It can be hard to understand how your child can go to bed just fine one day, only to be scared to go to bed the next night.
If your child is scared to go to sleep , try these suggestions.
- Create a soothing bedtime routine and acknowledge your child’s fear is a real thing. Try a warm bath, a happy book and a song that your child loves. Talk about a fun memory before your child goes to bed… a happy one, like a fun family trip or upcoming birthday party that you’ve been planning together.
- Celebrate the dark! Play games with glow sticks at night, talk about the stars. Try some glow-in-the-dark slime or grab some glow-in-the-dark spray paint and make a picture to hang in your child’s room (do it together!)
- Use night lights, a special flashlight, or some form of soft light in your child’s room. Take your child to the store to pick one out. Make it special and maybe grab two… one to have beside the bed and one to have beside the door.
- Keep the hall light on. This was a huge thing for our kids during this stage. Hall light on… door open.
- Camp out together in your child’s room to show them how their room is fun and safe. Make this really fun and try to do it one night a week (maybe even make it a reward for going to sleep).
- Read a calming book before bed. There are certain books, like Goodnight Moon, that gradually get darker, page by page, in an effort to help your child fall asleep.
- Sit in your child’s bed before they go to sleep, and ask what scares them. A lot of times a toy is creating a scary shadow or something small that can be removed.
- We like to have fun with shadows to help eliminate the fear. Teach your kids how to make shadow puppets. Get a fun flashlight or reading light that clips to the bed and look up ideas for shadow puppets to try to find a new one each night.
- If you watch television before your kids go to bed, make sure it is calming and not a scary show. Try to look for a show that doesn’t have any villains at all (even cute cartoons have villains that might not seem scary when your parents are with you… but they are scary when you are all alone at night.)
- Read books about nighttime that have happy themes so you can visually show how nighttime is not scary. You can even write a story with your child about the fun adventure that they will have in their dream at night.
- Acknowledged their fears and talk through them. Simply pushing them away or not listening will only make them more fearful. Your child needs to feel like their fears are not silly, but instead are understood. Don’t give life to their fears, but explain that everyone is scared of things and offer some suggestions of how to get rid of them.
- Hang up fun pictures by their bed: Their favorite place to go, a friend, a picture of their pet, etc…
When all else fails: Set up a little spot in your room. If your child wakes up, tell her that she can walk into your room, quietly, and sleep on the blankets that you have in the corner of the room. (we have a very small sofa in our room and our kids will sleep there if they have a bad dream.)
Each of our kids have made their way to that couch at some point over the years… and now they are all sleeping all night long in their beds. It’s a phase and it will pass. Just be there to help them get past it.
What about you? Have you dealt with this before?