Bedtime fears are very common in children over the age of 2 – they often tie in with a leap in imagination development, and are more prominent if your child is going to bed and they are not quite tired enough to fall to sleep.
Instead of nodding off (like they used too), they will sit in their crib or on their bed, and start to worry about imaginary creatures, Often small triggers like a slight light creating a shape on the wall, may remind them of something scary, or it could be a pattern on their bed sheets. Around this age, a lot of children will start to request the door to be left open, or a light be left on in the hallway, they feel safer is they can hear you pottering around and may request that you turn off the white noise.
So what can you do to help your child through this?
Seeing as you can’t actually manipulate their development, you have to behave in a manner that supports it.
1. Make sure that they are going to bed at the right time – a lot of children in this phase are still napping, but the awake window post nap, can be long – so when they go to bed, they are often in their bed a longtime before falling to sleep, this can increase bedtime fears, as they sit and worry about things, before falling to sleep.
2. Don’t worry about leaving the door open, it will make them feel safer and help them to fall to sleep faster, but also don’t close it on your way to bed, as this change in conditions will upset them if they are to wake up over night.
3. If you can – try to not sit in the room until they fall to sleep, this will give you an additional over night issue, of having to repeat this behaviour and you will be exhausted.
4. If your child is really fearful and talking about monsters under the bed, please don’t go looking for them, if you do this, you are supporting the concept that monsters are real, and for a child, its actually the fear that is real, not the monster itself.
5. Keep an eye on books and TV shows, that could be feeding the fear – sometimes its something simple that is turned into something more sinister, through their imagination. By keeping a journal you can see a connection to pinpoint potential triggers.
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