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Raising Children: What to Do when Your Child is Scared of the Dark


Many children are scared of the dark, especially young children, because they haven't yet developed the capacity to understand that things don't just appear in the dark that weren't already there in the light. Many young children see looming shadows in the dark and interpret them as large dogs, monsters or other frightening things. It's normal for children to be scared of the dark, but here are some techniques to help you teach your children that the dark isn't frightening.

Encourage Your Child to Talk About His Fear of the Dark

It won't make your child's fear of the dark any worse if you encourage him to discuss it with you. In fact, talking about his fear of the dark may help to relieve it. Talking can help your child understand his fear of the dark and reach a point where he'll no longer feel scared after the lights go out.

Talking with your child about his fears also teaches him how to cope with overwhelming feelings. Being willing to listen to your child and talk over fear can help him understand that the dark, and his fear of the dark, aren't such big problems that they can't be solved.

Acknowledge Your Child's Fears and Provide Support

You know there's no reason to be afraid of the dark, but your child is still too young to understand that. Don't ridicule your child's fear of the dark, and don't act like it's no big deal. Instead, let your child know that you're not afraid, and that you don't see anything scary in the dark room; but, at the same time, acknowledge that you know your child is scared of the dark. Remember that your child is still developing his own worldview. Respect his perspective even as you teach him about your own.

Offer your child the emotional support he needs when he's feeling especially scared of the dark. Sit in his room, hold and comfort him, and talk to him about why he feels scared.

Help your child develop coping skills to deal with his fear of the dark; help him examine his fear and practice facing it. Teach your child to gather information about the thing that scares him. Allow him to practice facing his fear of the dark by letting him confront the dark in a situation that he can control; for instance, let him stand in a dark room and turn the lights on and off. Give him things that might help him feel safer, like a flashlight or a favorite toy.

Making the Dark More Fun

You can help comfort your child while he learns to overcome his fear of the dark by making a dark room seem like a more fun than scary place. Play games with your child; use a flashlight to make shadow puppets; a night light or light mobile can make brighten up your child's room at night and scare away the shadows so he'll sleep easier.

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