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Helping a Child Who is Afraid of the Dark

Parents are sometimes faced with assisting children who are spooked by darkness. This guide is about helping a child who is afraid of the dark.
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13 found this helpful
December 13, 2011 Flag

When my oldest son was little, he use to be scared to sleep in his room. He thought there were monsters under his bed, or in his closet. So one day I filled a spray bottle up with water and added a little vanilla, about 1 tsp. I wrote on the bottle "monster spray", I also added a picture on it of Cookie Monster with an X drawn over him. So every night we would spray under his bed and in the closet. I would leave the spray on his dresser in case he felt he needed it. It worked wonders!

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By coville123

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December 11, 20120 found this helpful

I think it depends on the child. My now 20 year old was terrified of the "owls" he believed were in his room at age 2. I tried logic, I tried discussions (with a very articulate child, at that) and nothing worked. I tried "monster spray" that I heard of or read about - of course we changed it to Owl Spray.

It worked. It allowed all of us to get a good night's sleep, and in a few months, we discontinued it. He was the one who came up with a spray for his little sister's room several years later when she became frightened of clowns. They are both well adjusted kids, who know what is real and what is not. :-) Whatever works at the time... I believe in picking my battles!

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May 13, 2014 Flag

Made about a thousand of these, LOL!

Source: Me, tired of Grand-kids nightmares!

Supplies:

  • Spray Bottle
  • Lavender Oil

Steps:

  1. Mix ten to twelve drops of lavender with water. Put the spray top on and label the bottle.
  2. Get a box and decorate it. Write on the side: "Monsters Beware Kit". On the other side, write "(Child's Name), Go Away I Say Kit!"
  3. Put spray, a tiny flashlight, and a small bell in the box. Tell the child to ring the bell, because monsters do not like bells (but really to wake up the parent) and take the flashlight and turn it on because they hate light. Then, spray the bed and under it to make them leave!
  4. Related Content(article continues below)
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June 4, 2013 Flag

We found an easy and pretty inexpensive way to solve the problem of being scared that something was under the bed. We found under the bed storage containers at the discount store, but really any will do. Then we bought a pack of different colored permanent markers.

What you do is let said child draw what every they want on the containers, and have them fill each one with things they like. Than place them under the bed. We told the child that with all these storage containers there would be no room for a monster.

We did the same thing in the closet also, saying that "Monsters" don't like happy things. Such as decorated storage boxes. I hope this tip helps you as much as it helped us.

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June 6, 20130 found this helpful

Our Grandson was afraid of monsters in his bedroom upstairs and wouldn't sleep there.One day he came over and Grandma made some( magic monster) spray,only she could make and gave it to him to spray only in his room before he went to bed.It took awhile before he decided to use it,but when he did all the monsters were gone.PS.MONSTER SPRAY RECIPE,vanilla mixed with water in a spray bottle.

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February 14, 2008

We have a challenge we can't seem to solve. About 4 months ago our 8yr became unable to sleep alone. He says he is scared. He started to try to get in our bed which we allowed for a few nights since it was a new problem. We realized we couldn't allow it permanently and refused to let him in, so then he started to sleep on the floor next to the bed and he continues to do so every night.



He has never been a good sleeper, always talking in his sleep, having bad dreams but he did at least sleep in his own room and bed. If he did have a bad dream, he would come to our room and I would take him back to his, cuddle him, pray, tuck him back in and all would be fine. I do sleep in his room when he is sick because his room is at the opposite end of the house and I want him to feel that I am near in case he needs help.

There are no other alternatives for the location of his room and I know he is upset that we are on opposite ends but it's always been that way. I just can't bear to lock him out. Also I often sleep on the couch because my husband and I both have acute health problems and we disturb each other. When I sleep on the couch, I am just outside my son's door yet he still won't stay in his room. He'll sleep on the floor next to the couch. I could survive that but he wakes me up off and on during the night. I've run out of ideas to try.

We've done the night lights, in fact, three of them at once, talking about it, praying, tucking him in with his many stuffed animals, snuggling, a snack before bed, reading wonderful cheery books. He says he's afraid of everything such as the dark, someone breaking in, a fire with our wood stove, and something scary he saw in a movie. We are careful about movies that are not appropriate and we don't have TV.

He has a very high reading and comprehension ability and on occasion he browses the newspaper when it is on the kitchen table. That has plenty of scary stuff. If he hears some thing on the radio he picks up on it right away. He keeps putting on all the lights. I asked him to draw a picture of the things he is afraid of but he says he will just color the paper black. Other than this he is a very happy go lucky, cheerful, high energy, social, extremely talkative, bright little boy with an impossible strong will.


