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Afraid of the Dark?

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For those of you with 3 to 7 year olds who are afraid of the dark--what specifically do they say about being afraid? Do they tell you why (or what it is) that makes the dark so frightening? How do they (or you) remedy their fears? Does having a pet stay in their room with them help? Are there specific things that you've tried that have not helped or that have just made matters worse?

I'd love it if you'd share any "afraid of the dark" related stories.

Thank you!
#1 - April 25, 2013, 03:11 PM
ALIENS GET THE SNIFFLES TOO! Candlewick, 2017
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When my son was 3 -4 years old, he was afraid to sleep with the light off - a Thomas the Tank Engine night light helped. (He got to pick out the kind of night light he wanted - we made it a special trip and he was so excited to get his new night light!)  He would often be afraid of storms and shadows on his wall but felt better once mommy came in and we figured out what made the shadows (leaves, branches outside his window, the shadow of the slats in the blinds). Knowing there was a real reason for the shadows made them not as scary to him. He would usually call out, "Mommy!" and cry to let us know he was scared.  When he was scared, he would say things like "The shadows are scary!" or "There's scary things in my room!" At times he would say "There's a scary monster in there!" when he was afraid of monsters in his closet, under the bed, etc.- some "Monster Spray" usually took care of them though!  ( A few mists with a spray bottle, labled "Monster Spray" and filled with regular old tap water worked wonders! We had to be sure to cover all possible monster-hiding spots with the Monster Spray just to be sure of getting them all!) Mostly, the reassurance of mom and dad was the best remedy of all -that extra cuddle, night-night kiss, song, story helped him feel more secure and he would drift back off to dreamland! :-) 

Best wishes with your writing!
Sue
#2 - April 25, 2013, 03:35 PM
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My 4YO has one (or two, depending on if the alarm clock is plugged in) nightlights in his room. It's the brightest room by FAR in the house. Yet he still wakes up and tells me he can't sleep in his room because he's "afraid of the dark." He has never and still doesn't sleep through the night, so I'm thinking that's not the root cause of him always always always being awake. Mostly I bring him back and tuck him in and give him a stuffed animal, and occasionally he does go back to sleep. But more often than not, as soon as I've gone back to bed and I'm almost asleep, he sneaks back into our bed.

Him saying he's "scared of the dark" is a pretty recent thing. About a year ago he would talk about the dark a lot--the dark would borrow things (ie things he could find because we'd put them away) while he was sleeping. The dark "needed" them. But sometimes the dark would bring them back when it was done.

My kids who share rooms haven't really had this problem (well, they all had their moments sneaking into our bed, but "the dark" specifically hasn't been a problem). I think it's really a fear/dislike of being alone than a fear of the dark. We try pretty carefully to not even bring up the topic of being scared of the dark so they don't get any ideas. What we need is a book about why The Dark is COOL, and why everyone can't WAIT until it's dark and full and sleepy and comfortable. (Can you tell I got very little sleep last night?)
#3 - April 25, 2013, 03:38 PM

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What we need is a book about why The Dark is COOL, and why everyone can't WAIT until it's dark and full and sleepy and comfortable. (Can you tell I got very little sleep last night?)

There is a book like this! It's a classic. Oh what is it called... the Owl Who was Afraid of the Dark! It's lovely, we have it on audio CD. Plop, the owl, meets all kinds of other people/animals who explain why the dark is good - dark is exciting, dark is fun, dark is necessary, dark is wonderful and so on.

I love that book.

I also love your son's view of the dark, Olmue. That the dark 'needed' the things you put away. Sometimes I wonder whether books that make dark seem like a 'thing' make things worse... there was one book about Mr. Night or similar? It looked beautiful but I didn't dare read it in case it put the idea in my daughter's head that the darkness was actually a person/thing!

But back to the question (sorry Katy!): my daughter sees things in the dark and hears things in the dark that she can't identify, so they become scary things. (Like her mother howling like a wolf in irritation at the man playing guitar upstairs! he he he) She sees shapes in the shadows and when I turn her night light on she sees what it is and is fine. But once when we stayed in a wood cabin and the wood had tonnes of wood knots in it, it was terrible - she saw faces everywhere!
#4 - April 25, 2013, 04:27 PM

This past Christmas, my 4yo nephew said what he wanted most of all was night-vision goggles (I'm totally serious here). When asked why, he said it was so he could see the bad guys and monsters that hung out in his room at night.
#5 - April 25, 2013, 04:49 PM

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We did a lot of Monster Spraying when the kids were little. Mom tip = instead of water, use Febreze. Hey, who said killing monsters can't make the house smell good too??
#6 - April 25, 2013, 04:51 PM

