We all know the sound of little footsteps coming running or the sudden cry… ‘MUMMY/DADDY, I’M SCARED!’ This can be a typical occurrence at bedtime for children of various ages. Maybe it’s a way of getting an extra 5 minutes of your attention. Or it could be a genuine fear that they are now put into a room alone, which may be quite dark and as my six year old says, ‘There’s nothing to do!’
Children are used to having someone with them all day and also having endless entertaining activities. They can then find it difficult to unwind and adjust to the difference of pace. That is why it is really important to have consistent bedtime routines. This is something I have always tried to maintain as I feel this time is just as important for mummy & daddy as it is for your child.
However I have noticed that with the change in season and it getting darker earlier, my son needs extra reassurance and cuddles at bedtime. Moreover with Halloween coming up this can add to their little fears. Yes it can be a fun time for them, they love dressing up. And of course who wouldn’t like going and collecting all those lovely treats.
But it can be a very scary time, a child’s little mind can work overtime when laying in bed on their own remembering some of the costumes or decorations and the loud banging of fireworks. I know of some adults who aren’t a big fan of these, I myself still won’t go on a ghost train!
We often think of fear as one of the ‘bad’ emotions, and try to protect our children from it. Where in fact it does have some positive qualities. This is how we teach our children to avoid accidents or danger – hot surfaces, heights, strangers etc. It can also help make them stronger and provide a sense of achievement for overcoming their fears– staying in bed alone, trying out the new slide at the park or a visit to the dentist.
I have often heard parents say that they can’t understand how all of a sudden their child is developing certain fears, whether it is of the dark, monsters under the bed or fear of separation from a parent. We usually notice this around the age of three or four, although every child differs, this is because they are becoming more aware of their surroundings and can express themselves more clearly, letting us know exactly what is wrong or worrying them. As they get older fears will most likely change and similarly how they respond to them.
What we as parents can do;
- Listen do your child and acknowledge their fear
- Reassure them that they are safe from any harm
- Remove them from the situation if needed
- Talk about it at a time when they feel calm and secure
- Use books, toys or even role play to help rationalise their fear/worry
- Most childhood fears are normal and will eventually pass.
I hope this helps, especially now as Halloween is just around the corner. More from our Growing Child Programme next week.