He is a difficult child in that he wants to control everything and we are very often in a power struggle. We work very hard to be consistent with him but he never gives up. I thought he could be manipulating us but I truly believe he is afraid. I am so exhausted I'm at my wits end. Does anyone have any thoughts about this?

Dottie from NY

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February 14, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

Maybe you could get a monitor that will allow you to talk to each other so if he gets fearful he can speak to you and you to him. Maybe that's more like a walkie-talkie. Also, maybe you could offer some sort of "reward" for staying at least part of the night in his room and extend the time required for getting the reward. I don't mean a toy every day or food but maybe a special treat time with you alone where you and he or maybe you, he and dad go for a walk or to the park or something else he enjoys without siblings.

All of us here are concerned but we're (probably) not trained. Maybe the best idea is to talk to your dr. and be sure to check out the school abuse thing.

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February 17, 20080 found this helpful
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Let him take a simple spray of glitter (not boyish but visible) and spray away the fears in his room. Kind of like bug spray but for everything he's afraid of. By his taking control of the situation this may help. Also it will eventually go away. Most stages like this are just that, stages. Good luck.

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February 19, 20080 found this helpful
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I am sure, from what I've read, that your son is above average intelligence, with a lively imagination and the normal fears of many sensitive 8 year olds.

I also think your own health problems have some bearing on this; after all, you sleep on the couch occasionally, so why shouldn't he change where he's sleeping?

It's true that our children notice our own behaviour and health issues and worry that they might be left alone one day. (though they may not be able to articulate this) They have no discernment at 8 years old that this happens to everyone and they cope.

Getting the diagnosis of ADD & ODD is great, now you know that there are things to work through and with. Never allow him to believe that having these makes him 'lesser than' in any way. ADD kids are often the leaders :-)

Although this will be a phase, because your son is so strong willed and likes to be in charge (even of you!) don't let this very real fear develop into a means of manipulating you. He still needs the firm guidelines you've always provided.

Have you tried audio books? When my son went through this phase, we did everything you have done and it threatened to develop into more than a phase so I bought several 'talking books'- making sure there was nothing in them that was scary. He also had music tapes and relaxation tapes which we used together to help calm "our" fears.

The rule then became when he woke up he'd listen to a book, then relaxing, sometimes classical, music - he was in control of this and he was happy with that, especially as we encouraged his vivid imagination to make good pictures of the music created in his mind.

We don't have TV either, nor do we get newspapers or magazines and negative conversations by adults are discouraged in front of the children. Eight is too young to cope with the horrors of the world.

As Glenn's Mom said, we are all concerned for you, so I hope some of our suggestions work out. Rest assured, he won't be like this for ever!

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February 24, 20080 found this helpful
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I have an 8 year old with the same issues, he has 2 night lights, and music. I gave him my t-shirt so that my smell would be with him. It seems to be working. Also, I have a strict bedtime routine as my son has Aspergers. He has a bath in the Johnston bedtime bath stuff, the lavender stuff, and it works. Then he watches cartoons while eating his snack, which is dairy and works as a soother for him, and then off to bed with my shirt and his favorite bedtime friend. It works! The consistency has worked for him.

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March 14, 20090 found this helpful
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My grandson was having no trouble going to sleep, but would occasionally have "bad dreams". He is a very sensitive child and watching news programs, with all the associated drama and trauma, would sometimes affect him. He was worried about something happening to his family. Try limiting exposure to violent and traumatic news items. My daughter also bought him an Indian dream catcher and explained that this would protect him from having bad dreams; he rarely has bad dreams now. So the power of positive thinking has been extremely beneficial. Hope this helps you.

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September 24, 20080 found this helpful

I have tried everything to get my 8yr old to sleep in her room. She is very afraid that someone my break in to our house and we have never had that happend to us. My heart just breaks when she starts crying. I am not sure if she is scared because she is an only child. I always ask her what is her problem and she never wants to tell me she just startes to cry. At last she always end up in my BED with me.

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August 30, 20120 found this helpful

Wow! This is great. I have an 8 year old daughter who is going through this too. I recently got married and she's with me half the time. She loves her step mom but is also a bit jealous. Thought this was the case and the answer but this started happening at her mom's house too. (we are all on very good terms).

I'm comforted by one constant here; that this is not unusual for someone in the 8 year old range and that it's most likely a stage out of which she will grow. However we are taking her to counseling next week.

I very much enjoyed reading the loving and intelligent responses from everybody in this group. While I'm not a Christian or very religious I also don't think anyone's a kook for saying god in some form, will protect you. Why not? We all need the sleep and you may be right.

Peace and sleep-filled nights to all.

