KC Parent: Making the nighttime monsters go away
By Allison Gibeson
That shadow looked creepy! I can’t see anything in here! Where are you?
Sound familiar? Many children experience being afraid of the dark, a fear officially known as nyctophobia. It can make bedtime difficult and evenings in the winter challenging, but there are some practical ways for kids to move past that fear and turn those shadows into more friendly imaginative creatures.
Simone Moody, PhD, a clinical psychologist with Children’s Mercy, says children are susceptible to fears as their brains develop and they begin to understand that it is possible to experience harm.
She says the first step to helping kids overcome this fear is having them acknowledge it and asking for specifics about their fear.
Gradually challenge children to face their fear in small, tolerable ways, she says. This practice can teach kids their fear of the dark is a false alarm and gives them an opportunity to learn to regulate their emotions on their own.
“Meet children where they are at,” Moody says. “For example, you may start with challenging them to 30 seconds in the dark with a parent during the day. You can gradually fade parental presence, increase the length of the exposure and change the time of day to build their confidence.”
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