Fear of the DarkMar 08, 2022
Typically, toddlers around 2 years old or older may start to develop a fear of the dark, but not really before! So if you’re worried your little one is scared and they are younger than 2 years old…It's just not likely.
They just aren’t really developmentally capable of feeling that way about darkness. Remember, they spend a good 9 months in the womb… a super dark noisy place. Loud (white noise) and dark is actually very comforting for babies! So you can breathe a sigh of relief, and reap the benefits of having a pitch dark bedroom for your baby’s bedroom to help them sleep!
OK... BUT WHAT ABOUT IF THEY ARE OVER 2 YEARS OLD AND ACTUALLY TELLING ME THEY ARE AFRAID OF THE DARK AND WANT A LIGHT!?
ABSOLUTELY give them one! I’m not about letting your little one be scared. But there are a few extra precautions you should take so it doesn’t disrupt their sleep!
USE A NICE SOFT RED LIGHT.
The dim red light is less likely to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin production compared to other color lights. I personally love the Hatch Baby Rest toddler clock (not sponsored, just a personal fan and use it for my own daughter since she was born). It is a sound machine AND optional night light with a red light option with a dimmer. Best of all, you can control it all from your phone, or even set a timer schedule!
AVOID BRIGHT LIGHTS SUCH AS BLUE LIGHTS.
They do the exact opposite of red lights and can overstimulate your brain at night (yes, it’s the same for us adults as it is for them).
Sources of blue light include:
Fluorescent and LED light bulbs
This is also why I encourage you to take away any screen time your child is having before bed for 1-2 hours. This will help their little minds switch off… relax, and fall asleep MUCH easier. Watching children and babies watch screens can be deceptive as they CAN look relaxed and calm, but there is SO MUCH happening on screens and even just the light itself can absolutely overstimulate them. If you find that your child is falling asleep in front of a TV screen, it is usually out of pure exhaustion more than anything else.
I also suggest staying away from light projectors, glow in the dark stars, or lights that flicker in any way! For the same reason… These are GREAT for entertaining your toddler…. But definitely not for encouraging them to relax and fall asleep. They’re just too fun!
If the night light doesn’t seem to help with their fear in general… Here are a few extra tips to encourage them to overcome this (very common and normal) fear of the dark!
Validate their feelings! You don’t want to say “Nooo the dark is not scary.” That will only make them feel silly or misunderstood. This is likely a new feeling that can be so overwhelming for them, so ignoring or disregarding the fear will only make them feel worse. Instead, say something like this: “I know you’re feeling scared of the dark because you can’t see. I used to feel scared too sometimes when I was younger.”
Remind them they are safe. Say something along the lines of: “Even when it’s dark, you are safe in your bed! You have always been, and will always be safe in your bed. Mummy and daddy are in the next room and always here for you. Your night light is here to remind you where you are.” Say this (or something similar) every night, and even during the day, to remind them. Have them repeat the phrase “I am always safe and cozy in my bed.”
Offer a lovey or comfort item - I LOVE to offer toddlers a lovey or a comfort item once it is safe to do so (after 15 months old). This comfort item can become a companion during times of fear. Remind them that they can cuddle their special lovey/comforter if they feel scared. Reiterate again that they are safe in their bed. Read more about Lovey’s and how they can help with your child’s sleep here.
Remember… It is totally fine for your little toddler or child to be afraid of the dark. We are not trying to eliminate their fear, rather provide them with helpful coping strategies to deal with the fear.
TRY NOT TO OVERTHINK ABOUT WHY THEY MAY BE AFRAID.
As adults we assume it’s super scary monsters, ghosts and goblins, but for children, it may be something as simple as a bunny they saw in the garden, a loud noise, or something that surprised them when watching a children’s show on television.
It’s going to be ok! They won’t be afraid forever! Good luck, and let me know how these tips help by sending me an email ([email protected]) or direct message on Instagram!
Don’t forget to check out my sleep resources, references and additional resources below!
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