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August 25, 20150 found this helpful

I am not a medical doctor, but I would advise you making an appointment for your son to see one. From what I read, I am see signs of anxiety and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The statement on "wanting to control everything" is a clue. I think a visit to a physician is the best advise anyone can give you. I would also choose a doctor that deals with childhood emotional issues.

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1 found this helpful
August 2, 2013 Flag

My middle child is 12 now and is still afraid of the dark because she feels unsafe and believes that if she turns the light off someone will kidnap her or kill her in a twisted way. How do I assure her that she is safe?

By Athena A.

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August 4, 20130 found this helpful

Realize that this may well be a temporary issue. I would suggest asking her what you and she might do so that she would feel more safe. Perhaps, a small light left on? A night light or two? A hall light on with her bedroom door open? Doing something to "secure" windows? If you see her concern as a developmentally appropriate response to a (real or perceived) threat, collaborating with her, creatively, to find a resolution will help her develop her own self-trust and ability to work with her fear. Some adults even prefer to sleep with a light on, and, in the big scope of life's "things", this is not such a bad thing.

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August 4, 20130 found this helpful

First of all, try to find out what has made her frightened. She may not feel able to talk to you, but perhaps another member of the family or her teacher can find out. Thinking back to my own days as a 12 year old, I had heard about all kinds of child abuse and also knew of people who were operating outside the law in my community, for example, drug dealing. I lived in a highly respectable area too. Children get to hear about all sorts of things at school, from the other children. They may not feel able to talk about things that they have heard, to parents.

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August 4, 20130 found this helpful

I had gotten my boys a dog, that would sleep with them. I would tell the boys the dog will protect you. I made sure the dog would sleep in the boys room either on the bed or between the boys.

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August 4, 20130 found this helpful

Another thing is to check to find out why she feels this way, did something happen elsewhere and she didn't tell you... But my best thing to help is always a dog. A dog is a great warning and guard for her. When you think of it, they use dogs for Veterans with PTSD. A dog is great for children to feel secure. Plus have the dog be her dog, family dog ok, but her dog mostly.

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August 4, 20130 found this helpful

I wish it was possible to promise safety to every child and adult but the reality is you can't. Just love the child and leave the light on. Besides what can it hurt to help them feel safe?

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August 4, 20130 found this helpful

Fear of the dark at this age and older can be a normal thing, but it can also be a sign of other things.

My daughter had been sleeping normally, but suddenly a few years ago she could not go to sleep at all unless I was in the room. She was exhibiting some other behavior also that was strange. I questioned her about sexual abuse, and she told me a trusted family friend had touched her inappropriately. The man is now in jail, but she was afraid that he would come in the night and take her out of her room. It was a difficult road, but we found many things to help her. She has two night lights. (I turn one of them off when she is asleep.) Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique) has helped a great deal. She taps while saying Bible verses about Jesus being with her and taking care of her. Controlled breathing has also been a great help as have essential oils. Peace and Calming, Lavender, and Orange Oil from Young Living are her favorites.

Another important thing is that your daughter be taught to take care of her anxiety herself. She is making herself afraid when there is no real, immediate danger. She has to learn that she is her own safe place (from Lucinda Bassett's series).

Another possible reason for the fear is that she may be super sensitive to the spirit realm. My other daughter is that way. She can sense the spirits as they roam about. This can cause her a lot of fear. I can sense them some as well, but I am not as sensitive to them as she is. We are Christians, so I just keep reassuring her that with Jesus, the spirits cannot harm her. They are around doing their evil work passing from place to place.

Your daughter may be prone to anxiety as well. It does run in families. Does she show any other signs of fear in any other situation? Those of us with anxiety can get really good at hiding it, so you have to be super sensitive to her behavior in order to pick it up. Does she have to do certain things in a certain order? Does she ask a lot of questions when something out of the ordinary happens? These kinds of behavior can be a way for people to cope with anxiety.

I hope you find this helpful or find another way to help your daughter. God bless you both.

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August 4, 20130 found this helpful

I wouldn't worry too much. My grand-daughter who is 14 has only recently stopped needing a night light and as for me at 64 I still like one on in the hallway. But having said that if it's only a recent fear, I would definitely try to find out if there was a specific event that caused this or something on TV news that was the trigger.

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August 4, 20130 found this helpful

Sorry to hear of your Daughter's fear of the dark. This is not unusual in children but at her age there could be an underlying physiologist problem. Sound advise from posts suggesting a Dog but make sure you tell her it's HER guardian and try RSPCA or any Animal Welfare to rescue one. If your home and yard space permits try for a German Shepherd they are wonderful canines. Have owned bred / shown them all my life. Good luck with what ever breed you decide on. Please keep us all posted.

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