A common tradition during summers is sitting around a campfire telling scary stories. Generations will tell tales of folklore or urban legends. Some myths can make children afraid of the dark if they weren’t already. Nickelodeon even created a show based on this premise. In 1990, Are You Afraid of the Dark? first aired. Nyctophobia is common year-round, not just during warm nights after being outside.
Many children are afraid of the dark, which can be a challenging obstacle for parents. Nyctophobia is a regular aspect of child development that can’t go ignored. Having a fear of the dark can be attributed to several different factors. Nightmares or bedwetting can cause or worsen the phobia. A child’s anxiety is exacerbated at night and can result in physical reactions. Not only do kids have difficulty sleeping, but they may also experience other conditions. Some symptoms of nyctophobia are a racing heartbeat, upset stomach, and breathing issues.
As children develop, the reasons why they fear the dark can change. The mind often misconceives things that could or would happen. Fearing a “boogeyman” under the bed or monsters in the closet can cause panic. Children with nyctophobia will have difficulty falling and staying asleep. The fear of the dark can strain parents by having to tend to the child every night. An adult may have to remain in the bedroom or wake up in the middle of the night and address the issues. When kids get older, they may be scared of the dark from hearing news stories about crime. Learning about urban legends or watching certain movies can heighten their anxiety.
Here are some parenting practices that can help calm children down at night.
- Read Bedtime Stories: By turning off the TV, you can limit young children from seeing frightening news. By reading uplifting tales, kids will feel more relaxed with their anxiety eased. The book Fraid E. Cat is an illustrated picture book about a cat scared of the dark. The author Al Newman wrote the story to help his daughter overcome her fears.
- Opening Closet Doors: If your child’s afraid of monsters or mean creatures, you can show them nothing’s there. You can also look under the bed and assure your children that the coast is clear. Approaching the “scary” areas with your child can also strengthen bonds.
- Get a Nightlight: Parents can choose from various nightlights on the market today. Modern designs have projectors that display fun images on the walls and ceilings. Other nightlights play soothing sounds and look visually appealing. Kids can even choose the style they want, like a cat or unicorn figure. If the child wants something portable, a flashlight is another option.
- Having a Security Item: Children will feel more comfortable by having something that reassures them. Having a “blankie” or stuffed animal calms kids who are afraid of the dark. Holding a plush toy or blanket gives children a sense of security and protection.
- Being There for Your Child: It can be a daunting part of parenting, but offering support and comfort is necessary. Ignoring your children’s fear of the dark can create more significant issues. Kids may want to sleep with you every night or experience bedwetting when the phobia isn’t addressed.
- Behavioral Therapy: If nothing seems to work on conquering a child’s fears, a psychologist may help. Parent-Assisted Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can offer the family coping mechanisms.
Fears are a part of life for children and adults but can be overcome. Everyone has different things that terrify them on different levels. A common phobia in young children is a fear of the dark, so families aren’t alone in the struggle. As kids face their fears, they’ll gain confidence and a positive self-concept.