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Practical Tips on Managing Your Children’s Night Frights

👿 The darkness of nights, especially around Halloween season, can keep young children away from sound restful sleep. Children’s imaginations may run vivid when the lights go out, and monsters then creep in the dark and lurk in the closet and under the bed. A child’s yell for “Mommy” or “Daddy” usually alarms the parent enough to run to the child’s bedside. How can we help children to cope with their night frights?

The basic principle revolves around balance. The most common parental mistakes fit into two major categories: either (1) We ignore or inadequately address the child’s fears, or (2) We tend to over-comfort the child and thus reinforce the child’s fears. The most effective strategy is to find good balance by reassuring the child and adequately addressing her fears, without unintentionally reinforcing the message that something is really out there in the dark to be afraid of.

Here are 7 Practical Tips:

1) Most parents are familiar with their child’s stalling tactics, such as “I’m thirsty” or “I’m hungry”. A parent doesn’t want to fall for the child’s tactics, but it is true that hunger can keep a child up at night. An important tip to remember is that 45 minutes before lights-out is the optimal time for a bedtime snack. Some good snack choices are yogurt with fruit, crackers, and applesauce.

2) Do indeed check the closets to reassure your child that no monster is lurking there, and then talk about how you, as an adult, deal with scary things, such as, “Darling, when I’m afraid, I think about places and things that make me feel safe.”

3) Listen to your child and then discuss the common weird and creepy noises that he hears and be sure you are able to explain what really causes them.

4) Provide positive reinforcement by telling your child how proud you are of him for being brave.

5) Try encouraging your child to draw a picture of the monster, and then discuss what’s real and unreal. For instance, snakes and bears are real, while many fictional characters in books, TV programs, video games, and movies are unreal.

6) Help your child not to watch potentially scary programs before bedtime.

7) Take advantage of your child’s imagination to ward off monsters with a nightlight, a water-filled spray bottle, which can have the label “Monster Spray Away” that she can use to spritz the night creatures away, or a bedside magical wand that can turn monsters into friendly protectors.

Happy Halloween and sweet dreams, without the night frights!!!

Tobey Leung, MD 😆

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