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  • 7 Things That Can Help When 'Don't Be Scared' Doesn't Work on Your Child Anymore

    As a preschooler, your child still needs help distinguishing fact from fantasy.
    by Kate Borbon .
7 Things That Can Help When 'Don't Be Scared' Doesn't Work on Your Child Anymore
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  • Sometimes, kids get scared of harmless stuff, such as the noise of a vacuum cleaner and even toilets (it is common among children to think they will “fall” in the bowl and get sucked into it). As toddlers, they outgrow it eventually, but in the preschooler stage, another fear comes up, something more complex: “monsters under the bed.”

    “They’re scared of what they can see and of what lurks in their imagination — the monster under the bed, things that go bump in the night, and what might happen when Mom and Dad aren’t nearby,” Parents writes.

    Kids know the toilet bowl will never “eat” them, but at 4 or 5 years old, they still need help distinguishing fact from fantasy.

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    How to help your child get over his fear of “monsters under the bed”

    We may now understand a little better why young kids tend to develop a fear of monsters under the bed, but figuring out how to help your child get over that fear is bound to be a long and challenging process. Still, there are many things you as a parent can do to help him out, such as acknowledging his fear and doing activities that help reframe the dark, so it is no longer something he finds terrifying.

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    1. Acknowledge your child’s fears.

    You may find his fear petty and silly, but do not dismiss or minimize it — it will only cause more harm than good. Verywell Family advises that instead of telling him, “Don’t be scared,” or even “Stop being such a scaredy-cat” and “It’s not a big deal,” say things like, “I understand you’re feeling very scared right now, and it’s okay.” This will signal to him that there is nothing wrong with being afraid and that you can empathize with what he’s feeling.

    However, be careful not to overindulge your child’s fears either. Psychologist Kim Burgess, Ph.D., tells Parents that doing so might just end up convincing the child that he is actually in danger. Talk to him about his fear so you can process it together.

    2. Give your child control over his fear.

    According to Sleep.org, by the National Sleep Foundation, allowing your child to have control over his fear is “the first step to sound sleep for all” — not just your child but also you. Create signs that say “No Monsters Allowed,” which you can hang on your child’s bedroom door, and use a “monster spray” (a spray bottle of water labeled with, yes, “monster spray”) to spritz the ghosts away. It may sound weird or funny, but these simple activities will allow your child to feel a bit braver and more able to confront his fear by himself.

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    3. Establish a bedtime routine.

    Routines, in general, are great for kids — these allow them to gain a semblance of control over their day-to-day lives because they know what to expect. And this predictability also lets them feel safe and comforted. Bedtime routines provide kids with a safety net to cling to, so they can sleep feeling secure. However, make sure to stick to your child’s bedtime routine consistently!

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    4. Practice staying in the dark.

    It can also help your child to spend some time in the dark. For example, if his bedtime routine includes book-reading, leave only a night light on as you go through the storybook together. You can also try simply cuddling with him and telling stories to put him at ease. What this can do is help him associate the dark with a happy memory.

    5. Monitor what your child watches.

    If your child has a fear of the dark or is terrified there is a monster under his bed, make sure he doesn’t watch movies or online videos or play games that feature scary and/or disturbing content. Remember to also stay away from reading aloud books that involve monsters or other scary characters before putting your child into bed. These images might just stay in their heads and make it more difficult for them to get over their fears.

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    6. Address behavior issues.

    Some (or most) nights, your child might try to argue his way out of going to bed, convince you to let him co-sleep with you, or repeatedly get out of bed throughout the night. When these things happen, show him empathy and understanding, but be firm about him returning to his bed. You need to be consistent.

    7. Look under the bed together.

    When he’s ready, ask your child if he wants to look under his bed with you. You can do so before tucking him into bed and turning off the lights, or even later when the room is dark, with the help of a flashlight. This is another simple way to allow your child to tackle his fear directly.

    Many fears can turn into phobias when left unchecked or addressed. Don’t let it happen to your child!

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