Beat Your Kid’s Nighttime Fears

11:00 PM

If your child is suffering from nighttime fears, then join the club. Studies indicate that as many as 73% of children between the ages of 4-12 experience them (Muris et al 2001).

Why are nighttime fears so common?

Scientists explain it in terms of evolution, suggesting this fear helped to keep us safe from saber-toothed tigers. Motherly intuition, however, simply points to the fact that kids have fertile imaginations and they don't always distinguish reality from fantasy. What's more, if they've moved from a room with mom and dad to sleeping alone, then this is a big and sometimes scary change.

Getting through nighttime fears can be challenging for the whole family, yet it can also be an opportunity to deepen your relationship with your children. Let's jump straight in with four practical tips to help your kids beat it.

Bedtime Routine

Routine is the backbone of a secure and happy childhood. Kids thrive when their world is predictable. This is especially true at bedtime.

Try to create a calm and peaceful evening rituals: a bath, a gentle story, and perhaps a soothing song. The sameness of the routine will bring comfort and help to ease the transition from conscious to unconscious.


Nighttime fears provide an opportunity for you to create a deep bond with your child. They are anxious, scared, and in need of support. As a parent, you can listen, respect, and support them.

Start by empathizing. Listen closely to their anxieties, however fantastical they might be. Sometimes this requires patience. After all, it's not easy to be attentive when it's very late and you're hearing the same story about a monster in the laundry basket!

Resist the temptation to ask "Why are you afraid?" or say "There's nothing to be scared of." No one wants to be challenged on how they feel. It can be undermining and put your child on the defensive. Instead, acknowledge their feelings and offer them reassurance. For example, "I know that you are really scared right now. It's a horrible feeling, isn't it? I feel afraid sometimes, too. I'm going to help you."

Hear them out and acknowledge all their fears. Often, just talking and feeling understood will help.

Peaceful environment

Whilst you can't control your child's mind, you can certainly control their environment. Leave their door open and have a soft, warmly colored night light on. If the light has a dimmer, you can make it darker over time. Sometimes, gentle music or a quiet audiobook in the background helps. You could also use a diffuser with some lavender essential oil.

A comfortable bed is also important. If your little one is in a crib, then make sure they have a decent breathable, crinkle-free mattress. I've written a whole guide on these if you'd like to know more.

Finally, don't forget a comfort toy such as a teddy bear or doll. Even scientists have confirmed that a cuddly companion reduces nighttime fears (Kushnir and Sadeh 2012).

Distance the worry. Get silly with it.

A little mindfulness trick is to separate ourselves from our emotions. You can help your child to detach themselves from their worry. Ask them to list their fears. Then say, "Worry is telling this to you. How true do you think these things are?" Creating distance between them and their thoughts can help to diminish their power.

If this is going well, you could take it further and start having fun with the fears: "So worry is telling you that there is a monster in the closet. What does worry say it looks like?"

Get your child to draw out the monster. Now get creative. Ask, "what would the monster look like with a dress on?" or "what would it look like with a mustache or glasses or lipstick?"

This game can get very silly and will hopefully get your child laughing. The aim is to distance and reduce the fear until it becomes more manageable and even disappears.

Wrapping up

There are no golden bullets for nighttime fears. Different things work for different children, and sometimes you just need to ride this phase out. Whether or not you "fix" it, one thing is for sure; by following these tips you will nurture your child’s wellness and ease them through these turbulent times.

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