switch extenders designed for small children.
“You could explain: ‘Sometimes our imagination plays tricks on us when we can’t see, and when you turn the light on, you’ll be able to see that you are alright.’”
While a nightlight can help, it can also cause fear if the room has objects causing ‘scary’ shadows.
Nikki says: “Eliminating any shadows in a child’s bedroom can be helpful.
“Often, nightlights or light rays coming from outside the bedroom can cause objects in their room to form shadows.
“Try looking for any obvious shadows by sitting on your child’s bed and then moving the object, for example a doll, which is causing the scary shadows.”
In the event your child does have a nightmare that wakes them up, Nikki advises not to ask them about what happened in the dream when trying to get them back to sleep.
She says: “If your child wakes up having a nightmare, make sure you comfort them and make them feel safe and secure.
“Reassure your child that dreams aren’t real — this is important.
“But don’t go into the content of the dream. The idea is to calm them down.”
What a nightmare
If nightmares are a common occurrence due to a fear of the dark, there are also certain techniques you can explore before bedtime.
Dr Ramskill says: “If a child keeps waking up in the night, you can help to ‘re-programme’ what happens in their imagination or nightmare.
“The way to do this is to talk about — or draw — what’s happening in the nightmare or their imagination and ask them to come up with a new ending.
“You could, for example, get them to imagine what would happen if Superman flies in to catch the bad guys.
“This way, you’re helping your child to create a new story that has a positive ending.
“The more you talk about or draw it, the more you reinforce the new ending in their mind, until eventually they start to dream or envision in a different way.”
Avoid distressing images
Children are very observant, and something they see during the day can also have a huge impact on their sleep and how they perceive the dark.
Nikki says: “Images can be powerful and children respond more intensely to something they’ve seen, rather than what they hear.
“So, if your child is prone to nightmares, make sure they’re not exposed to distressing images on the news or in a movie or programme.”
If you’ve tried various techniques and your child’s fear of the dark is regular and continues, Dr Ramskill says: “If your child is still fearing the dark or having nightmares a few times a week, after a month ask your doctor for a referral to a child psychologist.
“This can help identify more complex issues at play that might be causing the child anxiety.”
Handily, other parents have also shared their own hacks to get their children to fall asleep quicker – and you’ll be shocked how easy it is.
Reassuring your children at bedtime that they are safe will help them feel more secure in their environment[/caption]
Nightlights are great, but can cause scary shadows[/caption]