Taming the monster under the bed
Baby Steps

WHETHER it's from YouTube , a programme on TV, seeing their shadow and being scared, or being told some story by other children, at some point your little one will unleash the fear of the “monster”.

For some children this is just a scary concept that they'll mention a few times then move on, but for others, the fear will mean that they're scared of things like shadows or things that go bump in the night, and may not be willing to do things like sleep alone. What do you do when your toddler is terrified of the monster under the bed?

“The experience with monsters or nightmares will start around age two or three, and these can be terrifyingly real to the child,” says early childhood practitioner Maureen Dennis.

“It's not really a stage that parents can avoid — it's just important that you understand that up to half of all kids will experience this, and it's your guidance that will have them get through the process.“

She suggests these 10 tips for dealing with the scary stuff.

1. Create a bedtime routine that's light and relaxing. This means no scary books, and no activities that will leave the child feeling anxious and scared.

2. Talk about what makes the child scared during the daytime. Don't wait till it's bedtime or night-time to have that talk, or to try to reassure them that their fears are for naught. This will just add to their anxiety, especially if you can't answer their questions in a way that is reassuring to them.

3. Make their sleep space comfortable, and be a reassuring parent. Don't laugh at, or try to downplay their experience, even if you think it's silly. Example, if your child is afraid of shadows or certain sounds, try to show them the source, instead of just saying there's nothing to worry about. Also, a room where the night light casts many shadows will be a source of anxiety, so try to eliminate that as much as you can with the correct lighting.

4. Don't encourage them to come in your bed all the time, rather, you can leave the bedroom door open so they can know that you are close by.

5. You may need to enlist help if what you try doesn't work — this can be something as simple as stocking up on books that focus on other kids getting over night-time fears.

6. Don't allow the children to watch scary movies at all, and especially not before bed.

7. Don't make a habit of relating your fears about ghosts or other things that roam in the night to your children, especially at night. Children feed off their parents' fears.

8. Provide the child with security, emotional comfort and a sense of safety. For example, play soothing music, and if needs be, use art as therapy — encourage them to draw the monster, then you can tear up and dispose of the “bad monster”. That way they will see you as the monster slayer who will be right next door to help if they need you.

9. Find out specifically what your is child afraid of. Listen to your child, so you know exactly what the source of the fear is. Don't make fun of your child's fears, as what may seem funny or trivial to you is very real to your child.

10. Finally, work on building your child's self-confidence and coping skills. Do activities during the day that makes the child the hero, able to conquer all, so they'll feel less afraid at night.

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