How Can I Help My Child Through Bedtime Tantrums Caused By Fear?
For months bedtime went smoothly.
You follow the daily bedtime routine; tuck your children in, give a kiss, leave and they drift off to sleep.
Recently, one of your children has become scared and is afraid there is a monster under the bed.
You reassure your child that there is no monster, but he insists. Despite all your promises, “magic sprays” and pep talks, the fears escalate into bedtime tantrums or your child ends up coming out of the room screaming and in tears.
You are stumped and exhausted from the drama.
There are many different types of bedtime problems parents may experience. To get the best results, your response must address and resolve the core issue causing the bedtime problem. If all you do is try to trick them without resolving this core issue, you won’t get good results and the bedtime tantrums will continue. This article addresses bedtime tantrums caused by fears that prevent them going to sleep or cause them to get out of bed.
Children’s fears are real — to them. Belittling your child or denying the emotion will not make the fear disappear. Instead, acknowledge your child’s fear without agreeing that what they are afraid of is real. For example, say “It must be scary to think there’s a monster under your bed;” instead of “You’re scared of the monster under the bed.”
Brainstorm ways your child can overcome the fear. Empower children to be their own heroes instead of putting on your cape and rescuing them. Use their imagination to conquer their imaginary fears. Here are a few ideas:
- They can make magic spray and use it themselves.
- Tell them since it’s their room all monsters must get their permission to come in. Have them practice telling the monster to get out in an assertive forceful voice.
- Tell them they can control the size of the monster. They can point at the monster. As they move their finger down, the monster will get smaller. They can do this until it is so small they can stamp it out or kick it like a ball.
With children ages three-years-old and older, explain that fears always start with a thought and can be controlled by choosing a different thought. Help them create an imaginary safe place or protector to recall when they are scared. Guide them through this calming visualization the first few times. Then encourage them to do this for themselves when they are scared.
If they fear something that actually happened that was traumatic, explain what steps you’ve taken to assure it won’t happen again. Teach children EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to de-program the post-traumatic reaction that haunts them.
Having a child that is fearful and having bedtime tantrums is only one type of bedtime problem. For other challenges, read the other articles in this series: “Looking for Bedtime Routines to Make Bedtime Peaceful?”, “How Can I Help My Child Through Bedtime Tantrums Caused By Fear?” and “What Is The Best Way Of Handling Temper Tantrums At Bedtime That Are Caused By Toddler Separation Anxiety?”. To handle all ten bedtime challenges get the teleseminar that summarizes all my bedtime articles. Click here for more details about “The Halting Bedtime Hassles” teleseminar. This one hour audio contains the solutions you need to help solve all top ten bedtime battles with children.
Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is President of Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting, where she oversees an international network of Toolshop® trainers. For 30+ years, Jody has trained tens thousands of parents and family professionals worldwide through her dynamic workshops and hundreds of interviews with the media worldwide, including Parents and Working Mother magazines. She is the author of the award-winning book The Parent’s Toolshop®, and countless multimedia resources that support and educate parents from diverse backgrounds, plus other adults who live or work with children. You can find them at her award-winning website, www.ParentsToolshop.com.
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