Long before scary movies and graphic video games, children were afraid of going to bed in the dark. Being terrified of monsters hiding under the bed or in the closet is a universal phenomenon, and you're not the only parent losing sleep at night. To figure out the best way to help kids squash those fears, we asked our baby and child expert. In addition to being an assistant professor of early childhood development, Dr. Aimee Ketchum is also a parent who is able to provide experienced advice.
While many believe a fear of monsters is due to viewing something scary or reading a book that isn't age-appropriate, children can still develop fears with media. Ketchum said, "Young children have vivid imaginations. When they are stressed or anxious, this can manifest itself in a fear of monsters. Monitoring books and shows is always a good idea to ensure that content is appropriate, but children can develop fears all on their own."
Fears look different depending on the age group. Toddlers are typically fearful of things that are out of their control. This can be anything from loud noises, such as thunderstorms or dogs barking, or animated animals or toys. Because toddlers are learning to be more independent, unpredictability can cause fear and anxiety.
When you think about the typical fear of monsters, ghosts or goblins under the bed, it generally pertains to preschoolers. A child's imagination is more active than it will ever be during this stage of life, and it's difficult for them to tell the difference between fantasy and reality.
According to Ketchum, "Five and 6- year-olds may fear losing a parent, getting lost or their house burning down. At this age, they are starting to understand that these things could actually happen, and they may fixate on these scary things." She also said that while the typical fear of monsters under the bed should be over by 6 years old, because they're able to differentiate between fantasy and reality, other fears may take over.
Depending on a child's age and the underlying issue behind their fears, there are a variety of approaches to try to help your child squash their fear of the dark or monsters under the bed.
The first tip Ketchum gave was to be empathetic and comforting. It's essential to acknowledge their fears. Ketchum said, "Parents should never dismiss fears. They should never say that something can never happen." However, she also advised that parents not feed into the fears in any way.
If you have an older child, Ketchum recommended openly discussing the fear and the low likelihood of it coming true. "Remind them of all the protections, such as a safe home that protects them from storms, a dog that barks if there is a burglar."
After listening to your child's fear, Ketchum recommended brainstorming solutions together. "Maybe parents use bad dream spray at bedtime to keep the bad dreams away. Parents and children can create a monster trap together that makes the child feel safer or they can give the child a new stuffed animal with special powers to calm and fight fears. Another idea is to make a magic line of stickers across the floor that the monster can't cross."
Children's fears generally stem from their vivid imaginations, so you can use your child's imagination to your advantage by being creative. In addition to advising parents on this issue as a professional, Ketchum also dealt with this issue as a parent. She said, "I always made monster spray for my daughter. It was just lavender-scented water in a pretty bottle."
Sometimes children's fears can stem from the anxiety of an upcoming event, such as the first day of school or riding the bus. Parents can allay these fears by visiting the school or doing a test ride on the school bus.
Franklin the turtle books cover a wide variety of topics that cover anything from making new friends to learning how to ride a bike. This particular book addresses the fact that everyone has fears and talks specifically about being afraid of the dark. Sold by Amazon
Not only is this book entertaining for all kids, but it's also helpful for children who are afraid of the monster under their bed. In this book, the monster is an alligator, and the little boy devises a plan to get it out for good. Sold by Amazon
If a child's main concern is the dark, adding a nightlight can be a huge help. This one is made of silicone and is perfect for snuggling at night to keep the monsters away. It features a sleep timer and nine bright colors. Sold by Amazon
Dr. Ketchum recommended a weighted blanket to help kids with fears and anxiety. This option comes with a weighted blanket and a duvet cover, making it convenient to clean. Five pounds is recommended for kids who weigh between 40 to 70 pounds. Sold by Amazon
This spray bottle is wrapped with a cute label and is sure to ease the fears of any kid. Fill it with plain water or add a drop of essential oil. It's sure to scare off all monsters, big and small. Sold by Amazon
Use these stickers to create a monster barrier that keeps the bad creatures out, or use them as a reward. This book contains over 1,000 stickers in holiday, seasonal and other celebration themes. Sold by Amazon
For a calming effect, use an essential oil diffuser with lavender oil. This diffuser emits a cool mist, which is helpful for coughing or congestion caused by a cold or dry air. It also lights up with eight different colors and can be used as a night light. Sold by Amazon
One way to help children squash their fear of monsters under the bed is to get them a stuffed animal with special powers to fight any unwanted creatures. This one is made with soft and cozy materials for nighttime snuggling. Sold by Amazon
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Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.