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Fear of the Dark

Lots of kids are afraid of the dark. Whether it’s the boogeyman in the closet or a monster under the bed that’s haunting them, here’s how parents can help their kids conquer their fears.

Fear of the Dark: Dos and Don’ts continued...

From calm, cool, and collected to recognizing something more is at play, here are dos and don’ts to fighting nighttime fears:

Do stay calm. “Be as calm as possible when you’re talking to your child about her fear of the dark,” Dobbins says. “Listen and make sure you don’t exaggerate and exacerbate to make it worse.”

Give the child a sense that she is safe, that she can handle her fear, Dobbins says. And give the fear a name. Explain to your child what fear is, and help her understand it’s normal.

Don’t get frustrated. “Reassure your child that his fear of the dark is normal,” Dobbins says. “But don’t get frustrated just because you know what he’s afraid of doesn’t really exist. Don’t say this is stupid or belittle or tease. While the monsters may not be real, the fear is.”

Do support your child. “Kids regress at night,” Dobbins says. “You may hear, ‘I want mommy,’ so let him know that this is OK, and you are there to help if he needs it.”

Don’t do sleepovers. Although it may be tempting to let your little one crawl into bed with you, resist the urge. “You still have to keep the boundaries that work for you and give your child the tools to cope with her fear,” Berman says. And that goes for siblings, too.

“It’s not your other child’s job to take care of his sibling,” Berman tells WebMD. “It’s your job as a parent, so trying to solve the problem by doing sleepovers in a sibling’s room isn’t the answer.”

Do empower your child. Give your child the power to tackle a fear of the dark. “Ask her if she wants daddy to check on her -- and let her decide what time makes her most secure,” Berman says. “Does she want to be checked on in 5 minutes, 2 hours? Whatever will help her feel better.”

And arm her with her comfort items, whether it’s a blanket, a stuffed animal, or a night-light, to help her sleep soundly.

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