My 6 year old son is afraid of monsters lurking in the dark in his room. He is also afraid that the things on the computer will pop out and come after him. This one puzzles me as his computer games are all really tame. I guess those green pigs are scarier than I think. My 9 year old daughter is afraid of ghosts and bigfoot.  :taz: She said it's because she watched Monster Quest with her father and older sister. When I was 6, my older sister had me convinced that my stuffed animals came to life when I went to sleep. I used to stuff them into my closet and wedge the door with a chair. She also used to make me watch Night Gallery with her because she was too scared to watch it alone. (She was eleven, but Mom still let her babysit.) There was one episode with a homicidal doll that smiled (it had teeth), and I ended up terrified of dolls. Even now, I sometimes catch myself watching them out of the side of my eye when they're in the room.
#7 - April 25, 2013, 05:41 PM

Just asked my 5 year old boy. He said "What dark?" I clarified, then he said, "Well... yeah. Sometimes a shadow looks like a monster and then I'm like 'I'm scared!'"
#8 - April 25, 2013, 05:44 PM
Robin

My 3 and 6 year old are so afraid of the dark that my 3 year old sleeps with all the lights on (we can't turn them off when she falls asleep or she will scream bloody murder at night), and the 6 year old uses a night light. Mostly, I try to tell them the same things that are there in the day, are there at night-- and while they might look different, they are really not. But my 6 year old will NOT let me hang her jacket from the doorknob at night because it looks like a small troll-like thing ready to jump into her bed. :grin
#9 - April 26, 2013, 09:42 AM
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Katy, I used to be really scared of the dark and all the creepy-crawly things that could bite me ... there was always a monster under the bed and I would take flying leaps (to my mother's dismay).

My kids slept with us on the floor so need to worry about monsters under the bed. But once they started sleeping in their own rooms, different noises and shadows bothered them. We used a night light but it only made things worse. Having pets in the room helped, but the pets didn't necessarily obey, so letting them crawl back into bed with us was the most comforting. I should add they're both independent, but when my husband travels, my daughter always nabs his spot :)

Vijaya
#10 - April 26, 2013, 09:56 AM
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Thanks so much, everyone. I appreciate it!
#11 - April 27, 2013, 02:07 PM
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I thought I would throw in what affected me as a child. Dark was scary, but windows and open doors seemed even scarier. They contrasted against the dark of my room and were blacker.  I could not sleep by the window.  Odd to think about that now. As an adult I sleep closer to the door so I can take action to protect the house and here all the noises of the night.
#12 - April 28, 2013, 08:35 PM

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My 6-yr old sleeps under her covers every night, no matter how sweaty hot she gets. She says she feels safer under the covers and she can't see/hear anything scary. Seems like a "if I can't see it, it can't see me" kind of thinking. Needless to say, her long hair is a huge nest of a mess in the morning!
#13 - April 29, 2013, 07:33 PM
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I have worn glasses since the age of two.  There were a couple of years in grade school where I did not wear glasses, although it was such a short time, it hardly counts (once was in third grade, the doctor said my eyes were changing too fast to put glasses on me).  When I became nearsighted, I had my glasses on my dresser which was a looong way aways from my bed.  It wasn't so much being afraid of the dark as not being able to see what those things were in the dark.  I would think piles of clothes that I was supposed to have put away ( :whistle) was a gorilla, or some other horrid beast that had invaded my room.  I never wanted to look under my bed after all the lights were out.  Most of the time when I was very little my parents would turn the light on and hand me my glasses, as I got older, I knew that I was probably making things up when the monster never moved. 

My bedroom door had to stay open as the only heat came from the door entrance to my brother's room.  My younger brother was definitely afraid of the dark so the hall light stayed on until my parents came upstairs to bed.  I only remember arguments between my parent's and my older brother (7 years older than my younger brother) about keeping the hall light on.  He lost. 

We were not allowed in our parent's bed for sleeping.

If the monster spraying, nightlight, etc. do not help, you may want to talk to his doctor about different types of sleep disorders. 

 
#14 - April 29, 2013, 09:37 PM
You must do the things you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

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My son (7) seems to think that creepy things are moving around in the night that he can't see (he's never said exactly what that might be). he sleeps with the covers all the way up to his eyes, even if he's sweating. He tries to make our cat stay with him, but she usually takes off after a little too tight hugging.
#15 - April 30, 2013, 06:59 AM
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We did a lot of Monster Spraying when the kids were little. Mom tip = instead of water, use Febreze. Hey, who said killing monsters can't make the house smell good too??
We did this too. I found an air freshener with a scent I didn't use and he wouldn't recognize, and it became the "Monster spray." If he woke up in the middle of the night sure there were monsters in his room, I'd let him give the room a good spray.

God Bless,
Susan
#16 - April 30, 2013, 07:16 AM
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