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Are you Afraid of the Dark?

I would imagine that many of us at some stage of our lives have been afraid of the dark. It is most common in children between the ages of 2 and 3, when they are starting to develop their imaginations but it can happen at any age…young or old.

For many reasons, the darkness scares us, we can often find ourselves frighted to be alone and imagine all sorts of scary monsters and creatures lurking in our rooms at night. Very young children often find it difficult to separate reality from fantasy, and when you can’t see what’s around you, our rich imaginations kick in with no chance for our eyes to tell us differently!

Being afraid of the dark is not unusual. There are lots of things that can cause children to become afraid and even everyday stress and anxiety can cause these worries to bubble up at night. It can make it more difficult when children cannot easily explain what the fear or worry is… which usually results in them creating the imaginary creature(s) of the night!

These dark fears will often resolve themselves over time but it can be really beneficial to ease the fears your child is having.

So what can you do to help ease a fear of the dark?

· Take their fears seriously but try to not over react. Listen to their fears and reflect them back “I can see you are very scared”.

· Reassure them that you are there and they are safe. Demonstrate there is nothing frightening in their room and offer comfort where needed. Perhaps turn on the light and look under the bed.

· Create a good bedtime routine – warm drink, bath, storytime or quiet chat then into bed. A sense of security and routine will help them fall asleep on their own. Allow plenty of time for the routine and try not to rush. Keep it as stress free as you can.

· Help them to manage their fears by spending time playing games in the dark. Glow in the dark balloons, glow sticks and stories by torchlight will all encourage positive experiences in the darkness.

· Finally, try seeing things trough your child’s eyes by remembering your experiences as a child. What scared you? What did you find to bring you comfort? Share this with your child to help them see you understand and they are not alone.

If your child’s fear is going on too long and/or if it is interrupting and effecting your child’s sleep and their ability to function during the day, it might be a good idea to speak with a counsellor. Counsellors are often able to help children identify, process and learn to overcome fears, phobias and manifestations of trauma. Kate is trained and experienced in helping children through these stages, and would be happy to talk to you if you have any worries or concerns regarding your child.

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