Bedtime Tips, Fun & Resources
Nighttime can be a scary time for children. At ages 3-8, their imaginations are developing, and during this time children have trouble differentiating fantasy from reality. When children wake from a nightmare, they are afraid of the monsters they saw as real, living things. Recurring nightmares can make bedtime very scary. In your role as a parent-guardian, it is critical that you model strength and reassure them you will keep them safe, but not belittle their fears. This is an opportunity to teach your children bravery; taking action in the face of adversity. It is a lesson that can help them through all the challenges they will endure.
Suggestions for Establishing a Bedtime Routine
Clean up toys
Bathe & put on pajamas 30 minutes before bedtime
Talk about your child's day
Read a few bedtime stories
Sing or say prayers
Goodnight, I love you & lights out
Bedtime (or Anytime) Questions to Ask Your Child
What were the best and hardest parts of your day?
Who did you play with today?
Did anything funny happen today?
What do you like to dream about?
Common Monster Triggers
Anything that poses a threat to your child's sense of security could contribute to their fear of monsters. It's good, when possible, to keep your child's exposure to "threats" to a minimum, but also to help them address these issues in a way that will help them grow. If any of these "triggers" are occurring in your child's life, it would be good to talk with them about their concerns & try to help them understand that these are a common part of life, but that their discomfort is okay & with time they can learn to accept or even benefit from the situations that arise. Common "Monster Triggers" might include...
Illness & Death
Addressing the Monster in the Room
As a parent, you can feel comfort knowing that fear of monsters is a problem that most children deal with at some point in their lives, and most will grow out of it over time. Help your child deal with the Monster in their room by first recognizing their fear is very real & do not belittle them, but also do not cater to or reinforce their fears. Teach your child to rate their fear on a scale from 1-10 and teach them coping strategies. What can they do for themselves to feel more comfortable sleeping in their room or what can you provide them with to help them cope? Encourage discussion about the imaginary monsters. How does the monster look (have them draw the monster, and of course submit it to our monster registry)? Where is the monster? How does the monster sound? How does the monster make you feel? Talking about the monster may help them realize that, no matter how real it seems, the monster does not conform with the characteristics of real people & animals. Encourage your child to compare monsters with other children they know & ask what their friends have done to keep their monster away. Read (age appropriate) books & watch movies about monsters...most show them in a positive light. There is a list below for your reference. Most importantly, recognize & limit sources of stress that could result in their fears & assure them that although the monster seems very real, you are nearby & they are safe.
Books & Movies
Monsters Beware! by Matt Hardesty
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Love Monster by Rachel Bright
The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone
Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett
I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
Resources & Links
Child afraid of night-time "monsters" by Aletha Solter, Ph.D. for Aware Parenting Institute
Anxiety, Fears, and Phobias by KidsHealth.org
Talking with children about monsters by Texas Child Care
ask dr. sears: mashing monster fears published on Parenting
Spooky stuff: Talking with children about ghosts, monsters and other childhood fears by Carrie Shrier for the Michigan State University Extension
Ghosts, monsters, dragons: What to tell kids by Elizabeth Landau for CNN.com
Monsters Under the Bed: Understanding Kid Fears from Parents Magazine