When you think of putting your toddler to sleep, thoughts of hugs and kisses, peace and happiness come to mind. A lot of times though, that’s just not the case. Toddlers have vivid imaginations and in turn vivid nightmares. These nightmares can create toddlers bedtime fears and anxieties that make it anything but peaceful. Rest assured there are not any underlying psychological issues, you are not a bad parent. It’s very normal for this to affect about 50% of 3-6 year olds.
You’ve given her a bath, brushed her teeth and now it’s time for a bedtime story but the stalling begins. “Wait, mom! I need a drink. I have to potty. Just one more hug from dad.” Sound familiar? Maybe you have a regular visitor climbing into your bed at 3 a.m? My daughter knew that if she woke us while climbing in, we’d take her back to her room. As a result, we started waking in the mornings to her on the floor beside the bed with a pillow, blanket and stuffed animal.
Acknowledge the Bedtime Fears
It’s important to acknowledge your toddlers bedtime fears. What they are fearing may not be real but to them the fear is real. Listen to what it is they are afraid of and don’t try to down play it. Don’t say things like “Stop acting like a baby” or “be tough”. Putting your child down like this only makes them thing something is wrong with them. You can be completely honest with them in letting them know that there is no such things as monsters but still acknowledge their fear of them.
Tools to Help Ease the Fears
- Art. This has been really helpful for my kids. When one of them has a bad dream, I ask them to draw a picture of it for me. Then I ask them to rip it up and throw it in the trash. What does this do? It not only allows you to see what they are seeing it gives them the control to be rid of it.
- Listen. Lay down with them at night to identify the sights and sounds they are hearing. For instance, there is a hydrangea plant that rather large outside my sons bedroom and when the wind blows, some of the branches make scratching noises. We identified what it was and let him take part when we were trimming it by allowing him to direct.
- Books. Scary Night Visitors: A Story for Children with Bedtime Fears* is a great book in helping kids understand the source of their fears. Franklin in the Dark* is another great book. Franklin actually has an entire series so if there are other things like riding a bike you’re gearing up for, it might be worth looking into.
- Activities. As a last resort we made a spray. I wish it was my first because it worked. lol I bought a generic water bottle and some stickers from The Dollar Store. Since Khloe’s fear was an Alien (which stemmed from Toy Story) we made an Alien Spray. We put water and a touch of Essential Oils* in and let her spray her closet and bedroom before bed. She slept all night long.
As you can see, she is one happy kid. So proud of herself. All I needed to do was give her some control over the fear.
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