Scared at bedtime

“Mummy, I’m scared”

“Are there monsters under my bed?”

“Daddy, can you leave the lights on?”

Is this something you’re hearing a lot of recently with your child?

If your child starts to have these bedtime worries, don’t worry- it’s just a phase that will hopefully pass quickly for all of you. This is perfectly normal and normally just occurs due to your child’s imagination developing and sometimes running a bit wild! So, just like any phase in their sleep, try and remain consistent and calm in your approach.

Firstly, support them as best as you can using gentle and soothing techniques to make them feel as safe and secure as you can. Below are a list of techniques you can use if your little one is going through this phase:

- Let your child express their fears and actually listen to them without interrupting

- Ask questions about the fears and let them tell you everything. This in itself may be enough to help your little one sleep, having offloaded all their worries to somebody. A nice part of the bedtime routine at this age is to ask them about what the favourite part of their day was. Say happy things and let them think of happy thoughts, but also ask them if anything has made them sad. This will help them express their worries rather than bottling them up.

- Have empathy and really try to understand and acknowledge their fears. It may sound silly to think of monsters in the wardrobes, but to them it is a very real fear. Don’t just dismiss them. Really try and concentrate and discuss the whole story that is in their minds. If they want you to check under the bed or in the wardrobe etc, do it calmly and with understanding. You may just find that it is a funny shadow causing the problem so by moving a light or an object it straight away removed the issue.

- If listening and acknowledging their fears doesn’t fully resolve the problem, the try and turn it into a positive. For example, if they see a shadow and think of it as a monster, try turning it around and say you think it looks like a fairy or superhero. By doing this, you are still acknowledging it, but turning it into a positive experience.

- Be creative! Make some ‘magic sleep spray’ for their room. This only needs to be some water (but you can add some nice smelling oils if you want) and let your child spray some into the air at bedtime. Think creatively and utilise your little one’s imagination.

Another tip to consider is that overtiredness can add to these worries. Or if they no longer nap, a busy day with no quiet time may be the cause. So structure the ideal amount of sleep/quiet time into your day if possible, and bring bedtime forward for a few nights so you can stay with them to help them settle in their safe sleep space. Once you are settles into a routine and getting the ideal amount of sleep (or some quiet time), you might find the fears subside.

If they wake in the night feeling scared, simply sooth them in their sleep space, while staying nice and calm and keep on repeating until this phase passes.

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